2015 SCT: Trash

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2015 SCT: Trash

Post by cchiego » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:43 pm

Let's seriously reconsider doing trash from before the 1990s, if not the 2000s. And even in the trash that's recent, do it on things people have universally heard of and which might have some sort of general pop culture value.

If you do it on some in-joke that only devoted fans of a show will know, they're either going to power it on the first line or have no idea (the named "car" question from some cult hit was a good example of a bad idea). The only TUs I saw going dead at our site were trash ones and we got some really janky trash bonuses that were either "you know this obscure 1950s pop culture thing or not" that resulted in quite a number of 0s (the "Funny Girl" one and the random 1950s duo that I have never heard of before were excellent examples of ones that had no easy part). When most of the academic bonuses have at the very least easy--if sometimes too blindingly obvious--10s, you need to make the trash ones have easy 10s too. This tournament didn't do a good job of that.

It would be nice too if the trash was at least a bit more topically balanced. In the packets we heard at least, I counted 5 or 6 baseball questions and nothing on football. There's just no need for sports to be a separate distribution like this--put it under trash, add some more real academic stuff in the fine arts or religion.

Finally, if there's not going to be a way to make the trash questions better, I would have no problem with NAQT eliminating trash from its distribution entirely. It seems really incongruous next to other academic questions, can't be prepared for in the way that you can for the rest of quizbowl, and seems to privilege the truly trivial over the significant. The arguments that it's "funnn" for teams that normally wouldn't do well don't seem to work when it's difficult and imbalanced. I'm personally fine with mixed impure academic questions, but I can understand why people would object to those as well.
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Re: Trash

Post by vinteuil » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:50 pm

cchiego wrote:It would be nice too if the trash was at least a bit more topically balanced. In the packets we heard at least, I counted 5 or 6 baseball questions and nothing on football. There's just no need for sports to be a separate distribution like this--put it under trash, add some more real academic stuff in the fine arts or religion.
Not to mention the slew of "minor" sports—America's Cup??
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Re: Trash

Post by Important Bird Area » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:52 pm

cchiego wrote:In the packets we heard at least, I counted 5 or 6 baseball questions and nothing on football.
The football questions were in packets 12, 13, and 15.
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Re: Trash

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:53 pm

I thought the trash in this set was pretty good at balancing eras and generally keeping it relevant. The Funny Girl bonus' easy part was Barbra Streisand; she's pretty famous--maybe easier clues for her would have been nice, but it's also one of her biggest roles, an Oscar winning famous musical. I'm not 100% sure what duo Chris is talking about--the Everly Brothers? Those guys are pretty famous too. I'm sympathetic to this claim on most occasions, but I think this set didn't really have that problem; there's always going to be some trash from pre-1990 that creeps in. Easy parts should try to be as easy as possible, but just like any academic category, some baseline skill in the category is probably necessary to get 10.

America's Cup! That's also quite famous. That's an extremely historical, well known international event.
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Re: Trash

Post by Coelacanth » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:53 pm

cchiego wrote:(the "Funny Girl" one and the random 1950s duo that I have never heard of before were excellent examples of ones that had no easy part).
The Funny Girl bonus was enthusiastically 30'd in the DII room I was reading.

Honestly, if the "random 1950s duo" of which you've never heard is the Everly Brothers, that's your issue. You can't get any more well-known from that era unless you want all the questions to be about Elvis and Buddy Holly.
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Re: Trash

Post by vinteuil » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:04 pm

Coelacanth wrote:
cchiego wrote:(the "Funny Girl" one and the random 1950s duo that I have never heard of before were excellent examples of ones that had no easy part).
The Funny Girl bonus was enthusiastically 30'd in the DII room I was reading.

Honestly, if the "random 1950s duo" of which you've never heard is the Everly Brothers, that's your issue. You can't get any more well-known from that era unless you want all the questions to be about Elvis and Buddy Holly.
It's always possible for a bonus with no easy part to be 30d (i.e. two middle parts and a hard part).

The Everly Brothers are totally famous, but that's a ridiculous exaggeration—not like anybody's ever heard of anyone else from Sun Records, or any non-white musicians from that era (and again, I think that having heard of the Everly Brothers is one thing—being able to answer a question about them is another).
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Re: Trash

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:06 pm

I'll keep this brief because I do think we could benefit from a discussion of what trash could be, and I don't want to suffocate that - but Chris, I think your argument is pretty weak. Because you play on a great ACF team, you're used to assuming that bonuses you 10 or 0, or tossups you don't know, are excessively hard for the entire field. Usually, you're right. This time, not so much.

Most, though maybe not all, of the tossup topics and easy parts you're claiming were egregious are actually pretty well-known. Arrested Development is not "some cult hit," it's kind of a big deal. The easy part of that Everly Brothers bonus was "clowns" off of "Insane Posse of [these people]," which is also very reasonable. I'm positive that teams that aren't national title contenders did way better on those bonuses than the academic bonuses you claim were "blindingly obvious."

As a circuit, we do need to discuss how we should write "trash" questions, what tournaments should have them, and how they should be distributed when they appear. Right now, I'm going to let other people discuss whether trash "fits" in academic tournaments or not as a philosophical matter. In the past, though, these discussions have been dominated by players like me, who excel at traditional ACF content and suck at trash. I think Chris is making pretty recklessly general claims when he argues that, because Penn was good at the academic content and bad at trash, the trash was actually harder for most of the field than the academic content. Actually, one of the positive aspects of trash questions is that newer players who haven't studied quizbowl, but follow culture more generally, can take those tossups away from the elite teams. When you try to claim that every question should be judged on how hard it is for the very best teams, you're losing track of 90% of the audience for the tournament.
Last edited by The King's Flight to the Scots on Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trash

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:07 pm

vinteuil wrote:(and again, I think that having heard of the Everly Brothers is one thing—being able to answer a question about them is another).
I...don't follow this. By "heard of," do you mean just literally heard their name at some point?
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Re: Trash

Post by vinteuil » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:14 pm

Cheynem wrote:
vinteuil wrote:(and again, I think that having heard of the Everly Brothers is one thing—being able to answer a question about them is another).
I...don't follow this. By "heard of," do you mean just literally heard their name at some point?
I guess my point is (somewhat obvious)—a thing can be easy-part famous, but none of the actual facts linked to that thing are. A lot of people have heard of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but if you just described it as "this incident" and gave the relevant names and dates, it wouldn't be an easy part.
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Re: Trash

Post by Galadedrid Damodred » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:48 pm

While I don't personally like the large amount of trash in the NAQT distribution, and would be perfectly happy with zero trash in all quizbowl tournaments, I think the non-sports trash in this set did a fine job of asking about topics that are "canonical Americana" or whatever you want to call it. I feel like you can look up a pre-1990s movie, TV show, or musician/band and get a pretty good idea of whether it has become entrenched enough in the American cultural consciousness to be fair game at a given difficulty, whereas that's not possible for more recent things unless it's an obvious phenomenon like Breaking Bad. I can't make that statement with the same amount of assurance for sports because I just don't know enough about anything except for soccer and college basketball to have an informed opinion; however, it did seem to me like there was undue weight given to tossups on minor sports (golf, sailing, tennis, etc.). If you're going to argue about what trash questions are more "legitimate" than others, surely a tossup on the White Album or a bonus on Funny Girl has to fall pretty close to the "most legitimate" end of the spectrum, even if some people don't do well on those questions because they only care about pop culture stuff from their own generation.
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Re: Trash

Post by 1.82 » Sun Feb 08, 2015 5:59 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Cheynem wrote:
vinteuil wrote:(and again, I think that having heard of the Everly Brothers is one thing—being able to answer a question about them is another).
I...don't follow this. By "heard of," do you mean just literally heard their name at some point?
I guess my point is (somewhat obvious)—a thing can be easy-part famous, but none of the actual facts linked to that thing are. A lot of people have heard of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but if you just described it as "this incident" and gave the relevant names and dates, it wouldn't be an easy part.
I'm not sure whether it was different for DI, but the Everly Brothers bonus was such that it seemed to me that any knowledge of the Everly Brothers at all beyond their name would have been sufficient. Every member of my team knew it; it certainly didn't strike me as one of the more obscure trash questions.
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Re: Trash

Post by conker » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:09 pm

"Funny Girl" was completely fair, IMHO. Our team didn't do well on that bonus (pretty much the only thing I know about "Funny Girl" is that Barbara Streisand was in it), but in hindsight it's something that we should know. On the other hand, I don't like certain trash about current TV shows or movies. Have you ever read a packet from, say, 2005 in practice and been frustrated by the random trash which no one knows anymore? If they had only asked about "Friends" or "The Office," the questions would still be relevant today. I guess a good rule of thumb is to think about how well your question will age. If no one will know or care about the answer in 10 years, it might be worth rethinking whether or not to ask that question.
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Re: Trash

Post by Ndg » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:45 pm

conker wrote:Have you ever read a packet from, say, 2005 in practice and been frustrated by the random trash which no one knows anymore? If they had only asked about "Friends" or "The Office," the questions would still be relevant today. I guess a good rule of thumb is to think about how well your question will age. If no one will know or care about the answer in 10 years, it might be worth rethinking whether or not to ask that question.
This is not necessarily an easy thing to predict. Besides, questions are produced to be played immediately, not in ten years. It's not at all important how much fun teams in 2025 will have reading these questions in practice.
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Re: 2015 SCT: Trash

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:18 pm

I don't have much sympathy for the "trash should never be in academic tournaments" position, or the "trash from before year 19XX should (almost) never be in academic tournaments" position, especially when "trash from before year 19XX" includes most of the bonuses on The Everly Brothers or Bob Dylan, which are things that people should (and do) know.

So, ignoring the people who are just against trash, period: Do the detractors of the trash in this set think that those questions, on the whole, reflected some sort of myopia on the part of the editors and writers through which they overestimated the importance of the topics they asked? And if yes, can you back that claim up? I'm not talking about a couple tossups on minor sports ("America's Cup" or "European Ryder Cup team"); I'm talking about the entire trash distribution over all the packets. I know that not every team is fortunate enough to have a gay Jew who can effortlessly 30 a Funny Girl bonus, but if our standard for a hard part is (as in the ACF packet guidelines) "one which a person well-read in the subject of the should be able to convert," I have a hard time seeing "Fanny Brice" as a problem at a regular-ish difficulty tournament. If you want to make a point, make it better.

To put my cards on the table, I thought the trash in this set was just fine, and certainly in keeping with the push toward "greater relevance" (not that really I know what people mean when they say that). There were a small number of oddball questions, but that's also true of academic questions in most sets.

EDIT: Also, Andrew Nadig is 100% right in the post right above mine. I think it's great when people write questions about "critically acclaimed" things but the last thing we need to be worrying about is whether our questions will "hold up" in 10 or 100 years.
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Re: 2015 SCT: Trash

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:07 am

I guess my lone complaint is that the America's Cup tossup could have been turned into a sailing tossup pretty easily to increase conversion rates. Ryder Cup is a rather important event in golf and so I have no qualms about that one being in the set either. In fact both questions had buzzes inside of approximately 1.5 lines in rooms where I was competing, so it's apparent that other people know about these culturally significant things.
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Re: 2015 SCT: Trash

Post by setht » Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:51 pm

I am interested in hearing more about what people did/did not like in the popular culture (and sports) questions in the set. The most useful thing for me as an editor would be the hsqb equivalent of a position paper, backed up with references to the set (actually, the most useful thing would be that, followed by discussion during which a clear community consensus emerges). I understand that takes more time than people are likely to want to spend, and I'll take what I can get in the way of feedback, but there's not much I can do with "I don't like old stuff" (not that anyone in this thread has gone quite that vague), especially if the discussion peters out at "1-2 votes for no old stuff, 3+ votes for at least some old stuff, and the vast majority abstain."

In general, we want the popular culture questions in our sets to focus on important, interesting, and accessible material. I'll own up to writing the bonus on the Everly Brothers; to my mind, they are an important group in the early history of rock and country music (which seems like a culturally significant thing worth asking about). If there's a consensus that the early history of popular music is not a good source for questions, I'd like to know that; or if we agree that that general subject is fine, but this particular question had implementation flaws, I'd like to hear about that. In the particular case of "this bonus was just too hard," we can also (eventually) look at conversion data, of course.

Moving away from big-picture questions like "what should pop culture questions focus on," I am also interested in hearing about wacky subdistribution imbalances. Some of these will be perceived imbalances due to random ordering of packets (e.g. multiple baseball questions in the first several packets, then some football questions in the last several packets), but if there's something like "2/3 of the movies, music, and TV questions focused on content from the 1950s," that's absolutely something we'd like to keep an eye out for going forward. My impression while working on the set and reading last Saturday was that there weren't any spikes in representation by decade, but I may have missed something.

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Re: 2015 SCT: Trash

Post by Nice hockey Cote d'Azur » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:17 pm

I've only seen the first 11 packets of D2, but from what I saw the trash was mostly fine, with a couple exceptions. I think the Wizards-Cavs question was an example of the kinds of questions people don't like, it was something pretty irrelevant from long enough ago that most people have forgotten about it. I don't know about that James van der Beek question since I'm not sure how many people watch that show. Most of the older questions were on very famous things, didn't see any problems there.
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