ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:40 am

vinteuil wrote:Ike, I think you know that Jerry is arguing for averages to try to conform to some standard, not every single bonus. Similarly, I don't think he's saying that easy parts need to be perfunctory.
If you want the top four teams to break 20 ppb you need to have middle parts be perfunctory and also easy parts be perfunctory. That's just the truth of it pragmatically.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:43 am

Minnesota was, technically speaking, a top bracket team, and we 0'd a few bonus. That's fine: There are plenty of holes in our knowledge, etc. etc. As Jacob says/implies, the problem is that there were bonuses that just seemed brutal even for the top teams as a whole. There are a few bonuses with hard parts that made me wonder, "Who is the real audience of this bonus part? Are people actually going to convert this?" John Sallis is a good example - I'd by curious to know if anyone converted that part!

I get that things like this are perhaps low on the list of priorities for any editor, and I also don't want to make it seem like this was a super-pervasive problem, since that wasn't my impression. But there were bonuses that felt like they were written deliberately to go one step beyond what people know, rather than being something that at least a handful of teams would actually get. (Again, I'm not claim that this actually was the editors' motive, just that it often felt like that.) I may have more to say once I can see the set.

No comment on easy parts being too hard: I was guilty of that in my submissions, so I'd be a hypocrite to complain about it. But for the record, I don't think this is a new phenomenon to this year. I remember easy parts in 2013 like George Meredith and Gabriele d'Annunzio (or maybe the easy part here was Bread and Wine? either way that's pretty tough).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:55 am

vinteuil wrote:Also, I think that dead tossups as a difficulty metric might be a tiny bit misleading; this tournament also had at least what felt like a lot of questions likely to be converted only near the end, e.g. Memling's Last Judgment (when the Memling tossup last year was probably hard enough!), which presumably had an easy enough giveaway involving souls being weighed or something.
So first you say that ppb is misleading, and then you suggest literally upthread that dead tossups are a better metric. Then you suggest that dead tossups are a bad metric here, and think that your own anecdotal example of one tossup is better.
Stuff that Auroni said
Auroni, as I just outlined in mega-wall of a post, I don't think catering to teams by making easy parts easy for the sake of easiness is my preferred method to cater to teams. You and i will just have to disagree with that - I think Umberto is a fine easy part and Telemann may be a bit merciless - so we can agree about the latter not being a merciful easy part. Although I'm not sure, you may actually agree with my theoretical model and not just the execution of these particular questions that I didn't write?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Auroni » Wed Apr 22, 2015 2:01 am

Ike wrote: Auroni, as I just outlined in mega-wall of a post, I don't think catering to teams by making easy parts easy for the sake of easiness is my preferred method to cater to teams. You and i will just have to disagree with that - I think Umberto is a fine easy part and Telemann may be a bit merciless - so we can agree about the latter not being a merciful easy part. Although I'm not sure, you may actually agree with my theoretical model and not just the execution of these particular questions that I didn't write?
You just sidestepped the point I was trying to make by addressing only the examples. The only two options are not "the status quo" and "insultingly easy easy parts." There's plenty of ways to make bonuses easier while still maintaining a separation between teams that don't know enough to even get a 10, and teams that should be getting the 10. I chose three examples, but I have many others from the set.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Apr 22, 2015 2:05 am

Auroni wrote:
Ike wrote: Auroni, as I just outlined in mega-wall of a post, I don't think catering to teams by making easy parts easy for the sake of easiness is my preferred method to cater to teams. You and i will just have to disagree with that - I think Umberto is a fine easy part and Telemann may be a bit merciless - so we can agree about the latter not being a merciful easy part. Although I'm not sure, you may actually agree with my theoretical model and not just the execution of these particular questions that I didn't write?
You just sidestepped the point I was trying to make by addressing only the examples. The only two options are not "the status quo" and "insultingly easy easy parts." There's plenty of ways to make bonuses easier while still maintaining a separation between teams that don't know enough to even get a 10, and teams that should be getting the 10. I chose three examples, but I have many others from the set.
As I just wrote:
"You may actually agree with my theoretical model and not just the execution of these particular questions that I didn't write?"
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Cody » Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:27 am

PPB is an average across all bonuses a team hears. Saying that the top teams should be breaking 20 PPB directly implies they should be 30'ing and 20'ing a lot more than 10'ing and 0'ing, but there is nothing in Jerry's post or theoretical framework which requires that a Top. Team. never get less than 20 on a bonus -- quite the opposite! I'm very confused by the insistence that Jerry's framework requires teams to never 0 or 10 -- it doesn't even require them to rarely do that. 30% 30 / 50% 20 / 10% 10 / 10% 0 = (3) 30 (5) 20 (1) 10 (1) 0 in 10 TUs = 20 PPB. => 30% 30 / 50% 20 / 20% 10 / 0% 0 = 21 PPB. => 30% 30 / 60% 20 / 10% 10 / 0% 0 = 22 PPB. => 40% 30 / 50% 20 / 10% 10 / 0% 0 = 23 PPB. => etc., just to throw out some hokey numbers. So, one can improve bonus conversion by (a) making 30s less infrequent (b) making it possible for Top. Teams. to get lots of 20s (c) making it so Top. Teams. rarely 0 a bonus. (c) can happen if content is outside of a team's specialization (your Stanford example), but should otherwise be pretty rare given the breadth and depth of knowledge among the top 4. Having the absolute tippity-top teams getting 22 PPB doesn't seem like a bad goal or very far-fetched to me.


Completely separate from the above, if ACF Nationals wants to be serious about attracting a lot of teams as the capstone to the season, then the set needs to change radically for the future. It's extremely possible to differentiate the top 12 teams without having a huge chunk of games among the lower bracket teams come down to simple chance. The current difficulty of Nats doesn't service the whole field and that's a real shame.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:49 am

Ike wrote:I disagree with Jerry's theoretical foundations. In no way, do I think that "3 or 4 teams breaking 20ppb" is ideal - in fact, I think fitting your bonus to some type of ideal distribution, to say "this is what an ideal tournament is like" is a mistake on many levels, for one you basically have to guarantee that your medium parts are super easy for top teams: like that Samuel Slater medium part has to be made way easier because Chicago didn't get it! Jonathan Magin, noted difficulty controller, thought it was a fine medium part - but under this rather draconian model of difficulty, he's very wrong. In fact, Jerry's model can be achieved by doing this: make tossups worth 20 points, and have two part bonuses: the first part should be converted by 10 out of the 12 top teams and the second part should be converted by the top 4 teams some percentage of the time. If you think about it - this model of quizbowl fits Jerry's distribution for the top team bracket - you get 10 bonus points since top teams should be perfunctorily converting easy parts! I hope most people see that this format causes more weight to be placed on tossups, rather than actually placing weight on bonuses - which is ironic, since Jerry claims to be advocating for "hard parts to distinguish teams."
Ike, this is a very weird and wrong reading of what I'm trying to say. I'll try it again and I hope you'll be a little more generous in interpreting what I'm saying, because ultimately I actually don't think we disagree on much.

I'm not going to bother arguing against your hypothetical quizbowl where tossups and bonuses are worth 20 points each because that's not the game we're playing, so I don't know why you invented that scenario. It's a perfect strawman since at no point did I ever advocate for anything that would lead to that outcome. I'm also baffled that you seem to believe that anything I say requires e.g. scrapping Slater as a medium part because one team didn't get that. I think we all agree that various teams are going to have some lacunae in their knowledge and that's fine.

The concept difficulty that I advocate is in no real sense "draconian" unless you are determined to misunderstand me. I have beaten the drum on hard parts for probably the better part of the last decade, and the thesis is very simple: if you effectively limit the possible points that a team can get to 20, even though bonuses are worth up to 30, you have lost the resolving power of the bonus. This should not be even remotely controversial as it is almost a mathematical truism. I have to say that I do not understand people's apparent reluctance to grasp this simple fact, but this reluctance doesn't make it any less true.
I'd also like to point out that at no ACF Nationals, has this "goal" ever come closed to being achieved. In fact, In the last ten years, this year came very close to having 4 teams break 20 ppg - the only one that is arguably closer is 2014. Why all of a sudden this tournament caused people to foist this standard is a little bit beyond me - especially since we were arguably closer than most other tournaments.
This isn't a new discussion. It's a discussion that's more or less in the background of every Nationals. What makes this year different is that it was the biggest Nationals ever and the bottom half of the field, which likely wouldn't have even existed a few years ago, got hit with some pretty rough questions. I'm trying to articulate a path forward that will keep the tournament fun for those teams while not losing the power to distinguish between the top teams. I am assuming that everyone who edits ACF shares this goal (although I'm sure Ryan will say that he doesn't).
Let me instead offer my own picture of bonus difficulty: I write on a topic and you get a value in between 0 and 30 points for your knowledge of the topic!
That theory is terrible! It can literally support almost any bonus regardless of how difficult the various parts as long as their difficulty relative to each other retains ordinal ranking.
As an example, consider my Jarman / Olivier / merchant-ivory bonus - intended as h/m/e - This was 0'd by Stanford A and presumably would have been 30'd by UVA or Michigan. I have no problem handing out a 0 because if you don't know who Olivier is - you don't know film. That's how you figure out who is a national champion - you give 30 points to UVA for knowing a fuck ton of film and 0 points to teams that don't know it. It's certainly not "Oh Stanford is a top bracket team - you must give them 19 points on average, per a bonus!"
I know you know what the word "average" means, so don't pretend that anything I said implies "Stanford must get 20 on this particular bonus." But thanks for bringing that bonus up because it's actually a really good example of my ideal bonus structure, except I'm pretty sure you've got Olivier and M&I reversed in terms of their relative difficulty: Olivier is the most famous Shakespearean film actor of the 20th century, and M&I are not quite as famous. But regardless of that, it's a great bonus. It has a very reasonable gradation of difficulty, with 30 points given for good knowledge of film, 20 points for moderate knowledge, and probably 10 points for vaguely having heard of Laurence Olivier. If Stanford whiffed on this bonus, oh well. It's still a very good structure, and the goodness of it largely depends on the fact that Derek Jarman is not some magically obscure figure but a reasonable part that you could expect people with interest in film to know. It would be very different if the hard part was on some minor Jarman film, and then the medium part was on Jarman himself, and the easy part was whatever; that bonus would still retain the ordinal ranking, but it would be virtually impossible for anyone to get 30 on it and you would lose resolving power.
I know that example and approach seems callous, but honestly it's actually awesome for two reasons: One, you actually distinguish between teams with all three parts: For some reason, people nowadays assume that because two teams are top teams, they must have "deep or similar knowledge" of every subject, which is so dumb, one top team can have great knowledge of film and another can have near zero. - I could have made that Olivier part so that "90% of teams got that bonus part by having it be Shakespeare" but honestly, what is the point of that? We're not distinguishing any knowledge of the subject at hand!
No one assumes that two similarly good teams should have similarly good knowledge of any two things. That is dumb, which is why no one thinks that. As for the second part, you're just wrong; you could have made the easy part Shakespeare (although I maintain that Olivier is probably sufficiently easy) but the whole point is that you're distinguishing between people who know about Derek Jarman and people who don't, since he's the hard part. That's the margin at which the decision is made, not on the easy part, which virtually all the top teams, on average (Stanford's whiff on this one particular bonus notwithstanding), will get. That's literally what it means to be a good team: hoovering up the easy parts.
Secondly, and I think equally important, is that it is rewarding when any team gets 10, 20 or 30 bonus points on a topic. I know it may not feel like it given today's aesthetics of quizbowl, but teams in the bottom bracket should be ~proud of themselves~ for getting 10 points on any bonus at this tournament! Knowing who William Hogarth or Sir Laurence Olivier is means that you are a step above most other intelligent people! But, if you write it so that "90-100% of teams" will convert the easy part or something, you're just going to have to make all your bonus parts like Easter Bunny stupid.
I thought the Easter bunny thing was stupid. I don't think that an easy bonus part should be "find your ass with both hands." I'm going to assume that people coming to ACF Nationals have played a sufficient amount of quizbowl that they are usually able to come up with reasonably easy parts like Hogarth or Olivier. But let's take a look at that infamous "Easter bunny" bonus:
According to one tale, Ometochtli was killed by Tezcatlipoca because, if he did not die, all persons who consumed this substance would have to die. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this substance that, according to Aztec myth, was first produced when the goddess Mayahuel turned herself into a tree to escape the star demons known as the Tzitzimime.
ANSWER: pulque [or maguey; or agave plant sap; prompt on “alcohol” or “beer”]
[10] The Tzitzimime demons were particularly likely to attack during the "five unlucky days " referred to by this Nahuatl term. People stayed in their houses during these "empty days" at the end of the Aztec calendar, so as to avoid attacks by vengeful spirits.
ANSWER: the Nemontemi
[10] Mayahuel had 400 breasts so that she could feed pulque to 400 of these animals called the Centzon Totochtin. In Chinese folklore, a jade one lives on the moon, while the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ostara had a pet one who delivered eggs, inspiring the Easter festival.
ANSWER: rabbits [or bunny; or hares; or obvious equivalents]
HOLY SHIT THIS BONUS IS FUCKING HARD. Just because literally everyone is getting 10 on that doesn't mean shit. This bonus has two incredibly hard parts, and I'd be shocked if more than one or two teams got more than 10, and I'll bet $5 right now that no one got 30. This bonus has two parts that are near-impossible even for the best teams, but in aggregate it will show up as having given everyone 10 because everyone can, indeed, find their ass with both hands and a map.

This fucking sucks! It loses the ability to resolve any difference between even two top-bracket teams by virtue of having two very hard parts. Here's another one:
Answer the following about the tar-producing Finnish province of Ostrobothnia, for 10 points each.
[10] This war began in 1596 when a group of peasants, led by Jaakko Ilkka and centered in Ostrobothnia, rose up against Sigismund, the son of Johan II. The peasants in this war were supported by future king Charles IX, who they called the “Good King,” and it led to the Abo Bloodbath.
ANSWER: Club War [or the Cudgel War; or Nuija-sota; or Klubbe-kriget]
[10] Around 1670, Ostrobothnia witnessed one of these events after the Devil’s Sabbath allegedly caused some namesake troublemakers to fly into Finland. Mary Walcott was persecuted in 1693 during this type of event in Salem, Massachusetts.
ANSWER: witch hunts [or witch persecutions; or obvious equivalents]
[10] The “ABC-book” written by this bishop of Turku was widely distributed in Ostrobothnia. Often dubbed the father of Finnish literature, this man brought the Lutheran faith to Finland and died negotiating a treaty with Russia.
ANSWER: Mikael Agricola
AARGH RYAN WHAT ARE YOU DOING. I tried in IRC a few nights ago to convince Ryan that Mikael Agricola is not a reasonable middle part, but I don't think I succeeded. I'm sure Ryan will come in here and say something like "this guy has come up X times, he's now a middle part," but I maintain that this is stupid and wrong and a bad way to evaluate teams. Welcome to 10 points on this bonus, 90% of the field!

Here's a bonus from the same packet that does a good job:
This quantity is given by half the sum of the dot product of the E and D fields and the dot product of the B and H fields. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this quantity that equals half the square of the electric field times the permittivity for the electric field and half the square of the magnetic field divided by permeability for the magnetic field.
ANSWER: energy density [do not accept “energy” or “density”]
[10] The time derivative of the energy density of an EM field appears in this man’s theorem describing energy transfer in EM fields. He names a quantity proportional to the cross product of the electric and magnetic fields that represents the energy density of an EM wave.
ANSWER: John Henry Poynting
[10] The electromagnetic energy density appears on the main diagonal of this three by three matrix, which gives the momentum flux density caused by an electromagnetic field.
ANSWER: Maxwell stress tensor [prompt on “stress tensor”; do not accept “stress-energy tensor”]
This is great! Look what's happening here: the first part requires you to know some relatively hairy details of E&M math, but they're accessible to people who have taken advanced E&M courses as undergrads. The easy part is easy without being insulting: if you know a little bit about E&M, you probably know that the Poynting vector is the direction of propagation of an electromagnetic wave. This part might be hard for people without a scientist on their team, but that's ok since not everyone can be expected to know everything. The hard part is the Maxwell stress tensor which you'll know if you've taken advanced E&M and is straightforwardly gettable by a knowledgeable physics person.

My main criticism of this tournament is that it had too many bonuses that were like that Aztec myth bonus and that Finland bonus. It should have had more bonuses like that Jarman bonus and that E&M bonus, which gave good teams a reasonable shot at a 30 and didn't abuse teams that were not good, or treat them insultingly.
In fact, let me offer my theory about how we reach out to middle-bottom bracket teams: You write bonuses that they can conceivably 30 and will feel good about 30ing
So, you agree with me after all!
every team has someone with a deep pocket knowledge in some category: a 10 ppg player in the bottom bracket might be super knowledgable in jazz, math, or some other random category. You focus on writing that good tossup that rewards knowledgable people for their random pockets of academic knowledge by tapping into areas that quizbowl doesn't usually tap into - you certainly don't do it by making your easy parts dumbly easier so that "all teams can convert it" - in fact that makes the battlefield at the bottom muddier.
You don't write an entire tournament based around the idea that some bottom-bracket team somewhere is going to have a player on it who's going to 30 that one jazz bonus. You write a tournament in such a way that your bonuses allow for a reasonable differentiation between teams of different skill levels while being fair to all teams across the board. The way to do that is to make easy parts straightforwardly gettable for most teams, and make the differentiation of top teams occur on the hard parts.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:50 am

Ike wrote:
vinteuil wrote:Ike, I think you know that Jerry is arguing for averages to try to conform to some standard, not every single bonus. Similarly, I don't think he's saying that easy parts need to be perfunctory.
If you want the top four teams to break 20 ppb you need to have middle parts be perfunctory and also easy parts be perfunctory. That's just the truth of it pragmatically.
No it isn't, and Cody showed you why.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:01 am

Jerry, I think Ike's point is that, if easy parts of bonuses are so easy that every top bracket team gets them basically every time, you've essentially made each tossup worth 20 points and reduced the bonus spectrum to 0 through 20.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Cody » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:10 am

theMoMA wrote:Jerry, I think Ike's point is that, if easy parts of bonuses are so easy that every top bracket team gets them basically every time, you've essentially made each tossup worth 20 points and reduced the bonus spectrum to 0 through 20.
Yes, but Ike's position seems to fundamentally misunderstand the role of the different parts of a bonus.

The top 4 teams should absolutely be getting the easy part nearly every time (even at Nationals) (absent content holes a la Stanford)—pulling out the regular difficulty maths (which is still a good enough approximation for a theoretical discussion of Nats), the easy part is intended to differentiate the bottom 10-20% of the field. The hard part is intended to differentiate the top 10-20% of the field. Determining everything with respect to the top bracket teams doesn't make any sense because there are 48 teams at Nationals—the teams that the easy part is supposed to differentiate won't get the easy part every time (and thus tossups are not worth 20 points)! Designing easy parts to differentiate, on average, among top bracket teams just doesn't make any sense in the theoretical framework of pyramidal quizbowl.


sidenote: the problem also lies in the definition of "top bracket team". Jerry asserted (and I very much agree with) the following. It's a very different definition from the "top bracket team".
grapesmoker wrote:[...] I do believe that the top 3 or 4 teams should be able to top 20 PPB, and that the margin between them should primarily be established by their ability to convert hard parts.
Last edited by Cody on Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:11 am

theMoMA wrote:Jerry, I think Ike's point is that, if easy parts of bonuses are so easy that every top bracket team gets them basically every time, you've essentially made each tossup worth 20 points and reduced the bonus spectrum to 0 through 20.
The best teams should get them every time! They, empirically speaking, do in fact get them every time, since that's what it definitionally is to be a good team.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by vinteuil » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:40 am

Ike wrote:
vinteuil wrote:Also, I think that dead tossups as a difficulty metric might be a tiny bit misleading; this tournament also had at least what felt like a lot of questions likely to be converted only near the end, e.g. Memling's Last Judgment (when the Memling tossup last year was probably hard enough!), which presumably had an easy enough giveaway involving souls being weighed or something.
So first you say that ppb is misleading, and then you suggest literally upthread that dead tossups are a better metric. Then you suggest that dead tossups are a bad metric here, and think that your own anecdotal example of one tossup is better.
Cody has articulated most of my points much better downthread. Anyways, it had only just occurred to me that the pre-giveaway parts of the tossups might be where at least some of the perceived difficulty lies; unfortunately there's no real way to quantify that.
grapesmoker wrote:
theMoMA wrote:Jerry, I think Ike's point is that, if easy parts of bonuses are so easy that every top bracket team gets them basically every time, you've essentially made each tossup worth 20 points and reduced the bonus spectrum to 0 through 20.
The best teams should get them every time! They, empirically speaking, do in fact get them every time, since that's what it definitionally is to be a good team.
More or less, the bonus spectrum for lower bracket teams is already reduced to that level. Boning them with difficult 10s is not helping that.

Boning top teams with extreme 30s is also not helping un-reduce the bonus spectrum any more than making the easy parts hard would—"easy parts should not be the thing differentiating top teams" is pretty uncontroversial (hell, even HFT writers—sorry Will!—don't actually believe that anymore).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:52 am

Yeah, I would argue the best teams should probably be getting the easy part nearly every time, barring just a screw-up or a hole in knowledge. The key part is that those Easter Bunny esque bonuses don't just make it so that nobody can 30 (or even have a hard time 20'ing it), it's that almost everyone from Penn down to the bottom bracket will probably 10 it. In the lower brackets, I would probably guarantee that unless there was a very deep pocket of knowledge, it was 10's across the board for every team, which defeats the whole purpose of bonuses.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:55 am

Right, but I think Ike's point is that there must be some kind of threshold of knowledge below which people cannot expert to get points, and an easy part that creates no such threshold is suboptimal.

For example, I think Ike would say that the Poynting vector is a good easy part (although the particular bonus could have used to say "vector," instead of "quantity," to my mind), because almost every good team will get it, but not perfunctorily so; a team that knows very little about electromagnetism probably would get zero on that bonus, and that's good! If teams that know next to nothing about a particular subject can still get 10 on their bonus, that easy part isn't actually doing anything. I think Ike would say that "Easter ______," with ______ being "bunny," is a suboptimal easy part, because it's no functionally different from "touch your butt," as Seth is fond of saying. If all easy parts simply require you to touch your butt for an additional 10, then tossups really are worth 20 points, and the bonus space really is restricted to 0 through 20.

I think Ike and Jerry (and I!) are mostly in agreement here. I would be perfectly fine in saying that "every team that is in contention for the title at ACF Nationals should get the vast majority, and maybe even each and every one, of the easy parts." But I think that should mean that the teams are, for the most part, meeting the threshold of demonstrating actual (but basic) knowledge of the subject at hand, not simply touching their butts, identifying the Easter bunny, etc.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:57 am

Just to be clear: I am not now defending, nor have I ever at any point defended that Easter bunny bonus part. I trust that my problem with that bonus is sufficiently clear that I don't need to re-explain it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Wed Apr 22, 2015 12:00 pm

Well, yeah, I would agree with that. I do think that an easy part needs to have a threshold of knowledge (which I'm sure Jerry would agree with too) and that at ACF Nationals, that threshold can be a little higher than "Shakespeare" (with the easiest clues) or "Italy" (by saying Mussolini's country). Still, the threshold would not be any problem for any of the first or even second bracket teams. This might need its own thread, but I, perhaps incorrectly, view easy parts as a continuum across difficulty. For example,

ACF Fall easy part is Ernest Hemingway
ACF Regionals easy part is closer to Hemingway than the Nationals part, if that makes sense
ACF Nationals easy part is a A Farewell to Arms
CO easy part is Frederic Henry (okay, maybe not)

Relative to the fields, you're not stumping the better teams with the easy part, but you are making it slightly more difficult to grab 10 at each level.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Apr 22, 2015 12:36 pm

I'm amused by the trend this discussion has taken--insofar as it has become a discussion about crafting bonuses that properly differentiate between teams--because it is basically a carbon copy of the post-ACF nationals discussion we had six years ago. To quote from my irate post-tournament screeds way back in 2009:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote: My general point is that there were lots of bonuses in the playoffs for which nobody seems to have given any thought to the question "Does this approach having an easy, middle, and hard part? And do those gradations of difficulty roughly align across all of the bonuses in this round, or are the 'easy' parts in bonuses A and B orders of magnitude harder than the 'easy' parts in bonuses C and D?"
This prompted Ryan to respond, hilariously, as follows:
No Rules Westbrook wrote: Now, are people really saying that my playa lakes/desert varnish/pedocal bonus was one of these crazy unfair hard ones?
And I responded thus:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote: I'm not really interested in a protracted debate over the precise "difficulty" of SLORC or "desert varnish" or "Tool Academy" or whatever. Here's what I'm saying about that playoff game: Going into the last question, we had out-tossuped Chicago. However, they had clinched the game, in significant part because they had gotten 30s on bonuses that my team would also have 30d (e.g. the Browning poems and the C4 bonus), whereas we got a string of zeroes and 10s on bonuses which seemed significantly harder. Maybe Burmese history and desert geology and lesser-known VH1 programs and "real linguistics" all just happen to be among my team's blind spots, but that variance strikes me as having had a meaningful and unfortunate impact on the outcome of the game. (Especially since we appear to have had a higher playoff PPB than Chicago or Brown, which suggests that we weren't just a bunch of ignorant hicks who stumbled into the play-in game and couldn't have been expected to get bonus points anyway.)
I rehash these points not because I want to relive the agony of losing that play-in game so many years ago, but because we seem to have learned nothing from that discussion! And by "we" I mean, obviously, "Westbrook."
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:21 pm

Jerry, you haven't really said anything in the response that I disagree with. It appeared to me in your first post that you were advocating for some type of metric-driven model to guide bonus design - and I disagree with that - and on a personal level, it doubly irks me because I worked at a place for six months were metrics was all we used - and it wasn't very satisfying. Of course, you're not really advocating for that.

Okay, the reason why i was being glib about my theory of "I write a bonus and you get some value in between 0 and 30" was to more or less say, "Jerry, please trust me, I know how to calibrate bonus difficulty" rather than spell it out. Outside of a few outliers, I think you'll find I had reasonable easy and medium parts - in fact, in all of my categories, I think I had reasonable hard parts as well - with almost certainly a few outliers - but hey hard parts are more of a shot in the dark that is challenging to calibrate consistently. The fact that we agree on Jarman (and I did mean M/I to be an m part I just got that wrong in my post) tells me you probably trust me - Of course, I wrote a bunch of bonuses on first pass that were really hard - that happens, we just need someone to look at our work - like you, Jonathan and Cody excellently did. As Rob can attest to, I went through the set and left a bunch of notes saying "this is tough for an e part," "tough for an m part" or "too easy for an h" part. I really didn't comment on history because I don't know much about history, so maybe next year I should learn it so I can.

Here's my general point about bonuses - I have the choice to put you in four equivalence classes with each bonus: 0, 10, 20, or 30, and ideally, I want to see teams existing in all four equivalence classes for every bonus. I hate writing touch your butt easy parts, especially when they appear in conjunction with two very tough hard parts. I just don't like being told that in theory "top teams should be 20ing" most bonuses or whatever statement - even though pragmatically it might be true.

For what its worth I think Ryan does have a decent sense of difficulty when he's commenting on questions - he pointed out when a couple of my bonus parts were too hard - for example told me that estoppel is way too hard as an easy part (my difficulty meter was I would 10 this bonus and I know shit about law, therefore it's okay.) We all have that "awesome clues in my research, so two hard parts" syndrome, so maybe we should devote more time to being question complete earlier* so we can just spend time polishing, reviewing and polishing, - which is what I did in my stuff especially.

*Please send in your packets earlier for next year.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:25 pm

I'm just going to drop in here and say we knew Olivier but messed up because somebody wasn't paying attention and suggested Branagh (which was obviously wrong, since the question mentioned Olivier being brought out of retirement for War Requiem or something). That's on us, but lest it go down as "ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion" canon that we're a team that doesn't know film, film is actually probably one of our 4 or 5 best areas, both empirically speaking and in terms of our non-quizbowl interests.

From what I can tell browsing online, the Jarman/Olivier/Merchant Ivory bonus was abnormally hard compared to any film bonus I've seen at nationals level, but if people who know more about Jarman than I do insist that the difficulty was appropriate, I'll take their word for it and assume that this is a topic that just slipped between the cracks for us. That said, it seems odd to reverse-justify a bonus as appropriate by labeling us as a shitty film team to explain away our 0. It seems equally odd to speculate that UVA and Michigan would have 30'd the bonus just because they know "a shit ton of film." (I'm not saying they wouldn't have, but I know UVA never played that bonus.) I could claim to know "a shit ton of painting" but apparently that wasn't enough to inform the moderator that there are some swans at the front of The Isle of Life.

EDIT: I'll also weigh in on the top-4-20-ppb issue. When a team is getting 20 ppb, that means they're 10'ing some and 30'ing some and about the same rate. It doesn't mean they're getting 20 on everything. So aiming for 20 ppb as your goal as an editor doesn't mean you have to write your question so that all of the top teams are getting at least 20. That would make the set look like Regionals.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:33 pm

Come on, Andrew, "the Zanj rebellion has come up before."
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed Apr 22, 2015 2:01 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:the Jarman/Olivier/Merchant Ivory bonus was abnormally hard compared to any film bonus I've seen at nationals level
This seems like an odd assertion--Jarman is probably a tough hard part, though not out of the ordinary for Nats, but Olivier gives you "famous British Shakespearean actor" and M+I gives you "director/producer who did Forster and James novel adaptations". Seems like just a knowledge hole.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Wed Apr 22, 2015 2:15 pm

Auks Ran Ova wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:the Jarman/Olivier/Merchant Ivory bonus was abnormally hard compared to any film bonus I've seen at nationals level
This seems like an odd assertion--Jarman is probably a tough hard part, though not out of the ordinary for Nats, but Olivier gives you "famous British Shakespearean actor" and M+I gives you "director/producer who did Forster and James novel adaptations". Seems like just a knowledge hole.
Yeah, like I said, I believe you (and Ike, and Jerry). I could argue that "Forster and James novel adaptations" aren't that widely watched, but that's another thing I can't really claim with any evidence. Really, I was just saying that I couldn't tell from the internet that those things are important; but I haven't taken any film classes, so there you go.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Nabonidus » Wed Apr 22, 2015 2:18 pm

I agree with Rob. In addition to the Shakespeare clue (which gave me the unfortunate experience of having "Kenneth Branagh!" shouted into my ear from a distance of several inches) the dentistry scene from Marathon Man is really famous and I actually thought the middle part of the question was intended to be the easy one.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 2:33 pm

gyre and gimble wrote: Yeah, like I said, I believe you (and Ike, and Jerry). I could argue that "Forster and James novel adaptations" aren't that widely watched, but that's another thing I can't really claim with any evidence. Really, I was just saying that I couldn't tell from the internet that those things are important; but I haven't taken any film classes, so there you go.
I don't know how many people actually watch them (I sure don't) but they're generally famous for historical reasons, to wit, producing a bunch of critically acclaimed adaptations that serve as a sort of implicit template for future directors of same.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Cody » Wed Apr 22, 2015 3:04 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:That said, it seems odd to reverse-justify a bonus as appropriate by labeling us as a shitty film team to explain away our 0. It seems equally odd to speculate that UVA and Michigan would have 30'd the bonus just because they know "a shit ton of film." (I'm not saying they wouldn't have, but I know UVA never played that bonus.) I could claim to know "a shit ton of painting" but apparently that wasn't enough to inform the moderator that there are some swans at the front of The Isle of Life.
You can have content holes in film while being good at film—I don't see this discussion as labeling you, holistically, as a shitty film team.

s/film/{category of your choice}/ as necessary
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Auroni » Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:21 pm

Ike wrote:
Auroni wrote:
Ike wrote: Auroni, as I just outlined in mega-wall of a post, I don't think catering to teams by making easy parts easy for the sake of easiness is my preferred method to cater to teams. You and i will just have to disagree with that - I think Umberto is a fine easy part and Telemann may be a bit merciless - so we can agree about the latter not being a merciful easy part. Although I'm not sure, you may actually agree with my theoretical model and not just the execution of these particular questions that I didn't write?
You just sidestepped the point I was trying to make by addressing only the examples. The only two options are not "the status quo" and "insultingly easy easy parts." There's plenty of ways to make bonuses easier while still maintaining a separation between teams that don't know enough to even get a 10, and teams that should be getting the 10. I chose three examples, but I have many others from the set.
As I just wrote:
"You may actually agree with my theoretical model and not just the execution of these particular questions that I didn't write?"
I wasn't trying to attack the easy parts in ACF Nationals specifically, so much as to use them and this discussion to illustrate a problem I see with quizbowl discussion more generally: Whenever an editor of a set is told that many of their easy parts are too hard, they always reflexively reply: "Well, we're not handing out free 10s to everyone!," regardless of what the easy parts in question actually are, without actually critically thinking about whether or not there's ways to make the parts more saner without heading into "find your ass territory." I think that it hurts quizbowl and betrays a lack of understanding for what easy parts are supposed to do.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:06 pm

Well, since Andrew is going out of his way to be hostile to me in particular, I will say this much...

I've always considered myself to be among the more diligent editors about going through bonuses to make sure that none are blatantly unfair - that is, that none of them seem to be unreasonably difficult to get 10 on, or unreasonably easy or liable to get 30 on without substantial knowledge of the topic. I don't concern myself as much with 10 point swings here and there, i.e. a slightly hard or slightly easy 20 to get, but it's not like I ignore that either.

Also, I very rarely write "find your butt" bonus parts. I do occasionally throw in a few of those parts here and there, especially if there isn't a reasonable alternative - i.e. there doesn't seem to be another available bonus part that fits with the rest of the bonus and meets the standards for a 10-point part. The "find your butt" easy part is certainly not optimal, but it doesn't really change things at all if you're a good team, because there's a 90-ish percent chance that you're going to get the easy part anyway. I guess it changes things a little for teams that are at the bottom of the tournament, because they get a sure 10, which is a boon on those questions.

Anyway, I think we've got far bigger fish to fry than worrying about the insulting nature of "find your butt" parts - I don't think there's any good quizbowl writer or editor that wants to have a lot of those parts. They just pop up sometimes when the writer can't find a great alternative way of constructing the bonus, and they don't much affect the nature of gameplay.

I moderated a lot of matches this Saturday and Sunday, and I didn't get the feeling that bonus fluctuation was very bad at all in this tournament, compared to most other events. Occasionally, I remember thinking "that's a rough 10 point part to ask for" - I definitely don't remember that thought being localized to any one subject - I remember thinking it on a few science bonuses, a few lit bonuses, etc. Quite a bit less often, I remember thinking to myself "that's probably kind of a gift 30" - for example, I think my bonus that went "Peace of Ryswick / Battle of Zenta / League of Augsburg" was a pretty easy thirty. But, on the whole, I thought bonus difficulty stayed fairly regular at this event, and the stats bear that out. Further, when there's really palpable bonus unfairness, you start to hear a lot of groans and complaints from teams (both good and bad teams) - it's not something that goes undetected when it's happening. I didn't really get the sense there was all that much of that in this particular event.




Further, we're just going to talk ourselves into circles if we start arguing about individual bonuses. Let's look at Jerry's example of what he considers "ideal". Now, I'm a terrible science player, but I could see someone saying that "Poynting" is slightly too hard for an easy part. My hunch is that the concept of the Poynting Vector is slightly easier than knowing that the last king of Italy was named Umberto, but probably not all that much easier. Similarly, I love Mesoamerican myth, and can tell you that pulque plays a very important role and it's a very "real" thing to ask about - and Nemontemi is certainly on the hard side of a 30-point part, but is a pretty cool concept that plays a role in the New Fire festival / "binding of the years" ritual that is central to Aztec cosmology (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Fire_ceremony). People have a real hard time being objective when they start talking about areas they know well, and then talk about areas they don't know well. Further, specialized areas like film or linguistics or even Mesoamerican myth (to reference some of the bonuses coming up) are always going to be more difficult to get widespread agreement on, because the ground is not as well trod. Now, Jerry thinks the Victual Brothers and Mikael Agricola are quite hard 20-point parts - they don't seem like it to me, at all, and were effortlessly converted in my rooms without any amount of strain. It would be interesting for me to go through each bonus and take a poll of 100 people on its perceived difficulty - but I think people would get way more variance in the opinions that you'd think.
This quantity is given by half the sum of the dot product of the E and D fields and the dot product of the B and H fields. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this quantity that equals half the square of the electric field times the permittivity for the electric field and half the square of the magnetic field divided by permeability for the magnetic field.
ANSWER: energy density [do not accept “energy” or “density”]
[10] The time derivative of the energy density of an EM field appears in this man’s theorem describing energy transfer in EM fields. He names a quantity proportional to the cross product of the electric and magnetic fields that represents the energy density of an EM wave.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:23 pm

I mean, I'd ask "what are the Victual Brothers (from all clues about them) if not a 20 point part?". Are they really a 30-point part, still? Are they just too easy for 30, but too hard for 20, so they can't ever come up? What the heck are they?

Same thing with Mikael Agricola. If I made that the 30 point part (or Victual Brothers the 30 part), every opposing good team in a match would groan immediately as if to imply "ugh, this is too easy of a 30...you're giving them such easy points!" But, it's being asserted that it's too hard for the 20? Really - then what the heck is Mikael Agricola? Is it another magical "too hard for 20, too easy for 30" type of answer?


We can go through every bonus like that - mine, Rob's, Ike's, Billy's - and it's going to be the same way. Or we can just look at the stats and see that this tournament had pretty solid bonus conversion compared to the last three years. (it's fine to say that you think the tournament needs to get easier in general...I have no issue with that opinion - but say that instead of making a weird claim about this particular tournament that isn't bonre out by the stats)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:27 pm

Well, of course you can make things a little harder by withholding information. I'm not a history player and I don't know who the Victual Brothers are, but I'm sure they could be a hard part if you give less than all the easiest clues for them. I'm not saying that editors should necessarily be obliged to do that, but there's no reason to pretend that there are answer lines that can't be used because they're too hard to be a middle part, and too easy to be a hard part.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:30 pm

Sure, you can withhold info or provide more info to harden or soften a bonus, and I do that all the time.

But, I'm saying Victual Brothers from all clues and Agricola from all clues - if you're really gonna die on the hill trying to say they're a smidge too hard for 20 but a smidge too easy for 30, that seems like a really trifling complaint to make. And a really subjective one.


*plus: hey, I'm not really sure you can "withhold info" about the Victual Brothers. You kinda just gotta come out and define who they are. Some things you can "without certain info" on - not really there
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:45 pm

To be clear, I didn't play this set and haven't read it; I'm solely intervening in this conversation in response to expressions of Westbrookian thinking that transcend this particular set of questions.

In addition to my prior remarks in this thread, which I stand by as general observations about Westbrookianism, I'll note that Ryan has a tendency of trumpeting the amount of time he puts editing (his "diligence") as if that were dispositive of the quality of his questions. This is obviously false: There's no way Ryan worked harder on this set than I worked on 2005 ACF nationals, but the mere fact that I put in hundreds of hours researching novel clues, etc. for that set doesn't magically absolve it of its flaws--in particular, the insane difficulty of the set relative to what people actually knew (instead of "what I assumed people should know"). I learned my lesson: What any one of us knows is idiosyncratic, and we are always going to miscalibrate difficulty when we try to project our own personal hunches and intuitions about difficulty onto a set. By contrast, Ryan seems never to have learned that his "hunches and intuitions" are merely that--i.e., idiosyncratic and frequently inaccurate guesses--and continues to blithely assume that as long as something doesn't "seem like" it's too hard to him, then the point is settled.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:48 pm

Now, to respond to JR's concern about lack of coverage for "World War I, World War II, and Cold War eras" among other key events...

What about these tossups: foreign affairs, bela kun, metaxas, estado novo, cambridge five (spying! cold war!), pierre laval, willy brandt, black and tans.


Whenever I write for Nats, I'm extremely careful to hit just about every century and continent and country and time period a fair amount. I really pay attention to that. Every editor has certain areas or time periods that he thinks are underrepresented - I'm a little partial to certain topics on that account (which I won't reveal because I may be writing in the future, and I don't want there to be some advantage to scouting this post), but I'm awfully cognizant of spreading out time and place.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 22, 2015 7:03 pm

Well, Andrew, here's the thing...this tournament got created a lot differently than tournaments in 2007 got created (or at least a lot differently than I was creating tournaments back then).

We had these packets in Google Docs and no less than 12 really knowledgeable ACF veterans commented on the questions - especially on bonus parts they thought were too hard, too easy, etc. - and none of the editors ignored those comments. We changed countless bonus parts to make some easier, some harder, etc. If my rather flippant posting style on this thread has led you to believe that I insist on relying solely on my hunches and not consulting others prior to putting a set out, then you're wrong.

Rather, it is precisely because we were careful to make these types of changes, using the input of others, that I am defending this point so tenaciously. It is precisely for that reason that I am mostly convinced that 95% of the complaints here boil down to unwarranted whining (or at least should be better stated as a general sentiment that the author believes Nationals needs to, in general, be made an easier tournament - and not as particularized complaints about this tournament)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 7:52 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I mean, I'd ask "what are the Victual Brothers (from all clues about them) if not a 20 point part?". Are they really a 30-point part, still? Are they just too easy for 30, but too hard for 20, so they can't ever come up? What the heck are they?
There's nothing wrong with making that the hard part.
Same thing with Mikael Agricola. If I made that the 30 point part (or Victual Brothers the 30 part), every opposing good team in a match would groan immediately as if to imply "ugh, this is too easy of a 30...you're giving them such easy points!" But, it's being asserted that it's too hard for the 20? Really - then what the heck is Mikael Agricola? Is it another magical "too hard for 20, too easy for 30" type of answer?
I don't know why you think that. Most of the time teams only complain about bonuses that swing in difficulty in an unfair way. If the bonuses were consistent, I don't imagine too many people would be upset. But yes, Agricola is a hard part too. The problem isn't either of them in isolation, the problem is that they're hard parts in bonuses that already have hard parts, so now you have a bonus with two hard parts.
Similarly, I love Mesoamerican myth, and can tell you that pulque plays a very important role and it's a very "real" thing to ask about - and Nemontemi is certainly on the hard side of a 30-point part, but is a pretty cool concept that plays a role in the New Fire festival / "binding of the years" ritual that is central to Aztec cosmology
This point is entirely orthogonal to the point I'm making. I'm not saying "wow, what a terrible answer choice! You should never ask about that!" I trust you that you know what you're doing when you're asking about pulque. The problem isn't the single hard part, it's that pulque is really hard part followed by another really hard part. That makes the bonus very difficult!

I think I've made the points that I've wanted to make and any further examination of the question of Nats difficulty is going to have to wait until I do a detailed breakdown of the bonus conversion stats next week.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Apr 22, 2015 8:19 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Well, Andrew, here's the thing...this tournament got created a lot differently than tournaments in 2007 got created (or at least a lot differently than I was creating tournaments back then).

We had these packets in Google Docs and no less than 12 really knowledgeable ACF veterans commented on the questions - especially on bonus parts they thought were too hard, too easy, etc. - and none of the editors ignored those comments. We changed countless bonus parts to make some easier, some harder, etc. If my rather flippant posting style on this thread has led you to believe that I insist on relying solely on my hunches and not consulting others prior to putting a set out, then you're wrong.

Rather, it is precisely because we were careful to make these types of changes, using the input of others, that I am defending this point so tenaciously. It is precisely for that reason that I am mostly convinced that 95% of the complaints here boil down to unwarranted whining (or at least should be better stated as a general sentiment that the author believes Nationals needs to, in general, be made an easier tournament - and not as particularized complaints about this tournament)
Obviously, I speak under correction as to this point, not least because we editors communicated with one another via smoke signals and carrier pigeons when I last worked on an ACF nationals.

Thus, far be it from me to call into question the process whereby this year's ACF editors worked collaboratively to rein in difficulty and correct one another's mistaken hunches. When Ryan says something like "David Dacko is so not hard. He's in the same tier of African presidents as Nyerere or Kaunda, and above the tier that includes people like Bongo or Banda. Dacko is a staple of the canon," this must be his usual charming flippancy, and does not reflect how he came to decide that a tossup on Dacko belonged in the set (as one that wasn't even "noticeably difficult," for that matter).

Oh, one other thing:
grapesmoker wrote: AARGH RYAN WHAT ARE YOU DOING. I tried in IRC a few nights ago to convince Ryan that Mikael Agricola is not a reasonable middle part, but I don't think I succeeded. I'm sure Ryan will come in here and say something like "this guy has come up X times, he's now a middle part," but I maintain that this is stupid and wrong and a bad way to evaluate teams. Welcome to 10 points on this bonus, 90% of the field!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 22, 2015 9:29 pm

I'm not sure that I have the permissions to upload the packets to the db, but while I'm figuring that out, you can get them here.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 22, 2015 9:50 pm

This is probably the last thing I'll say on this matter, or maybe not.

Like absolutely everyone else in qb, I have my own intuitions about what is hard and what is not. If someone like Jerry expresses an opinion that conflicts with mine, I don't automatically change my opinion, nor do I automatically dismiss Jerry's opinion - I ask around to solicit more opinions from knowledgeable people.

Everyone knows that what I rely upon most, though not exclusively, in making my judgments is prior packet knowledge. It's probably true that I rely on that to a far greater extent than any other player in modern quizbowl. I will readily agree that it results in some errors, but I do not believe that it's an invalid tool to use. In fact, I think it will probably always be the most accurate tool for an editor to use, especially in higher-level quizbowl....because I would make the case that, no matter how "real" this game gets, there will always be a strong concept of the "canon" that forms and guides the knowledge of many good players in this game.

Add to this the fact that I'm naturally inclined to support a version of this game which has a strong sense of growth from the packet canon; I have an ideological inclination to do that, and so I will support that goal to a greater extent than most of my qb colleagues will.

However, when I do miss with a judgment here or there (whether it's by making something allegedly too easy, or allegedly too hard), there is a certain segment of our population who will cry bloody murder that it's "piling obscurata on top of obscurata," and that this is the most heinous crime of all. When someone with a different method misses, they don't necessarily get that charge.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Apr 23, 2015 5:57 pm

Just one more quick note - the editors of ACF Nationals will shortly be having a meeting to discuss what went well and what could be improved for next year.

Thanks to everyone for the discussion in this thread. While my writing will always have a particular style to it, I think I've gained several ideas for improvements that can be made which will address a good number of the concerns that have been raised in this thread.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by vcuEvan » Thu Apr 23, 2015 8:36 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: We can go through every bonus like that - mine, Rob's, Ike's, Billy's - and it's going to be the same way. Or we can just look at the stats and see that this tournament had pretty solid bonus conversion compared to the last three years. (it's fine to say that you think the tournament needs to get easier in general...I have no issue with that opinion - but say that instead of making a weird claim about this particular tournament that isn't bonre out by the stats)
I should have been more clear: the things I'm saying about difficulty at this tournament are applicable generally to recent ACF Nationals. Gamebreaking answers on the Sultanate of Mataram and Coral Castle in 2014 are just as annoying as the ones on Amana or William Pendleton in 2015 . I'm also not saying that I think this tournament was poorly written: there were a few clunkers but overall everyone on the editing team, which includes people I've criticized in the past, did a fantastic job selecting interesting and meaningful clues.

The reason I'm posting about this now when I really didn't in the past is that the for the past three years Jonathan, Ted, and Auroni have done excellent work selecting answers for their parts of the distributions. In 2014, Editors 6 also served as the final and therefore most important playoff round. In that packet, the lit tossups were on Mary Tyrone from Long Day's Journey into Night, Edmund Spenser, Junot Diaz, and the flaneur. In our room none of these went dead, instead they were answered at least around the middle of the tossup. In 2013, Editors 6 served the same role and had lit tossups on Rebecca, Swann's Way, the Ramayana, and the Iceman Cometh. I'm not advocating an ACF Nationals tournament in which every answer is Fall or Regionals level. But this focus on unarguably important things and careful selection of the few harder answers led to fewer dead tossups or tossups answered at the end, which in turn led to more meaningfully contested tossups and meaningfully contested games. I don't think anyone on the 2015 editing team took the approach that Jonathan, Ted or Auroni did, and the lit in particular suffered for it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Fri Apr 24, 2015 4:03 am

This is probably the last I'll say on the matter too before making long posts in separate threads about topics because you guys are starting to get ridiculous.

In editor's 6, I wrote two of the tossups: Candida - which was chosen as an answer by Rob and Baudolino which was chosen as an answer by Rob again and I think they both were "core," "indisputably important," or whatever intangible metric you choose to use: if you've been around quizbowl long enough, you have no excuse for not converting these at the end. While I didn't write the Fifth Column tossup, i certainly did not anticipate it going dead because the name The Fifth Column is both important and it's something you can be familiar with through numerous Hemingway biographies in the intro to his major books. I'll also contend malaria is an ACF Fall / regionals answer "do you know what Roman fever is?" and it definitely had very easy lit clues - like I definitely learned in high school what disease kills Daisy Miller. The fact that it went dead surprises me quite a bit.

Now here's the part that angers me: In my game against Yale in 2013 there was a tossup on Ama Aidoo - and that's a game when the one seeds were playing the one seeds! (Not to mention there were tossups on Sextus Empiricus, etc.) I don't know why you all didn't blow your goddamn gaskets back then because that's a tossup I'm almost positive went dead everywhere. Furthermore in 2014 there was a very hard / almost impossible tossup on Richard Diebenkorn - if UVA 2014 had lost to Matt Jackson or Penn on that packet by five points because there was a very tough arts question - you would never stop giving shit to Ted. The fact that you're putting Jonathan, Auroni and Ted on a pedestal while throwing us to the wolves is, to be honest, complete and utter bullshit. Complaining about this general trend is okay; calling out Rob, me and Ryan Westbrook as being the only ones that perpetuate isn't or not "putting enough care" into our questions or whatever is just garbage. Jesus fucking Christ.

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Apr 24, 2015 10:32 am

I think Ike is right that we don't need to roast this tournament specifically; this has been somewhat of an issue with Nationals generally, and to the extent that any Nationals, including the one I edited last year, fell prey to the same problems, that's the fault of those tournaments. For what it's worth, I don't think it makes any sense to single out Editors 6 for special opprobrium; yeah, it was a hard packet, but it was being played by the top teams. If it had been Editors 5 instead, I doubt it would have made any difference; I don't subscribe to the notion of "gamebreaking" tossups or rounds. I also think the idea that Ike specifically or the editors generally didn't take care with their answer selection doesn't stand up to scrutiny. You can take care and still overshoot the difficulty for whatever reason.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by vcuEvan » Fri Apr 24, 2015 10:49 am

Ike wrote: Now here's the part that angers me: In my game against Yale in 2013 there was a tossup on Ama Aidoo - and that's a game when the one seeds were playing the one seeds! (Not to mention there were tossups on Sextus Empiricus, etc.) I don't know why you all didn't blow your goddamn gaskets back then because that's a tossup I'm almost positive went dead everywhere. Furthermore in 2014 there was a very hard / almost impossible tossup on Richard Diebenkorn - if UVA 2014 had lost to Matt Jackson or Penn on that packet by five points because there was a very tough arts question - you would never stop giving shit to Ted. The fact that you're putting Jonathan, Auroni and Ted on a pedestal while throwing us to the wolves is, to be honest, complete and utter bullshit. Complaining about this general trend is okay; calling out Rob, me and Ryan Westbrook as being the only ones that perpetuate isn't or not "putting enough care" into our questions or whatever is just garbage. Jesus fucking Christ.
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You and Ryan really have a light trigger finger on this sour grapes argument. The insulting implication is that I'm either too stupid to separate my own performance on the set from my evaluation of it or else that I'm maliciously attacking the editors to explain my own performance. I didn't even play Editors 4, Editors 5, Editors 6, or Finals 1 on Sunday. In 2013 we did win the round with the Ama Aidoo tossup. But our heavily favored team lost the two rounds before that one and the two rounds after it. It was the worst personal performance of my career and the worst team performance from my time on UVA. A lot of missed literature tossups contributed to this disaster. And I've consistently praised the literature from that tournament. Please at least entertain the possibility that I'm arguing from good faith.

I'm sorry if I implied the 2015 editors were not careful. I acknowledged that you guys "did a fantastic job selecting interesting and meaningful clues." And I unreservedly believe your account of the intese effort you put into writing those questions so well. The first part of my argument is that 2014 ACF Nationals had a very different philosophy toward selecting lit answers than the 2015 editors did. I did not expect this argument to be contentious. Ted explained his process in 2014 as follows:
I have always been a fierce advocate of canonical questions, but at the same time I think canonical answers need to be balanced with difficult tossups on unexpected topics. I find this helps to fight transparency and guarantees a good range of answers from accessible to challenging that will engage a large swathe of players. Accordingly, in the editors packets I deliberately planned every category to follow a 1-5 difficulty scale. (1 is high-school, 2 is ACF Fall answer, 3 is Regionals, 4 is Nationals, and 5 is an extra-canonical answer that is important within the topic but has not been covered in quizbowl.) Across the ten editors packets, in each category I wanted one 1, two 2s, three 3s, three 4s, and one 5.
This kind of breakdown is in fact reflected in the lit answers in the 2014 editor packets. I find the distribution of answers to be substantially different in 2015. I want to stress that I don't think this is a question writing failure, just a difference in philosophy.

The second part of my argument is that 2014 ACF Nationals had a better philosophy in selecting lit answers. I expect the latter argument to be contentious, but I'm committed to having it. Not because I have a vendetta against Rob, but because I firmly believe in Ted's approach, and I hope that future writers and editors are persuaded by my arguments here.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Apr 24, 2015 12:51 pm

Ike wrote:Now here's the part that angers me: In my game against Yale in 2013 there was a tossup on Ama Aidoo - and that's a game when the one seeds were playing the one seeds! (Not to mention there were tossups on Sextus Empiricus, etc.) I don't know why you all didn't blow your goddamn gaskets back then because that's a tossup I'm almost positive went dead everywhere. Furthermore in 2014 there was a very hard / almost impossible tossup on Richard Diebenkorn - if UVA 2014 had lost to Matt Jackson or Penn on that packet by five points because there was a very tough arts question - you would never stop giving shit to Ted. The fact that you're putting Jonathan, Auroni and Ted on a pedestal while throwing us to the wolves is, to be honest, complete and utter bullshit. Complaining about this general trend is okay; calling out Rob, me and Ryan Westbrook as being the only ones that perpetuate isn't or not "putting enough care" into our questions or whatever is just garbage. Jesus fucking Christ.
This is because in the Penn vs UVA game last year, there was one dead tossup, and in the Penn vs Yale game there was also one dead tossup - the aforementioned ones on Diebenkorn and the Mataram Sultanate, respectively. That is acceptable, though still somewhat frustrating (I'm of the opinion that dead tossups between the first and second best teams in a national tournament are not preferable in any case). There was way more than one dead tossup this time, in both of those games.

And as I have complained to you, repeatedly, Ike, as a member of a team that usually does fine on world history, I was really not a fan of those tossups on Mataram in the 2nd place game and the Sihanouk tossup that just went "quack quack quack quack Lon Nol" in the game we lost to Yale in the playoffs. So there's enough sour grapes to go around in situations like this.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Brian McPeak » Fri Apr 24, 2015 1:02 pm

I want to take a minute to thank all the editors for making what is probably the most fun set I've played and all the staffers that made this tournament extremely smooth.

I also want heap more praise onto the science in the tournament. I had some satisfying buzzes on cool things that I've thought wouldn't come up in Quizbowl. This leads me to suspect that the large number of things that I didn't know are equally important and awesome, and so I look forward to studying the set. Specifically, the physics tossups had the nice property that earlier clues were more advanced rather than simply more obscure. The momentum tossup is a good example of this; the clues are graded by how many physics classes someone would need to take before they inevitably learned them, rather than by the likelihood that they would have come across them. There were also harder tossups that were fun to hear (like space-filling curves, Majorana, geostrophy) but it was tossups like momentum, chemical potential, and KT that made the set great.

Nice job guys!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Fri Apr 24, 2015 2:12 pm

I don't know why you all didn't blow your goddamn gaskets back then because that's a tossup I'm almost positive went dead everywhere.
It did not go dead everywhere.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by felgon123 » Fri Apr 24, 2015 2:49 pm

To illustrate Evan's and Matt's claims here, I'd like to tell a personal story:

I hope I can venture without controversy the claim that I am a pretty good literature player, perhaps even a very good one. As it happens, I don't study literature for quizbowl, and almost all of my buzzes come from reading books. My reading is by no means constrained, but unfortunately I do not read much "upper-level canon fare"--nor, I dare say, do most quizbowlers, including many of those who delight most in writing questions on particularly difficult authors. (I worded that carefully so that no one will rise up against me in rage, screaming, "How dare you accuse me of not having pored over the complete works of Leopoldo Lugones?!") We played six packets on Sunday, three of which were created from submissions, and three of which were by the editors. On the three non-editors' packets (playing against Maryland, Chicago, and UCSD), I averaged 48.3 PPG, which was pretty consistent with how I did across the set all day Saturday. On Editors 4, 5, and 6 (playing against Stanford, Michigan, and Penn), I averaged 11.7 PPG. I freely admit that I did not always play to the best of my ability in those rounds, but my massive decline on the editors' packets was not purely coincidental.** I maintain that the questions in the editors' packets were consistently unfavorable towards players with my kind of knowledge base, and I am inclined to attribute this mostly to editorial philosophy. Please note that I did not come up with this theory after the fact: Matt can attest that I exclaimed with joy when Seth announced that our game with Maryland was about to be played on a submitted packet, after the death-march (for me) of Editors 4 and 5. For instance, in the Michigan game (Editors 5), there were literature tossups on John Buchan, Death and the Maiden, A Dictionary of the Khazars, and pataphysics. I could have gotten pataphysics at the end, but not before, and I could not have converted the other three at all. I've never heard of Buchan, Dorfman, or Pavic. Oh well. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but these are all incredibly hard answers. What else can we say about these answers? Well, they're all 20th-century, for one thing, and the editors' packets in general had a huge emphasis on 20th-century lit. There's also no poetry here. In fact, across those three editors' packets we played on Sunday, there was a grand total of one poetry tossup (Leopardi), and it wasn't English-language, either. The literature in those three packets skewed hard (answer-wise; I love a good Nats-level tossup on Gertrude), it skewed 20th-century, and it skewed prose, and that absolutely neutralized me on my best category. I found it deeply frustrating that our fate was decided on a few packets that were so palpably different in style from the packets derived from submissions.

**EDIT: Lest anyone else misunderstand my pattern of reasoning here, I am not citing these data points as evidence that the editors' packets had issues, which would be ludicrous. I am simply illustrating the fact that the submitted packets and the editors' packets felt like different tournaments to me as a player, and I looked at the literature in Editors 4, 5, and 6 in an attempt to explain why this was so. See my response to Rob below.

Also, since this was brought up in prior posts, I do want to clarify that in spite of the result, I was in pretty high spirits on the long trip home, as was the rest of the team. Matt and I are very happy with what we've accomplished in our four years here at U.Va., so to anyone operating under the assumption that we're just stewing over our loss plotting revenge...well, we're not.

This isn't 2013.
Last edited by felgon123 on Fri Apr 24, 2015 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Apr 24, 2015 3:01 pm

Pataphysics is still not a literature tossup, though the fourth lit tossup in that packet was on V., which does nothing to rebut the 20th-century-heavy nature of the editors packets (especially the tossups). I'm certainly not going to defend the overall selection of answer choices as perfect - I realized that they were pretty skewed towards 20th-century prose only fairly late in the game, and it's something I'm going to make a concerted effort to focus on next year - but I don't think it's the packets' fault that they happened to contain things that you personally didn't know. As unfortunate as the clumping was, I'll happily defend each of those individual tossups as being appropriate on their own merits.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by vinteuil » Fri Apr 24, 2015 3:08 pm

felgon123 wrote:For instance, in the Michigan game (Editors 5), there were literature tossups on John Buchan, Death and the Maiden, A Dictionary of the Khazars, and pataphysics.
...
The literature in those three packets skewed hard (answer-wise; I love a good Nats-level tossup on Gertrude), it skewed 20th-century, and it skewed prose, and that absolutely neutralized me on my best category. I
I agree for the most part with Tommy's assessment, especially about the skew towards recent literature and prose. I think that combining Rob's and Tommy's posts indirectly makes a good point: being careful to make questions about things people are more likely to have read is just as important for older literature—maybe people are slightly more likely to have read Dictionary of the Khazars than The Atheist's Tragedy, but neither makes for the best tossup so long as people are pretty unlikely to have actually read either.

This reminds me about the pataphysics question. I understand now that my neg with "Oulipo" on the Christian Bök clue was more or less wrong (since the clue was more or less about the subtitle of Crystallography), but "pataphysics" is really a tossup on a word that people use, more than any real "movement," and that can make that kind of question incredibly frustrating to play, because you might not know which word to say, despite knowing the style of an author, or the movement they might be most associated with.

(On the other hand, I'm a big fan of the actual material included in that question—Christian Bök coming up in quizbowl!!!—I just don't like that kind of more-or-less "artificial" common link).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by felgon123 » Fri Apr 24, 2015 3:14 pm

Auks Ran Ova wrote:Pataphysics is still not a literature tossup, though the fourth lit tossup in that packet was on V., which does nothing to rebut the 20th-century-heavy nature of the editors packets (especially the tossups). I'm certainly not going to defend the overall selection of answer choices as perfect - I realized that they were pretty skewed towards 20th-century prose only fairly late in the game, and it's something I'm going to make a concerted effort to focus on next year - but I don't think it's the packets' fault that they happened to contain things that you personally didn't know. As unfortunate as the clumping was, I'll happily defend each of those individual tossups as being appropriate on their own merits.
First of all, I don't want to be misconstrued as claiming, "My poor performance proves there was something wrong with these packets." That was simply my starting data point that led me to look closely at the variance between the submitted packets and the editors' packets, which I think I have demonstrated pretty clearly. The "unfortunate clumping," the existence of which you admit, is the important thing. The editors should have taken care to avoid such clumping in the most crucial rounds of the tournament.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Mon Apr 27, 2015 4:31 pm

Ike wrote:This is probably the last I'll say on the matter too before making long posts in separate threads about topics because you guys are starting to get ridiculous.

In editor's 6, I wrote two of the tossups: Candida - which was chosen as an answer by Rob and Baudolino which was chosen as an answer by Rob again and I think they both were "core," "indisputably important," or whatever intangible metric you choose to use: if you've been around quizbowl long enough, you have no excuse for not converting these at the end. While I didn't write the Fifth Column tossup, i certainly did not anticipate it going dead because the name The Fifth Column is both important and it's something you can be familiar with through numerous Hemingway biographies in the intro to his major books. I'll also contend malaria is an ACF Fall / regionals answer "do you know what Roman fever is?" and it definitely had very easy lit clues - like I definitely learned in high school what disease kills Daisy Miller. The fact that it went dead surprises me quite a bit.

Now here's the part that angers me: In my game against Yale in 2013 there was a tossup on Ama Aidoo - and that's a game when the one seeds were playing the one seeds! (Not to mention there were tossups on Sextus Empiricus, etc.) I don't know why you all didn't blow your goddamn gaskets back then because that's a tossup I'm almost positive went dead everywhere. Furthermore in 2014 there was a very hard / almost impossible tossup on Richard Diebenkorn - if UVA 2014 had lost to Matt Jackson or Penn on that packet by five points because there was a very tough arts question - you would never stop giving shit to Ted. The fact that you're putting Jonathan, Auroni and Ted on a pedestal while throwing us to the wolves is, to be honest, complete and utter bullshit. Complaining about this general trend is okay; calling out Rob, me and Ryan Westbrook as being the only ones that perpetuate isn't or not "putting enough care" into our questions or whatever is just garbage. Jesus fucking Christ.

Ike
Later this week I'm hoping to have time to write out a full explanation of the specific reasons why last year's tournament was perceived as less difficult than this year's edition, but I wanted to offer Ike a quick note. Your questions were excellent this year, probably the best you've ever produced. You edited the most successful categories in the tournament and wrote the best literature tossups in the editors packets. You put in a massive amount of work, and it's reflected in the quality of your questions. While reading the set, every time I thought to myself, "Wow, that's a really well-researched tossup," you were always the writer. You deserve to feel proud.

But oddly in this thread, rather than standing behind your own excellent work, you overexert yourself to justify flawed questions written by other editors. It wasn't your call to use a freelance Fifth Column tossup in the editors packets. It wasn't your job to balance the distribution of Rob's category. Yet you exhaust your creditability—and overshadow your work—by defending someone else's mistake with willfully spiteful rhetoric. There's no argument you can advance that will convince the critics to change their mind about the worst outliers in the set, and you only cheapen your intellect by throwing around crazy accusations like last year's editors were trying to "rig matches."

Take a day off Ike. You just wrote a great third of a tournament. You don't have to defend every comma.

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