In the Interest of Time...

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No Rules Westbrook
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In the Interest of Time...

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Nov 06, 2006 3:58 am

You know, it seems like I haven't seen results posted for a single tourney in eons that didn't feature this sentence:

"In the interest of [insert reason - time, getting home earlier, wandering around for no good reason in whatever stupid city we happen to be in] teams X and Y and perhaps Z decided to forgo a clearly-necessary final, pass out awards, and sing kumbaya."


Aaargh. Why is it so hard to finish a tournament - you've played 14 games, now play one more that decides who wins. Aight, this isn't about being "hardcore," we know there are a handful of players (myself included) who would stay and play good packets if they were available at a tourney until they tipped over onto their buzzers. But, this is one game usually - and it's simple, you sit there and answer some questions, and someone deservedly wins. Hooray.


Now, in the interest of time, I've decided to forgo pursuing this boring rant and go to sleep.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Mon Nov 06, 2006 4:08 am

Word.

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Post by Red-necked Phalarope » Mon Nov 06, 2006 4:14 am

While this topic has got me thinking about it, I'd like to give major kudos to the only two teams at ACF Fall Mid-Atlantic who had to drive more than an hour home (Maryland and South Carolina) for sticking around and playing a two-game final. Especially after playing 12 games over 14 rounds.

But yeah, sometimes teams have to drive six (seven, nine) hours after leaving a tournament at 9 PM and don't have the wherewithal/scheduling ability to just rent a hotel room. One match may not sound like much, but there is a difference between pulling into your dorm at 2 in the morning and pulling in at 3. There's a point where this does get a bit ridiculous, of course, but it's probably too variable for me to figure out just where the heck it is.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Mon Nov 06, 2006 6:11 am

At ACF fall SW this weekend, 7 teams participated. It was past 7 when the tournament ended, and two schools had departed. Texas, because round 14 was their bye round, and SWOSU, because SWOSU A and B were playing each other in round 14. It never crossed anyone's mind to miss a tournament game, even though it had been a very long day. Tulsa isn't that near any of the region's schools; to my knowledge even the closest team had to travel at least 2 hours. But last I heard, people come to tournaments to play quizbowl. If you don't want to play quizbowl, why are you there at all? In the Southwest it's customary to travel three to nine hours for tournaments. This is the case in some other regions, but when a tournament is in Newark and two NJ teams leave early, that's bullshit.

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Post by DanTheClam » Mon Nov 06, 2006 12:03 pm

This is the case in some other regions, but when a tournament is in Newark and two NJ teams leave early, that's bullshit.
And this concerns you how, Kwartler? Two teams aren't allowed to agree not to play a game that matters to nobody except possibly the two of them? Or must we play for your benefit?

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Post by ezubaric » Mon Nov 06, 2006 12:15 pm

ekwartler wrote:This is the case in some other regions, but when a tournament is in Newark and two NJ teams leave early, that's bullshit.
Quiz Bowl is meant to be fun. We had enough for the day and didn't feel like walking on the streets of Newark that late in the day. We didn't hurt anybody by going home early; both teams agreed to it. It's not like we screwed up rankings or invitations to other tournaments.
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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:16 pm

While I don't think that leaving early is bullshit if you really have to, it does cause problems for tournament directors. MIT left early yesterday and took their two buzzer systems with them, leaving us short. They had transportation issues, so their leaving was understandable, but in general when you leave early, you screw up the brackets and make the TD's life difficult.

I personally think two teams leaving instead of playing a one-game final is odd. It's not "for our benefit" or anything like that; it's just that the custom is for tournaments to have a clear champion, and tournament rules typically call for deciding a champion in one of a number of ways. If the two teams in contention agree to forgo the championship game, or decide to do it some other way, I guess that's up to them. VCU and Brown were ready to play a best-of-3 series at PARFAIT before we decided to change it a one-game final, and we had farther to travel from Princeton than almost any other teams there. Also, while I understand the reluctance to wander around Newark at night, I've been to a tournament at Rutgers-Newark and had no trouble leaving in the evening by train, so I don't really get that argument.

I guess if you've already played the rest of the tournament and you don't have far to drive, playing a one-game final shouldn't be that big of a deal. I think it's just courtesy mostly, even if it doesn't determine anything in terms of qualifications.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Nov 06, 2006 2:20 pm

Actually, what this general situation reminds me of - if you'll indulge me and not label this as yet another inaccurate qb-sports analogy - is when people decide to leave sporting events in the interest of "beating traffic" or something and they bolt from that baseball game going into the bottom of the ninth with their team down 2 runs. Every time I'm at such an event and I see this, I feel like duct taping them to their chair and yelling "you paid to watch a damn baseball game, now sit down and wait till it's over!"

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Mon Nov 06, 2006 3:47 pm

Word.

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Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Nov 06, 2006 5:07 pm

Except baseball games don't start at 9 AM and end a 9 PM with a long ride home (as ACF Fall did this year). You're no longer getting your "money's worth" forcing yourself to play questions that you do not want to play.

Keeping teams this long also, in my opinion, discourages people from getting in to Quizbowl. Obviously ACF Fall this year is an extreme example, but when a tournament takes the *entire* day (and often times the night before and into the next day) I believe it makes less experienced players reluctant to try another tournament due to the time requirement.

I realize that your complaint is just about teams not finishing the final matches, but often the teams in the top bracket have 3rd or 4th players or B Teams who are obliged to stay in the event that their top teams compete in up to two more rounds of play.

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Post by cvdwightw » Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:34 pm

There can be other reasons for this stuff. For instance, when we at UCLA hold tournaments, our reservations expire at 8 PM. This means, essentially, if anyone else (e.g. custodial staff) wanted to kick us out of those rooms, they could at that time. Therefore we try to end our tournaments before 7 or 7:30 so we can have awards and clean up and vacate the rooms well before 8.

A second example: this was the first weekend that the USC-Stanford and UCLA-Cal football games and ACF Fall were held in the same metropolitan area on the same day. Based on what I heard on the car radio and saw outside the car window, we finished slightly after UCLA-Cal and USC-Stanford. Had these actually been big games I have no doubt that leaving at the time we did would have resulted in traffic problems extending beyond the 101 onramp.

Lastly, and this may surprise a whole bunch of you, some people care more about some things more than they care about who wins a quiz bowl tournament. For instance, I had a midterm today. Getting back after 2:30 in the morning was far more preferable to me than getting back at 4 in the afternoon Sunday and attempting to study on the road. I would have preferred getting back closer to midnight or 1, but I accept that we were in the running for the championship and had this "obligation" to stay.

That said, consider this: a fourteen round tournament with an hour for lunch should end by 7:30 (inc. awards ceremony) even with two additional final rounds being played. The fact that nearly every site significantly exceeded this time frame, even with bands of competent moderators interested in moving the games along, indicates that the questions are getting too long. It should not take one minute per question to read an ACF-style round. Just eliminating two (often extraneous) clues from each tossup and capping bonus length at two lines per lead-in/clue would cut the time needed for the game from 35-40 minutes to around 30 without significantly sacrificing the aesthetics of the game.

If I had a six/seven/nine hour drive ahead of me, I'd be much more willing to play a final if it meant getting out at 7 or 7:30 than if it meant getting out after 9, and I believe I speak for the silent majority here.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Nov 07, 2006 8:51 pm

I completely empathize with Dwight and I think he's got something with his comments on how tournaments should be. I still hold fast to the argument that teams should not leave before their final match. However, with the possible exception of really top tournaments no tournament should force teams to make that choice. Questions should be shorter (I've already admitted this for ACF Fall) and the tournament director should balance giving the teams as many rounds as possible with getting them out at a decent time. Moderators should be efficient and the TD needs to keep the tournament going at a steady pace. That being said, yeah, school is (for most normal people) more important than qb, but if you come to a tournament you come (sometimes a long way) to play quizbowl. People should be prepared to do so once they're there.

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Post by Captain Sinico » Wed Nov 08, 2006 4:29 pm

The thing is this: as a TD, you want to inform people of when they can expect to leave (I do this for all our tournaments, for example.) If teams show-up on those premises and then leave before you said they can expect to be done without a lot of advance notice, well, that's wrong on their part. Conversely, if a TD doesn't announce a time and people just leave when it's convenient for them, well, I don't really see what's that wrong with that. As someone who would play quizbowl until he starved to death if allowed, I wouldn't do that, but I can also see how people would.
It seems to me that, in part, what's needed is better organization and communication. Once you reach the point where you said "We'll be done at 6" and some teams left unannounced at 4 because they wanted to, you've got a problem with the teams.

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Post by btressler » Sat Nov 11, 2006 6:53 am

I think this trend your seeing is the result of longer questions.

Back in the day, when questions were shorter, it was nothing to do 12-14 rounds and be done before 5. Lately it seems like by round 11 it's 6pm.

For sake of argument, assume that a sentence takes on average 8 seconds to read. Now instead of four setence tossups, make every tossup in 12 rounds five sentences. The tournament now lasts 32 minutes longer. Furthermore, buzzes on that first clue are (by design) quite rare.

I'm not advocating College Bowl-type tossups. But I do think that pyramidal structure can be preserved with slightly shorter questions.

The one refrain I've been hearing lately from current college underclassmen who played in HS is "why are the questions so long?".

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Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:39 pm

Stat74 wrote:I think this trend your seeing is the result of longer questions.

Back in the day, when questions were shorter, it was nothing to do 12-14 rounds and be done before 5. Lately it seems like by round 11 it's 6pm.

For sake of argument, assume that a sentence takes on average 8 seconds to read. Now instead of four setence tossups, make every tossup in 12 rounds five sentences. The tournament now lasts 32 minutes longer. Furthermore, buzzes on that first clue are (by design) quite rare.
See, you just admitted that when you actually use real numbers and mathematics to figure out the effect of longer questions, you arrive at +30 minutes to the overall tournament time. Yet in the previous paragraph, you claim by mystical inference that longer questions cause a six-hour addition to tournaments. One of your avenues of reasoning is correct, and the other is not.

Let me re-iterate some truisms here:
-Questions that are so long as to bore teams or tire moderators are tautologically bad because they bore teams and tire moderators, which are bad things. The reason they are bad is not because they make tournaments run long, because as we can see from simple arithmetic, long questions, to have any appreciable effect on tournament length, would have to be at least twice as long on average as the most ridiculously outlying questions today actually are.
-What does make tournaments run long is spending 10 to 30 minutes before, during, and after each round having symposia about where you have heard of each tossup answer in class, which members of your team are dating which others, what happened on television last week, who has the most unkempt beard in ACF, and sundry other popular topics of conversation that erupt when moderators lose control of games. That amount of time multiplied by 10 to 15 rounds is an enormous amount, and it makes the effect of long tossups almost irrelevant.
-There is no reason that untimed rounds need to take more than 5 minutes longer than timed NAQT rounds. Assume it takes 5 minutes (a generous amount of time, given the calculations above) to read the extra words in a properly edited ACF packet compared to a notoriously terse NAQT packet. Beyond that, there should be no other timed differences--the speed of reading and the refusal to allow side conversations which characterize NAQT moderation ought to be brought over to reading in untimed formats.

I certainly don't want to spoil anyone's attempts at socialization, but honestly, do people only see their teammates during games? Isn't it enough to talk to people during lengthy car trips, meals, inevitable delays while playoff brackets are constructed and opening meetings do not start, weekly practices, and perhaps even electronic and/or face-to-face contact outside of any quizbowl context at all? I think that we can enjoy the social side of quizbowl at all of these opportune times, rather than in between every single tossup and bonus, and thus we could run 15-round "get your money's worth" schedules and still end at a reasonable hour. Speaking only for ACF Fall and other tournaments I'm directly involved in, I do plan to keep a tight leash on question length in the future; I hope moderators and teams can also contribute to making tournaments efficient by realizing when the appropriate time for playing questions is, and when the appropriate time for discussion is.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Nov 13, 2006 5:06 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:who has the most unkempt beard in ACF
You can all stop discussing this important issue. Now that Adam Kemezis has to look nice because he's Dr. Kemezis and teaches, and Ryan Westbrook has apparently also cleaned up, the correct answer is me.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Nov 13, 2006 5:22 pm

You guys just wait until I finish going through puberty and am actually capable of growing a beard.

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Post by btressler » Mon Nov 13, 2006 5:57 pm

I don't quite follow Matt around that mathematics bend but I think we agree that an ACF packet should only take a few minutes more to read on average (but you have 10+ packets, so the effect multiplies)

And shockingly, I agree with his other assertions about conversations. When I'm moderating I try to keep the round moving. When playing, I admit I'm not always good about it (probably because the moderator is not reading).

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Post by cvdwightw » Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:02 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:-There is no reason that untimed rounds need to take more than 5 minutes longer than timed NAQT rounds. Assume it takes 5 minutes (a generous amount of time, given the calculations above) to read the extra words in a properly edited ACF packet compared to a notoriously terse NAQT packet. Beyond that, there should be no other timed differences--the speed of reading and the refusal to allow side conversations which characterize NAQT moderation ought to be brought over to reading in untimed formats.
I disagree with some of this. I know from past experience that I can read an entire NAQT packet with all maximum pauses allowed in somewhere around 21 or 22 minutes. Now, I've taken a small sample size of ACF-style questions (three 6 or 7-line tossups and three bonuses averaging about 2 lines per part), timed myself on reading them, and multiplied the average by 20 to estimate the amount of time it would take me to read an entire ACF style packet, and came up with an answer of around 29 minutes. If I assume this is relatively constant over a 15-round tournament, which is probably faulty but erring towards minimum difference in maximum time, then I get a difference of about 7 minutes per round, or about 1 hour 45 minutes longer to read 15 ACF-style rounds than 15 NAQT-style rounds.

I realize that's a small sample size, but I'd like to think my reading speed is fairly constant. Also, note that the questions I picked were clearly on the shorter end of the question length spectrum. This could mean even longer differences. I know I am also among the fastest readers on my team and some of our less experienced moderators still stumble over a lot of words they don't know. Given these last two factors, the difference could possibly be 10 minutes or more on a standard ACF packet, discounting the increased probability of longer side conversations. Since we're running at the speed of our slowest moderator, this would now be two and a half hours extra just on question length alone.

I do agree with moderators losing control costing additional time (adding 5 minutes of extraneous talk leads to an overall delay of 11 to 12 minutes per round depending on how long extraneous talk happens at halftime, or about 3 hours difference).

So: eliminating side conversations will help speed up the game, but it still will not bring ACF within an hour of NAQT.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Nov 14, 2006 1:56 pm

Sorry, but I find all this concern over mathematically computing times of matches and reading speeds and worrying about a little side chatter (a little, not a lot) to be somewhat silly. Big deal. I agree long questions can be bad - but if they're bad it's because they're rambling, confusing, contain useless or redundant clues, grammatically flawed, or just unduly tiring.

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Post by QuizbowlPostmodernist » Wed Nov 15, 2006 7:57 am

Using math to compute the increased length in rounds as read by a competent moderator is pointless navel-gazing.

In a tournament, you can only go as fast as your slowest moderator, thus you should compute based on how much extra time is needed for the typical slowest reader at a tournament to spit out a round. I'm not going to try and prove it, but it should be obvious that the increase is going to be greater for a slow moderator than for anyone who has posted to this thread and that moderator fatigue is more likely to be an issue with these readers.

I defer to Bill in coming up with a new timr estimate.

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