geography's role in the canon, round 398479386987

Old college threads.

geography's role in the canon, round 398479386987

Postby Magister Ludi » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:20 am

Despite some people's feelings that geography is an uncool or uninteresting category, I hope we can all agree that it deserves at least as many tossups per tournament as As Nasty As They Wanna Be. It is an unsettling trend to see many major tournaments announce distributions without any geography sub distribution. I think we can agree that it at least deserves 1/0 a packet.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:27 am

Magister Ludi wrote:I think we can agree that it at least deserves 1/0 a packet.

I think we can agree that the many arguments about this very subject suggest that we cannot all agree to that.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:28 am

Geography in an ACF tournament that's designed to be played by 100+ teams across the country at all skill levels is one thing, but why should we have to suffer through it at an "inside" event like Chicago Open?
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Cheynem » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:31 am

Well, that's assuming that geography questions = suffering for "quizbowl veterans," which I don't know is true (it apparently isn't true in Ted's case, and I can probably think of a few other major players). I mean if this is a genuine aesthetic viewpoint of the editors, I suppose whatever, but I like geography and I think some others wouldn't mind seeing it at CO. (That said, Ted is off base in assuming the necessity of geography is super clear).
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby at your pleasure » Tue Sep 08, 2009 12:45 am

The question also depends on how the geography is written. A question that links aspects of the physical world to aspects of human activity is very probably less painful(if it's painful at all) than a catalouge of mountain ranges and tributaries.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby millionwaves » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:34 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:an "inside" event like Chicago Open?


I would appreciate it if you could precisely define what you mean by 'an "inside" event.'
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:45 pm

millionwaves wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:an "inside" event like Chicago Open?


I would appreciate it if you could precisely define what you mean by 'an "inside" event.'


I think the context is fairly obvious: "a post-nationals difficulty event that attracts a field of about 20 high-level teams" (to contrast with tournaments like Fall and Regionals that are played by a lot more teams, and a lot of novice teams).

And I also think it's fine to tinker with the distribution for events like this: if most of the field really is "suffering" through a bunch of questions, editors should feel free to change it and then discuss the changes on this board.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby millionwaves » Tue Sep 08, 2009 1:51 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
millionwaves wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:an "inside" event like Chicago Open?


I would appreciate it if you could precisely define what you mean by 'an "inside" event.'


I think the context is fairly obvious: "a post-nationals difficulty event that attracts a field of about 20 high-level teams" (to contrast with tournaments like Fall and Regionals that are played by a lot more teams, and a lot of novice teams).


Perhaps, but I believe that there's been discussion of removing it from ACF Nationals this year, so I think the context isn't as clear as it might seem.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:16 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:I think the context is fairly obvious: "a post-nationals difficulty event that attracts a field of about 20 high-level teams" (to contrast with tournaments like Fall and Regionals that are played by a lot more teams, and a lot of novice teams).

And I also think it's fine to tinker with the distribution for events like this: if most of the field really is "suffering" through a bunch of questions, editors should feel free to change it and then discuss the changes on this board.


Yes, this is what I mean. Chicago Open isn't an event designed to perform outreach on teams; it's for very dedicated players only. The portion of people playing CO who have any interest in hearing geography is small, though obviously not zero. We need to tread carefully and make sure all sorts of interests are being served and the opinions of people who are not active on this board get heard when making changes to standard ACF events or other tournaments with a wider audience. Chicago Open is different.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:14 pm

I just don't think that geography's primary role in the canon is to provide "outreach." In the other thread I think a fair number of people expressed interest in hearing geography questions and just because a few quizbowl luminaries find geography boring is not an argument to make it completely optional at higher level tournaments. I think a much more appropriate way to deal with geography is to make it at least 1/0 or 0/1. I don't want to rehash all the arguments in the old thread, but I think it is worth repeating that geography has always been in the distribution and has some relative importance. It seems foolhardy to me to essentially completely discard it as a category by relegating it to "your choice," which is a category that people will always chose to write other types of questions for.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:17 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:I just don't think that geography's primary role in the canon is to provide "outreach." In the other thread I think a fair number of people expressed interest in hearing geography questions and just because a few quizbowl luminaries find geography boring is not an argument to make it completely optional at higher level tournaments. I think a much more appropriate way to deal with geography is to make it at least 1/0 or 0/1. I don't want to rehash all the arguments in the old thread, but I think it is worth repeating that geography has always been in the distribution and has some relative importance. It seems foolhardy to me to essentially completely discard it as a category by relegating it to "your choice," which is a category that people will always chose to write other types of questions for.

This seems sensible. I like the idea of making it at least 1/0 or 0/1, but even doing something little, like making "your choice" at most 0/1 or 1/0 trash, would help give geography its deserved place.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:23 pm

I think we should continue to discuss the substance of the matter (ie, the value of having geography questions and the ways in which distributional change in ACF should or should not occur). People seemed to be making constructive progress before we abandoned the last thread.

I will start by reminding people that tournaments don't occur in a vacuum. This year's Chicago Open was being written during the tournament and finished the finals rounds minutes before they were to be played. What would have happened to the quality and timeliness of every other category if we forced the editors to substitute out something in their social science wheelhouse or an easy to compose trash question in favor of slogging through the Herculean task of finding an "interesting" leadin for someone's tossup on the Parana River? It's very easy to just say "well, people should work harder and get done earlier," but in reality, if you ran a college tournament in the past two years, and your name is not Andrew Yaphe, Seth Teitler, or Andrew Hart, you were working on your tournament until at least the morning of, if not actually writing the finals during the prelims. You and I have both been there a few times, Ted. The practical effect of calling for the inclusion of a category that is so rarely written well, on this particular tournament, is to say "I would have been OK with sitting around for an hour between games waiting for the second CO finals packet to materialize."
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:23 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:It seems foolhardy to me to essentially completely discard it as a category by relegating it to "your choice," which is a category that people will always chose to write other types of questions for.


Actually, if it were true that literally no one was writing geography for "your choice," it seems to me that that would be pretty good evidence in favor of getting rid of it.

Now then: that's objectively not true, since at a minimum I wrote a geography tossup for the "your choice" part of my team's VCU Open packet just last month. And of course I'll register my opinion that I prefer tournaments with 1/1 geography to tournaments with 0/0. To take a non-CO example, I liked playing the 2008 Gaddis more than the 2009 version primarily because the 2008 version contained exotic Meigsiana in its 1/0 geography.

Maybe the endgame here is that a supermajority of players "suffer through" geography, but a few of us will continue to enjoy playing it. The appropriate solution being to reduce/eliminate geography in most tournaments, and consign the Gaspe Peninsula tossups of the world to non-standard events like Geography Monstrosity.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:29 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:The practical effect of calling for the inclusion of a category that is so rarely written well, on this particular tournament, is to say "I would have been OK with sitting around for an hour between games waiting for the second CO finals packet to materialize."


I think it's both possible and a good idea to conceptually separate:

1. "People should finish their tournaments on time"

and

2. "Category X is rarely written well relative to the present size of its distribution; let's consider reducing it"
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:31 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:Actually, if it were true that literally no one was writing geography for "your choice," it seems to me that that would be pretty good evidence in favor of getting rid of it.

Nah, that's a function of the fact that in "your choice," you're putting it up against trash. How many teams would write 1/1 chemistry if they had to choose between that and trash? How many teams would even write 0/1? I think distributions come from more than just the circuit's consensus of what's fun; otherwise we'd have little reason to tell a circuit people who play a format that's 4/4 trash lit, 4/4 conspiracy theories, and 4/4 creation science that they might want to try something more real. There are points where one distribution is objectively better or more fair than another independent of the composition of the circuit playing it.

Also, yeah, was it really the geography that caused CO to be late?
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Strongside » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:35 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:I just don't think that geography's primary role in the canon is to provide "outreach." In the other thread I think a fair number of people expressed interest in hearing geography questions and just because a few quizbowl luminaries find geography boring is not an argument to make it completely optional at higher level tournaments. I think a much more appropriate way to deal with geography is to make it at least 1/0 or 0/1. I don't want to rehash all the arguments in the old thread, but I think it is worth repeating that geography has always been in the distribution and has some relative importance. It seems foolhardy to me to essentially completely discard it as a category by relegating it to "your choice," which is a category that people will always chose to write other types of questions for.


Yeah. I completely agree with this.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:28 pm

I also mostly concur with Ted's perspective, and I generally shoot for around 1/0 or 0/1 geography per packet. In my usual distro, I give people "2/2 geography or your choice or trash but no more than 1/1 of each" - this prevents people from just replacing geography with trash, because it's easier and more entertaining for everyone to just write trash and so they do that. If people don't like geography or don't like to write it (or some combo of those things) - then they can choose another academic subject as "your choice".

But, I'm more than fine with the proposition that there should be more than 1 or 2 token geography questions in an entire tournament...and, I think it's absurd to argue that geography is any kind of cause for lateness. I'm bothered by the notion that extreme lateness is an inevitable result that we need to deal with by altering the distro or through any method other than just yelling at people for being so late. [I'll also assume the omission of me from the list of people who don't produce late rushed tournaments is unintentional, and not motivated by any kind of bias, which I know is never a factor around these neck of the woods].
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Tue Sep 08, 2009 7:00 pm

I agree with Ryan's comments but feel that 2/2 "Your Choice/trash/academic/geography" should include at least 1/0 or 0/1 mandatory geography to ensure that it shows up.

Also, the rationale for defending the lack of geography becomes increasingly abstracted as this thread goes on. The critiques of geography have evolved from "not appropriate for high level events" to "it's painful for the vast majority of top players to play on geography questions" (which I think is patently untrue) to "it will cause tournaments to late." I think several of these arguments could be used to justify the exclusion of many categories in the current quizbowl distribution. This move towards abstraction more than anything highlights that some people seemingly want to justify getting rid of geography by any means necessary for logically unsound reasons.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Tue Sep 08, 2009 7:12 pm

Norman the Lunatic wrote:Also, yeah, was it really the geography that caused CO to be late?

No, Matt's saying that had the CO editors been forced to write geography (and assuming that they put in the necessary work to write non-terrible geography), it would've been later than it was, because it would've taken much more time to produce said geography questions than it would to produce other questions.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby DumbJaques » Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:00 pm

No, Matt's saying that had the CO editors been forced to write geography (and assuming that they put in the necessary work to write non-terrible geography), it would've been later than it was, because it would've taken much more time to produce said geography questions than it would to produce other questions.


Well, had CO been composed of impossible speedcheck it would surely have saved a huge amount in production time (and, one must wonder, might have produced identical results), but that isn't an argument for making all tournaments impossible speedcheck any more than the geography point is an argument for geography. I think it's more salient to note, as Matt points out, the undeniable reality that tournaments get written at the eleventh hour and it's a huge bitch to meander through a Suriname tossup at 3 am in the morning.

To be clear, I am of the avowed opinion that tournaments SHOULDN'T get finished at the eleventh hour, and that geography shouldn't be eliminated. I do think that simply having an academic choice (ie a your choice where people don't write trash) would likely be sufficient for high-end events - those who believe in and can competently write academic geography can choose to do so (I would, at least, try). But as Andy says, but it up against trash and you're effectively nixing it from the distribution, and probably at the expense of tossups on Alabama leprechauns.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:11 pm

It's obviously an editor's prerogative to oppress categories he doesn't consider himself good at writing when time is scarce. But I reject any argument that geography is inherently less capable of being written rapidly. (I'm not sure anyone is making such an argument, but just to be safe).
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:14 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
Norman the Lunatic wrote:Also, yeah, was it really the geography that caused CO to be late?

No, Matt's saying that had the CO editors been forced to write geography (and assuming that they put in the necessary work to write non-terrible geography), it would've been later than it was, because it would've taken much more time to produce said geography questions than it would to produce other questions.


Indeed. My argument has always been that geography takes substantially more work to bring to the same level of quality that we expect in other categories. One could exaggerate this argument into "always do whatever takes the least work," but that would hardly be engaging in a good-faith discussion. Given that geography requires substantial investment for what I am arguing is little reward (pleasing far fewer players than any other category, and providing a level of question quality that is debatable at best), I think that we need to re-evaluate whether 1/1 geography per packet (the current ACF standard) is something we want to ask of writers and editors, who live in the real world and have only so much time and energy to spend on their tournaments.

The proposal to drop it to half that much seems pretty reasonable, so long as we have a clear idea of what is going to replace the other question--I don't think having extra social science in some packets but extra trash in others is a great idea.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:36 pm

I really don't understand why geography takes people more time or effort to write or edit. Most subjects take me longer to write than geography - certainly including classical music, philosophy, social science, sometimes history, and so on.

Geography is fairly easy to write - if you're writing on a river, like the Parana - it's very apparent what your clues are going to be - tributaries, cities passed through, bridges, waterfalls, natural attractions - and all of those clues are readily available on the net. Maybe you find it boring or exhausting to dig them up, but don't you have to dig up stuff the same way for every other question? Something like philosophy takes much longer for me because I feel like, in order to write decent questions, I have to take the time to read stuff and understand the arguments, understand how important the arguments are in the context of the work or the author's oeuvre, etc. - all that takes time. It takes very little time for me to discover what the longest tributary of a river is and look at it on a map. Clues for geography are almost always clear and distinct - you never have to find clues, because it all has unique names - it's X River or Y Range or City Z. So, I don't understand the objection.

If geography takes people so much more time, I'm inclined to say that they're not writing the other subjects the way they should be writing them - cause a lot of those subjects take a lot of time too, when you do them right.

Also, on the banal distro note - there should never be more than 1/1 trash in any academic packet. Extra social science or a third fine arts or a religion (which I don't think should appear in every packet) is a fine choice for extra questions.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Cheynem » Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:43 pm

Different strokes for different folks, perhaps? I wrote half of our team's packet for Geography Monstrosity in a couple of days and enjoyed it and didn't find it too difficult. I'm not saying I'm the Awesomest Geography Writer ever or that Yo, It's Easy to Write Geography, but yeah, I breezed through those tossups (and I don't think they were like abundantly ghastly) and then, like Ryan, I could spend weeks and weeks and write one philosophy tossup.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:35 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Geography is fairly easy to write - if you're writing on a river, like the Parana - it's very apparent what your clues are going to be - tributaries, cities passed through, bridges, waterfalls, natural attractions


These are exactly the awful almanac clues that people were claiming we could somehow avoid for a whole year even if we had 1/1 geography per packet in every tournament. Are we giving up on writing good, interesting questions or what?
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Cheynem » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:42 pm

All of those are fine clues if there are actually interesting and important things to go along with them. If a particular bridge or waterfall or natural attraction has some historical, cultural, or geographical importance to them, it's a good clue. The almanac clue thing is about clues that have no importance beyond their geographical location.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:25 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:Geography is fairly easy to write - if you're writing on a river, like the Parana - it's very apparent what your clues are going to be - tributaries, cities passed through, bridges, waterfalls, natural attractions


These are exactly the awful almanac clues that people were claiming we could somehow avoid for a whole year even if we had 1/1 geography per packet in every tournament. Are we giving up on writing good, interesting questions or what?


Personally, I think it's fine to have a couple of these kinds of clues per question, it's not fine to have an entire question of just these clues. For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of going with 2/2 combined social science and geography, which should normally yield 3 SS and 1 geo, but allows for the subjects to naturally bleed into each other (since, after all, geography essentially is a social science). But I also think it should vary by difficulty level: novices know geography but don't know ss, so low-level tournaments can and should sustain more geography than something like a Chicago Open.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby setht » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:10 am

I'm in favor of making geography completely optional at high-level tournaments. I think there are several ways of doing this, and perhaps some of those ways would encourage folks like Ryan and Mike and Ted to submit geography questions semi-regularly. I'll come back to that after I get through my argument for moving geography out of the required writing portion of the distribution.

Last year's ACF distribution called for 1/1 geography in the first 20/20. As far as I can tell, this put it on par with all of American literature, all of physics, all other social sciences, etc. For low-level events I can understand the allure of a question category that more novices are likely to know and to be capable of writing competent questions in. At an event like ACF Nationals or Chicago Open, I think those considerations no longer hold: the teams showing up to these events know more than enough fine arts, RMP, social sciences, and other humanities (and in some cases, science) to supply competent questions for the 1/1 occupied by geography, and to provide good competition for each other on those non-geography questions. To my mind, the question is: given that high-level teams have lots of non-geography academic knowledge, is there something about geography as a category or academic discipline which means that it merits a mandatory place in the distribution (whether at 1/1 per packet, or 1/0 or 0/1)? For comparison, here are some other categories that don't appear to have a mandatory spot in the old distribution: ancient literature and history, astronomy/astrophysics, computer science, earth science, mathematics, and any particular social science other than geography. I think it's fine that all of these categories don't have mandatory spots in the old distribution. It seems to me that things generally work out so that tournament sets don't completely shirk any of these categories, and that some of these categories appear more than others (e.g. math and astro more than computer science and earth science). The relative amounts of these categories almost certainly doesn't accurately reflect their relative importance in academia; I think that's also fine.

Now then, is geography more important than math? Or, moving to more closely allied fields, is it more important than earth science? More important than the rest of the social sciences put together? I think not, therefore I think geography shouldn't be getting 1/1 guaranteed per packet at high level tournaments. Focusing on the proposal to require 1/0 or 0/1 geography: is geography more important than psychology, economics, anthropology, and sociology considered separately? Does geography merit getting more than 3 times as many questions per high-level tournament as earth science? Again, I think not. I understand that Ryan enjoys writing (and presumably playing) those almanac-style river tossups, but they seem really weak to me compared with the stuff I think people could be writing in earth science or in the other social sciences that might also benefit people with real geography knowledge (as opposed to "I looked up some tributaries of the Parana when I had to write my Parana tossup for the previous tournament" knowledge). I have nothing against the new, improved geography questions that are going to blend the best of history, earth science, anthropology/sociology, current events, and probably some other stuff in a completely unique way focusing on the interactions of humans with the environment, but I also don't see a reason to privilege said questions above various other social sciences at high-level events.

Here are some different ways to kick geography out of the required part of the distribution for high-level events:

-toss geography in with trash in the "your choice" pool. We could then go with Ryan's proposal, increasing your choice to 2/2, with a maximum of 1/1 from any of trash, geography and other academic. We could let geography fend for itself and keep your choice at 1/1 (and increase social sciences to 2/2 or RMP to 3/3 [or the combination to 5/5] in the first 20/20, all of which seem reasonable to me for high-level events); we could also adopt Ryan's proposal in miniature and limit trash, geography and other academic to at most 1 of that 1/1. There are several options here.

-we could allow people to put geography clues into history, social science, and current events questions where they're appropriate. I suppose we could also let people write "pure" geography questions for your choice, but there should probably be a limit on the number of questions with geography content.

-we could put geography in with social science and increase social science to 2/2. Geography could then be limited to at most 1 question of that 2/2, as we currently do with all other social sciences. Carrying this option a bit further, there's been some noise about implementing some semi-requirements in social science: for instance, for 2/2 social science submitted, requiring 1 economics or psychology question and 1 sociology or anthropology question, with the other 1/1 unrestricted (but no more than 1 from any particular discipline). We could give geography a bit of a boost by saying that at most 1 of the last 1/1 can come from the semi-required "big four."


Of these options, I prefer the third and I don't particularly care whether we favor the "minor social sciences" by requiring at least 1 per packet. Teams with no geography knowledge can write on other social sciences if they prefer; teams with geography knowledge can write on geography if they prefer that to writing law questions, or archaeology or linguistics or whatever. Will this produce 1 geography question per packet? I doubt it, but I'd also be surprised if it produced a tiny amount of geography questions per set.

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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:25 am

I am perplexed by the ridiculously high standard that geography questions are held to. Why must every clue be super interesting or important. Every question contains some almanac style clues and as long as there are a few more interesting clues at the beginning it seems fine to me. Frankly for me, describing a geographical feature like a tributary or waterfall is similar to listing a detail from a painting. In every painting question we don't feel a need to explain the importance of every detail we chose to include in the question. For example in the tossup on The Surrender of Breda from this year's CO, one line reads, "In the bottom-right corner of this painting, an unfolded blank page shines atop scrub and rocks." This clue is listing a geographical feature of the scene depicted in the painting and is basically equivalent to listing some geographical feature of a river or country or whatever. No where in the line does it explain why that blank page in the bottom right hand corner is important to the acyual painting, just like a geography tossup might list the name of a tributary without explaining its real world importance to the river. Now the best writers might include some critical thought explaining what some feature of a painting represents; however, one will only include a few of those types of clues. It seems to me it would be wise to adopt a similar policy towards geography. Lets include a few interesting or important clues at the beginning and if the latter part of the question includes more almanac and list clues that is perfectly fine.

Once again these complaints about "boring" clues seem to be another example of using inconsistent logic to justify excising geography. One could easily use this golden standard of super-interesting/important clues to invalidate many categories of questions. I am very interested to hear a response explaining why geography questions including some almanac clues naming geographical features are any different from naming the geographical features of a painting.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:37 am

setht wrote:we could put geography in with social science and increase social science to 2/2. Geography could then be limited to at most 1 question of that 2/2, as we currently do with all other social sciences. Carrying this option a bit further, there's been some noise about implementing some semi-requirements in social science: for instance, for 2/2 social science submitted, requiring 1 economics or psychology question and 1 sociology or anthropology question, with the other 1/1 unrestricted (but no more than 1 from any particular discipline). We could give geography a bit of a boost by saying that at most 1 of the last 1/1 can come from the semi-required "big four."


I've actually been thinking about social science subdistributions occasionally; assuming a 2/2 combined social science and geography distro (which I'm strongly in favor of), I'd like to posit the following for discussion/consideration/whatnot:

1 econ, law, poli sci and other "public policy" fields
1 sociology, anthropology, and various "cultural studies"
1 psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, that sort of stuff
1 geography, urban studies, pretty much anything with a strong spatial component
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:48 am

Social Science is such a diverse field, and many areas have a small number of things that are canonical and would be enjoyed by most if they came up, but probably can't sustain a full subdistro over all tournaments. A lot of stuff -- ESPECIALLY stuff that comes up a lot -- borders on interdisciplinary. Stuff fades in and out of being trendy to ask, and then comes back.

I think a rigid social science distribution would be bad for the game, if anything. I'm also not convinced that there is currently a problem with certain categories coming up too much or too little.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:59 am

Man, are we having this discussion yet again? I'll weigh in and say that while Seth is surely right, at least in the pure good of theory, I still sympathize with Ted's perspective. To offer a more succinct version of Ted's point: Could someone produce a critique of geography questions in quizbowl which wouldn't serve just as well, if not better, as a critique of (e.g.) organic chemistry questions? Certainly Matt's arguments above in this thread -- that geography questions take a very long time to produce; that it is almost impossible to make them "interesting"; that the effort required to produce them is out of proportion to the number of people who find them rewarding -- could all be applied just as easily to organic chem questions.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:02 am

Yeah, Andrew is right I think. I continue to dislike the argument about boring clues, because there are tons of science clues I find completely boring and unbuzzable, and I know lots of players feel that way about music clues, so I'd be concerned that if we are limiting things that come up to questions most players are good at and interested in, what's stopping us from eliminating those questions too?
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Captain Sinico » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:10 am

Magister Ludi wrote:I am perplexed by the ridiculously high standard that geography questions are held to. Why must every clue be super interesting or important. Every question contains some almanac style clues and as long as there are a few more interesting clues at the beginning it seems fine to me.

The standard you're implicitly positing is not the standard I hold geography (or any) questions to. The issue is this: the vast majority of geography questions to this point have consisted exclusively of one style of clue and that style of clue is problematic to some. Depending on the contents of that some, that may entail a change in the amount of geography, the way it's written, etc. which is the same standard that every kind of question (including chemistry and music) is subject to.

Magister Ludi wrote:Frankly for me, describing a geographical feature like a tributary or waterfall is similar to listing a detail from a painting. In every painting question we don't feel a need to explain the importance of every detail we chose to include in the question. For example in the tossup on The Surrender of Breda from this year's CO, one line reads, "In the bottom-right corner of this painting, an unfolded blank page shines atop scrub and rocks." This clue is listing a geographical feature of the scene depicted in the painting and is basically equivalent to listing some geographical feature of a river or country or whatever. No where in the line does it explain why that blank page in the bottom right hand corner is important to the acyual painting, just like a geography tossup might list the name of a tributary without explaining its real world importance to the river.

It seems that I should answer this as the author of that tossup. I intentionally didn't include any of the suggested meanings of that particular symbol for a variety of reasons, the chief among which is that its meanings should be known to people with a deep understanding of the work, and I judged that not explicitly mentioning those meanings better privileged such people than doing so. I say that not to defend my question, which can stand on its own merits, but because it implies the following criticism of your claim: for the vast majority of players, there is no deeper meaning available to the idea, for example, that "Dent-in-Tile Lake is the deepest lake in my kitchen." That is a mere facts in a way that description of a feature of a painting, graph, etc. shouldn't be and often won't be. I don't necessarily claim that no deeper meaning is possible, only that it isn't ever likely to be present in the vast majority of players. Thus, the two classes of descriptions seem to have an important difference.

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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:15 am

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Yeah, Andrew is right I think. I continue to dislike the argument about boring clues, because there are tons of science clues I find completely boring and unbuzzable, and I know lots of players feel that way about music clues, so I'd be concerned that if we are limiting things that come up to questions most players are good at and interested in, what's stopping us from eliminating those questions too?


A key difference is that, to a science player, a music fan, etc, those clues are anything but boring or unhelpful. But it's Jeff Hoppes, he who scored 194 PPG in a geography tournament three months ago, who says that lists of tributaries have no place in geography questions. There's a difference between something seeming like quacking because you just don't know enough to parse it, and something that really is unhelpful even to someone who is as effective at a category as anyone ever has been.

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Man, are we having this discussion yet again? I'll weigh in and say that while Seth is surely right, at least in the pure good of theory, I still sympathize with Ted's perspective. To offer a more succinct version of Ted's point: Could someone produce a critique of geography questions in quizbowl which wouldn't serve just as well, if not better, as a critique of (e.g.) organic chemistry questions? Certainly Matt's arguments above in this thread -- that geography questions take a very long time to produce; that it is almost impossible to make them "interesting"; that the effort required to produce them is out of proportion to the number of people who find them rewarding -- could all be applied just as easily to organic chem questions.


I think there's major support for doing something about o-chem taking over the chemistry distribution; at the bare minimum, a hard cap of 1 o-chem question per packet is long overdue.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:16 am

setht wrote:-we could put geography in with social science and increase social science to 2/2. Geography could then be limited to at most 1 question of that 2/2, as we currently do with all other social sciences. Carrying this option a bit further, there's been some noise about implementing some semi-requirements in social science: for instance, for 2/2 social science submitted, requiring 1 economics or psychology question and 1 sociology or anthropology question, with the other 1/1 unrestricted (but no more than 1 from any particular discipline). We could give geography a bit of a boost by saying that at most 1 of the last 1/1 can come from the semi-required "big four."


Of these options, I prefer the third and I don't particularly care whether we favor the "minor social sciences" by requiring at least 1 per packet. Teams with no geography knowledge can write on other social sciences if they prefer; teams with geography knowledge can write on geography if they prefer that to writing law questions, or archaeology or linguistics or whatever. Will this produce 1 geography question per packet? I doubt it, but I'd also be surprised if it produced a tiny amount of geography questions per set.

-Seth


I support Seth's ideas; my own preference would be to increase the distribution even further: 2/3 or 3/2 Social Science or Geography (max 1/1 geography).

Why is this a good solution? Optional geography lets people write what quantity of geography they feel appropriate, and it readily scales to all levels of difficulty. For better or for worse, geography has a much larger askable answer space than any of the individual disciplines currently grouped under social science. So we could keep 1/1 geography at ACF Fall if that's necessary for newer players/teams, and we could reduce or even eliminate geography at higher levels. Whatever happens would be the actual result of people writing questions that they enjoy writing and playing, and I think that's a more productive settlement than continued struggle between and pro- and anti-geography armies in these threads.

Edit: grammar
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:26 am

Matt Weiner wrote:A key difference is that, to a science player, a music fan, etc, those clues are anything but boring or unhelpful. But it's Jeff Hoppes, he who scored 194 PPG in a geography tournament three months ago, who says that lists of tributaries have no place in geography questions. There's a difference between something seeming like quacking because you just don't know enough to parse it, and something that really is unhelpful even to someone who is as effective at a category as anyone ever has been.


That's not quite what I meant; my intent was that:

Because questions that do nothing but list placenames are often both boring and unhelpful, writers should:

1.Vary their clue structure so that the questions are less monotonous. This isn't at all unique to "tributaries blah blah blah," it's just a special case of "don't write tossups with long lists of similar information." We don't accept "these ten literary critics wrote books about author X" either.

2. Make some effort to ensure that the places mentioned have some kind of historical/cultural/scientific significance. Tell the players why your clues are interesting or important: did some army fight its way across that river? is there an unusual endemic plant or animal species there? how about some kind of earth-sciency landform? If you can't do any of that stuff, then yes, your question may be terminally boring, and you should switch to a different clue. (I believe I've explained this before as: all tossups ever written on the Vinson Massif are terrible.)

It's (2) that's directly analogous to the art clues discussed above, and yes, it can easily be more time-consuming than the method Ryan outlined.

For the record, I think Geography Monstrosity did a good job on both of these points.

Finally, I'd like to offer my services as a freelance geography-editing mercenary. We're talking about really quite small numbers of questions here: a max of 1/1 per round. So, if you're an ACF editor who's finding it time-consuming and painful to edit geography, I would be happy to help out.*

*Offer may be void in final stages of SCT/ICT production!
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby setht » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:17 am

Magister Ludi wrote:Once again these complaints about "boring" clues seem to be another example of using inconsistent logic to justify excising geography. One could easily use this golden standard of super-interesting/important clues to invalidate many categories of questions. I am very interested to hear a response explaining why geography questions including some almanac clues naming geographical features are any different from naming the geographical features of a painting.


For my part, I'm willing to say that the propensity of writers to include some almanac clues in geography questions isn't in itself an argument against allowing geography questions at high levels. Having said that, I am very interested in hearing a response from you or any other pro-required-geography partisan to the argument I set out above.

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Man, are we having this discussion yet again? I'll weigh in and say that while Seth is surely right, at least in the pure good of theory, I still sympathize with Ted's perspective. To offer a more succinct version of Ted's point: Could someone produce a critique of geography questions in quizbowl which wouldn't serve just as well, if not better, as a critique of (e.g.) organic chemistry questions? Certainly Matt's arguments above in this thread -- that geography questions take a very long time to produce; that it is almost impossible to make them "interesting"; that the effort required to produce them is out of proportion to the number of people who find them rewarding -- could all be applied just as easily to organic chem questions.


Adapting the argument I put forward previously, the difference between geography and organic chemistry questions is that no one is required to write organic chemistry questions. If we implemented a cap of 1 organic chemistry question per round, as Matt suggested, that would put organic chemistry on pretty much the same footing as I'm advocating for geography: not required, with a max of 1 per round.

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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:28 am

I can't believe I going to have to recap all of these counter-arguments again. I am just going to go post by post to point out my problems with the preceding critiques.



setht wrote: Last year's ACF distribution called for 1/1 geography in the first 20/20. As far as I can tell, this put it on par with all of American literature, all of physics, all other social sciences, etc. For low-level events I can understand the allure of a question category that more novices are likely to know and to be capable of writing competent questions in.

This bit is Seth's first mistake because he has set up a straw man. It is incorrect (and a little insulting) to reduce the allure of geography questions to the fact that novices are likely to know geography and can write on it. This sentiment assumes that everyone would rather hear another humanities question rather than a geography question. Several players attending CO apparently do enjoy listening to geography questions because just in this thread Brendan Byrne, Mike Cheyne, Andy Watkins, Jeff Hoppes, and myself have said they enjoy hearing geography questions at higher level tournaments.

setht wrote: To my mind, the question is: given that high-level teams have lots of non-geography academic knowledge, is there something about geography as a category or academic discipline which means that it merits a mandatory place in the distribution (whether at 1/1 per packet, or 1/0 or 0/1)? For comparison, here are some other categories that don't appear to have a mandatory spot in the old distribution: ancient literature and history, astronomy/astrophysics, computer science, earth science, mathematics, and any particular social science other than geography. I think it's fine that all of these categories don't have mandatory spots in the old distribution. The relative amounts of these categories almost certainly doesn't accurately reflect their relative importance in academia; I think that's also fine.

Now then, is geography more important than math? Or, moving to more closely allied fields, is it more important than earth science? More important than the rest of the social sciences put together? I think not, therefore I think geography shouldn't be getting 1/1 guaranteed per packet at high level tournaments. Focusing on the proposal to require 1/0 or 0/1 geography: is geography more important than psychology, economics, anthropology, and sociology considered separately? Does geography merit getting more than 3 times as many questions per high-level tournament as earth science? Again, I think not.


I thought we had already established that we cannot use a hazy sense of real-world academic importance to determine the distribution. Honestly can anyone justify why there are four times as many questions on history as there are on music in a packet? Why is history objectively four times as important as music? No one can offer a real standard to determine the sub-distribution. So when Seth says things like, "is there something about geography as a category or academic discipline which means that it merits a mandatory place in the distribution" that statement could be applied to every single category because quizbowl does not perfectly reflect academia. There are many academic disciplines which will have no questions asked on them. Once again this argument highlights by point of people fighting against geography who use inconsistent logic. Why do you apply this logic to geography and not to other disciplines? Can Seth or Matt offer a definitive standard about how they decide how many questions an academic discipline merits based on objective importance? I don't think anyone can offer this standard. If there is no standard then we are left to trust Seth or Matt's feel for what the subdistribution should be, which I think we can all agree is not a good way to assess the subdistribution.


setht wrote: Teams with no geography knowledge can write on other social sciences if they prefer; teams with geography knowledge can write on geography if they prefer that to writing law questions, or archaeology or linguistics or whatever.


Seriously? Seriously? I cannot believe you wrote this sentence. So now you favor accommodating teams that have no knowledge of a field to have the option of just writing on something completely different. So if my team only has nobody who knows chemistry then they can just skip it, if my team has no one who can write music they can just skip it. This post is yet another instance of the geography critics using inconsistent logic. So because a team has no one that can write geography really well they have the option to skip it, but this option only exists for geography and not other categories.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:39 am

Matt Weiner wrote:
Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Yeah, Andrew is right I think. I continue to dislike the argument about boring clues, because there are tons of science clues I find completely boring and unbuzzable, and I know lots of players feel that way about music clues, so I'd be concerned that if we are limiting things that come up to questions most players are good at and interested in, what's stopping us from eliminating those questions too?


A key difference is that, to a science player, a music fan, etc, those clues are anything but boring or unhelpful. But it's Jeff Hoppes, he who scored 194 PPG in a geography tournament three months ago, who says that lists of tributaries have no place in geography questions. There's a difference between something seeming like quacking because you just don't know enough to parse it, and something that really is unhelpful even to someone who is as effective at a category as anyone ever has been.


I think you are oversimplifying the issue. Obviously almanac clues such as tributaries should not come at the beginning of the questions, but they should come towards the end just like titles come at the end of an author question. After reading this paragraph several times I am unsure what exactly you are saying about these boring and unhelpful clues? I thought you were arguing that geography has too many "boring" clues, have you expanded your argument to now argue that most geography clues are also "unhelpful"?

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Man, are we having this discussion yet again? I'll weigh in and say that while Seth is surely right, at least in the pure good of theory, I still sympathize with Ted's perspective. To offer a more succinct version of Ted's point: Could someone produce a critique of geography questions in quizbowl which wouldn't serve just as well, if not better, as a critique of (e.g.) organic chemistry questions? Certainly Matt's arguments above in this thread -- that geography questions take a very long time to produce; that it is almost impossible to make them "interesting"; that the effort required to produce them is out of proportion to the number of people who find them rewarding -- could all be applied just as easily to organic chem questions.


I think there's major support for doing something about o-chem taking over the chemistry distribution; at the bare minimum, a hard cap of 1 o-chem question per packet is long overdue.[/quote]

You are nitpicking over unimportant details here. The issue is not that organic chemistry should be reduced because it is ostensibly as boring and difficult to write as geography. Andrew could easily of used chemistry, music, or many other categories as examples of areas where the same critique of geography is applicable. I would like to renew my call for someone to please offer a critique of geography that cannot be easily applied to subjects such as chemistry or music.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Matt Weiner » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:55 am

I'll grant that the position I advocated the first time I waded into this discussion in May (the complete removal of geography from the ACF requirements) was too extreme. The more reflective position I've been arguing since my second post in that thread is something that goes to the heart of the so-called "niptick"--which is that requiring 1/1 geography in every packet for a year inevitably causes weak questions, because there aren't enough topics that can be written on properly. Every book, historical event, or philosopher who can justifiably comes up at all has interesting and self-evidently important facts that can be mined for good clues. I just don't see this as the case for geography. You can spend an hour on that Parana River tossup, if there's no wacky cultural practice being engaged-in along its banks, no current political controversy over the impact of building a dam there, or no aqueduct off of it that's named after Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf due to a historical accident, then your packet's geography questions will equal almanac questions.

I think that cutting geography in half will solve the two problems that are major themes in these threads:
1) The problem of producing enough GOOD geography questions, as brought up by myself and those who sympathize with my position to greater or lesser degrees
2) The problem of making sure geography comes up, rather than pocket-vetoing it as would happen if it were subsumed under trash in Your Choice, as Ted has argued would happen and I believe he is correct about

1/0 or 0/1 geography guaranteed in each packet seems to be a reasonable compromise here, and will allow people to refocus their efforts on making geography questions as rigorous as questions in other categories. I'll take this opportunity to renew my objection to making the freed-up question on "whatever the packet writer wants" or "more of any of four categories"; I believe that the purpose of having a distribution at all implies the necessity of a rigid and specific one. Personally, I think standardizing arts at 3/3, RMP at 2/3 or 3/2 (with geography being the complement), and further locking RMP at 1/1 myth, 1 religion, and 1 philosophy, such that the newly added question is either a second religion or second philosophy, is the way to go.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:58 am

Captain Sinico wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:Frankly for me, describing a geographical feature like a tributary or waterfall is similar to listing a detail from a painting. In every painting question we don't feel a need to explain the importance of every detail we chose to include in the question. For example in the tossup on The Surrender of Breda from this year's CO, one line reads, "In the bottom-right corner of this painting, an unfolded blank page shines atop scrub and rocks." This clue is listing a geographical feature of the scene depicted in the painting and is basically equivalent to listing some geographical feature of a river or country or whatever. No where in the line does it explain why that blank page in the bottom right hand corner is important to the acyual painting, just like a geography tossup might list the name of a tributary without explaining its real world importance to the river.

It seems that I should answer this as the author of that tossup. I intentionally didn't include any of the suggested meanings of that particular symbol for a variety of reasons, the chief among which is that its meanings should be known to people with a deep understanding of the work, and I judged that not explicitly mentioning those meanings better privileged such people than doing so. I say that not to defend my question, which can stand on its own merits, but because it implies the following criticism of your claim: for the vast majority of players, there is no deeper meaning available to the idea, for example, that "Dent-in-Tile Lake is the deepest lake in my kitchen." That is a mere facts in a way that description of a feature of a painting, graph, etc. shouldn't be and often won't be. I don't necessarily claim that no deeper meaning is possible, only that it isn't ever likely to be present in the vast majority of players. Thus, the two classes of descriptions seem to have an important difference.

MaS


You seem to misunderstand the point of my post. I used your tossup as example of a good tossup that uses a type of clue that would be maligned if it were employed in a geography tossup. I think the deeper meaning some say is missing from geography clues would be as foolhardy to include as offering an explication of every detail mentioned in a painting tossup. Similarly if you mention some onscure ethnic group in a country, I dont think you don't need to explain their agricultural importance to the country, because if you are able to buzz on that ethnic group chances its meaning "should be known to people with deep knowledge." However if there were a situation were someone who (god forbid) buzzed on the almanac clue without knowing the deeper meaning that wouldn't be any different than a player buzzing on the blank page in The Surrender of Breda.

Moving onto the second half of your post. Mike, I think you are really straining here to make this argument. I laughed out loud when I saw that you are differentiating these two clues based on the possible availability of "deeper meaning" for players. Both "Dent-in-tile lake is the deepest lake in country X" and "there is a blank page in the bottom right hand corner" are facts. Your hunch that more players will see a greater possibility for "deeper meaning' in clue about a detail from a painting rather than clue about a geographical feature is both unfounded and irrelevant. First there is no way to prove that people will find deeper meaning in the painting detail clue, and frankly even if we could objectively say that more players find the possibility of "deeper meaning" in the art clue I'm not sure what that would prove.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Magister Ludi » Wed Sep 09, 2009 3:09 am

Ok, one more post before I go to sleep. To me there are two relatively valid arguments against geography in this thread. The first argument is that geography is too difficult and time consuming for the editors of major tournaments to bring up to the standards of high level tournaments such as ACF Nationals. The second argument is that somehow geography is unpopular among top players and therefore should be cut. The first issue is not a problem anymore because Jeff Hoppes has kindly offered to edit geography for a high level tournament like next year's ACF Nationals or CO. As for the popularity argument I would point out that the call of the reduction of geography is not nearly as unilateral as some people claim. Several players have expressed their desire to have geography questions at high level tournaments in this thread alone and in the other geography thread the majority of posters favored the inclusion of geography. So before people pull this argument out of their hat again, I would love to see some sort of objective evidence that "everybody" hates geography.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby magin » Wed Sep 09, 2009 3:11 am

I'd like to address the claim that geography tossups are prone to using "almanac"/uninteresting clues, and offer a more historical perspective. Take the following tossups from the 2000 ACF Nationals (one history, one literature, one science):

11. When his brother John asked him to pay his debts, he wrote him a letter which read, "Find seven dollars enclosed. Stick it up your bung hole and wipe your nose on it." His brother commented, "I have no doubt that masturbation and self-abuse is at the bottom of his mental imbecility." Sure enough, he contracted syphilis from a prostitute and his wife divorced him in 1874. A wild-eyed Stalwart, on July second, 1881, he fired two shots in a Washington, D.C. railroad station. FTP, name this assassin of President Garfield.
Answer: Charles Guiteau

6. He was removed from his post as rector of the University of Salamanca when he opposed the government of Primo de Rivera, and was exiled to the Canary Islands. Then he was restored, but after expressing anti-Franco sentiment, he was placed under house arrest and died two months later. The death of his son early in life also plagued him, causing him to question the existence of God. Identify this Spanish author and philosopher, the leading member of the Generacion del 98 whose works, FTP, include Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho and Niebla.
Answer: Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo

19. This scientist graduated from Montana State in 1917, and during World War II, he directed a research program at Columbia that became an important part of the Manhattan project. He believed that the Moon had a separate origin from the Earth, and thought that the earth had not been molten at the time when its materials accumulated, which led to a famous experiment conducted with Stanley Miller. FTP, identify this chemist who also managed to isolate heavy water and discover deuterium.
Answer: Harold Urey

All these tossups use the equivalent (or worse) of such uninteresting clues; "This scientist graduated from Montana State in 1917" is something that would get laughed right out of modern quizbowl, and deservedly so. But how did this shift towards better clues happen? I'm no quizbowl historian, but it seems to me that the growing number of writers and editors who took the time to write questions with better clues created a group of players who liked and grew used to such good clues and stopped using clues like "Sure enough, he contracted syphilis from a prostitute and his wife divorced him in 1874." You could say that structurally, more and more new players were exposed to tossups consisting of these good clues, increasing the number of writers and editors who resolved to use good clues, and only good clues, in their questions.

In my opinion, this structural shift has occurred most in literature, history, science, religion, mythology, philosophy, and social science; modern history, literature, and science tossups look very different from the above three tossups, for example. However, this shift has occurred less in geography. Take this tossup from the 2000 ACF Nationals:

5. At its origin, this river is known as the Zangbo, but at the mountain mass of Namcha Barwa, it turns south and becomes the Dihang. As the Dihang, it enters India and flows into the Assam Valley where it gains its more familiar name. After reaching Bangladesh, it splits off a stream called the Jamuna which joins the Padma arm of the Ganges. FTP, name this 1800 mile long river that flows through Tibet.
Answer: Brahmaputra

I submit that this tossup resembles a modern tossup on the Brahmaputra much more than the Urey tossup from 2000 resembles a modern tossup on Urey. But is this necessarily so? I wasn't sure, so I searched numerous sites for geography clues and discovered a few things:

1) Countries, cities, states, provinces, and other kinds of human areas are rich with non-almanac, potentially interesting clues for tossups.

2) On the other hand, rivers, mountains, lakes, seas, and other natural features of the earth's surface have much fewer of these non-almanac clues to choose from (with a few exceptions).

Therefore, I propose that geography would be a much more enjoyable category if writers focused on writing tossups on answers from the first category. Answers from the second category could still be included in bonuses, and very knowledgeable writers could occasionally write tossups on such answers (like the Brahmaputra). I have faith that the writers currently in quizbowl are diligent enough to find such interesting, non-almanac clues for answers in the first category, and I think not only would that increase most people's enjoyment of geography, but it would lead to a structural change in favor of such "more interesting" geography questions.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 09, 2009 3:19 am

Magister Ludi wrote:Similarly if you mention some obscure ethnic group in a country, I dont think you don't need to explain their agricultural importance to the country


I think the standard is looser than that: writers shouldn't have to explain the full cultural importance of each of their clues within the question. But writers should, on the other hand, be able to make the case outside the question that the clue is, in fact, academically important. That is: if someone provides a challenge of the form: "hey, that tribal group is unimportant and uninteresting," the writer needs to be able to respond: "no, actually their agricultural practices are fundamental to the study of whatever" or "their language is critical to the reconstruction of Proto-whatever because it has an extra fricative" or what have you.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 09, 2009 3:41 am

Magister Ludi wrote:
setht wrote: Teams with no geography knowledge can write on other social sciences if they prefer; teams with geography knowledge can write on geography if they prefer that to writing law questions, or archaeology or linguistics or whatever.


Seriously? Seriously? I cannot believe you wrote this sentence. So now you favor accommodating teams that have no knowledge of a field to have the option of just writing on something completely different. So if my team only has nobody who knows chemistry then they can just skip it, if my team has no one who can write music they can just skip it. This post is yet another instance of the geography critics using inconsistent logic. So because a team has no one that can write geography really well they have the option to skip it, but this option only exists for geography and not other categories.


I submit that you, Ted Gioia, are in fact using an inconsistent argument here. All categories exist in a spectrum, from largest and most important to smallest and least important. Works something like this:

history (has a large, and absolutely required, chunk of the distribution. needs to be in every packet)

European history (still required to be in every packet, but the precise amount can vary depending on a team's strengths and interests. no one will really complain about 1/2 vs. 2/2 in a submitted packet)

British history (I'm a British historian and I like writing it, so almost every packet I write contains a British question. but no one bats an eye if it's not there, and that round's European history is France/Germany/Italy)

17th-century British history (a sub-sub-category, comes up a handful of times per tournament)

military history of Yorkshire in 1644 (ok, there's a fair bit of this in my dissertation, but I don't expect it to appear in quizbowl more than about once a year)

The question is: what place does geography have in the distribution? Is it important enough, by community standards, to require 1/1, like mythology? Or is it like psychology or economics, something people can write about if they want to, but is not required in any minimum quantity? I think either position can be consistently argued for. And moreover: people quite consistently have the option of skipping fields they don't like or have limited knowledge of. This happens all the time and is a more-or-less unavoidable consequence of the way quizbowl works. If you assemble all the questions I've ever produced for packet submission events, you'll find obvious trends in my knowledge: I write a lot of archaeology and linguistics for social science, less often psychology and almost never economics, which I hate. When I write British literature, it's almost always medieval and early modern, where I have some knowledge and feel comfortable writing quality material, and much less often 20th-century stuff, where I lack knowledge.

I'm sure you can multiply examples like this ad nauseam for everyone who writes questions ever. Now, if I were writing or editing an entire tournament, of course I'd have to deliberately broaden my horizons and write things that are outside my own particular subjects. (I don't, actually, write entire tournaments, because there are some subjects like physics and music that I can't write at any level of competence.) But when I write my share of one packet for ACF Regionals, or sit down to send in some tossups for the 2010 and 2011 ICTs? Of course I write things I think I can write well and write knowledgably, because that beats writing questions that I know will be mediocre at best. I trust that other writers and editors, with different knowledge, different experience, and different preferences, will join me in creating a quality academic tournament that appropriately reflects the knowledge of the quizbowl community as a whole. It's just the way the game works.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Wed Sep 09, 2009 9:58 am

Matt Weiner wrote:
Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Yeah, Andrew is right I think. I continue to dislike the argument about boring clues, because there are tons of science clues I find completely boring and unbuzzable, and I know lots of players feel that way about music clues, so I'd be concerned that if we are limiting things that come up to questions most players are good at and interested in, what's stopping us from eliminating those questions too?


A key difference is that, to a science player...those clues are anything but boring or unhelpful.

Oh, there are tons of boring and unhelpful science clues that we often seem entirely willing to keep in questions. There's probably some abstract theoretical reason to have them that I don't understand, but you can't say they don't exist.

I think there's major support for doing something about o-chem taking over the chemistry distribution; at the bare minimum, a hard cap of 1 o-chem question per packet is long overdue.

Yeah; that's the standard I try to hold myself to--sometimes I'll go borderline and have one organic question and one question that's a fairly inorganic application of organometallics, or I'll slip in an organic bonus part, but that's infrequent. I think one of the problems leading to the predominance of organic is the relative lack of alternative material that would be easy to write questions on. But why not put chemistry into your choice? Given that there are few excellent chemistry writers, it would speed things up.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:23 am

Ted wrote:As for the popularity argument I would point out that the call of the reduction of geography is not nearly as unilateral as some people claim. Several players have expressed their desire to have geography questions at high level tournaments in this thread alone and in the other geography thread the majority of posters favored the inclusion of geography. So before people pull this argument out of their hat again, I would love to see some sort of objective evidence that "everybody" hates geography.


Ted, everybody doesn't hate geography, but there are a disproportionate amount of people who would frankly rather hear something else. I agree with you that this is no standard for setting a distribution. Personally, I'm fine with geography being 1/0 or 0/1 in the canon, as long as the clues weren't all of the Westbrook bridge variety and more of "in this city's X plaza one can find this building next to this sculpture, and this city, situated on river Y..." In other words, I'd support a minimal inclusion of almanac clues and more clues about ethnography, relevant current events, political clues, art, and other "human" clues. I enjoyed the geography tossups at HI much more than any other tournament I've played, because they simply weren't describing physical features the whole time.

Ted wrote:Your hunch that more players will see a greater possibility for "deeper meaning' in clue about a detail from a painting rather than clue about a geographical feature is both unfounded and irrelevant. First there is no way to prove that people will find deeper meaning in the painting detail clue, and frankly even if we could objectively say that more players find the possibility of "deeper meaning" in the art clue I'm not sure what that would prove.


I'm willing to bet more people actively study the details of paintings in an academic setting than those who study the depth of a particular lake in a given country - appealing to the population of players will probably give you the same result. As for what that would prove, it gives you some benchmark of a particular facts' academic relevance at the very least, and I think quizbowl should strive to use academically relevant clues whenever possible.

PS

Matt Weiner wrote:I think there's major support for doing something about o-chem taking over the chemistry distribution; at the bare minimum, a hard cap of 1 o-chem question per packet is long overdue.


Sorry to barge in here, but I 100% support this. After doing some reading, it seems like there's some great chemical engineering, polymer chemistry, etc, that could stand some gentle introduction. I would also support organic chemistry having more biochemistry clues in order to cut back on the word salad, eg, "ATP contains the phospho- version of this functional group", etc.

On the other hand, I'd like to hear a good reason articulated why molecular/cell biology taking over the biology canon is fine, but organic chemistry being the majority of chemistry questions isn't. The last time I heard this argument, it was from Jonathan, who's reasoning was essentially that organic chemistry is boring, which is the epitome of terrible reasons to get rid of a category. Is there a silent majority of fullerene chemists whose voices demand to be heard? Basically, why the hate? Furthermore, I'd like to hear what the line between organic and other chemistry is. Are organometallics considered o-chem or p-chem, for example?
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:29 am

I assume you mean inorgo, not p-chem; anyway, they're generally studied in both classes, albeit in different ways (though not too different for the sake of quizbowl). All of these lines are fairly blurry, you're right; really, we should be campaigning against the most popular bad style of organic chemistry questions: named thing, non-unique mechanism clue, named thing, unimportant mechanism clue, named thing, named thing, named thing. Creativity is lost here; we need to fix that.
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Re: Chicago Open 2009 Discussion

Postby Cheynem » Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:12 am

During the last go-round about geography, several people suggested making Geography Monstrosity almost like a test case to see if interesting geography could be written for a higher level audience. Jeff Hoppes seems to suggest it did prove that, and I would agree with him. I don't know if anyone else thought so or thought not and why.
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