The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbowl

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The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbowl

Postby Adventure Temple Trail » Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:09 pm

This thread is part of the "The Big Vision" series. Click here to go back to index/introduction.

Developing our “Sales Pitch” -- Talking Up Quizbowl Confidently
Explaining quizbowl, and its own sensible merits, to the outside world

One of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of respect/support is that we’re not good at explaining what we do, or how this game rewards things of value. At least in my experience, the default reaction of a quizbowl person when quizbowl gets brought up outside the game-community is to blush or cast their eyes downward, and wait for the embarrassing revelation to pass. Other folks might attempt to explain what quizbowl is to an outsider, but be too far inside the “insider” mentality to do so in a way which is comprehensible and makes the game seem exciting. Sometimes this difficulty stems from the internalized (and often over-exaggerated) stereotype that quizbowl people are socially inept, or from the belief that this game is not a Cool Thing to Do and thus not worth evangelizing for. There’s a huge missed opportunity here just waiting to be seized.

And I mean “sales pitch” literally, and not figuratively. In pragmatic terms, our ability to speak about quizbowl as though it’s worthwhile directly affects judgments of whether it’s worth the time and money from administrators at their desks, funding committees, new schools unsure about whether to take the plunge, parents dropping their kid off at school early Saturday morning, freshmen on the fence about whether to play at all, etc. Being proud and articulate about the game we put our time into could very well result in more respect and support from the people who can give it, and in more people joining our ranks. On a more rarefied level, it helps the social psychology of quizbowl internally to have more people in it who are outwardly excited about their participation rather than ashamed. There's no reason not to be proud ambassadors for what we do.

Confidence

The zeroth step in this process is to be confident. As I’ve said multiple times already in this thread: When talking to each other within the quizbowl community, we all know and see the value of the effort we put in and the organizing work we do -- otherwise none of it would happen and we’d be fine just seeing the game rot away. We’re certain that what we do is immensely rewarding. Is there any reason on earth to let that certainty drop off with people who haven’t seen what we do? I doubt it. What’s more, it seems to me like a lot of the anxiety about talking up quizbowl stems from a fear of negative reaction -- of people saying “You spend all your time on that?

Such fears are not realistic. One interesting thing about social interaction is that the things you talk about sound cooler to other people in direct proportion to how positively and confidently you speak about them. (So in some sense, anxious, eyes-downcast attitudes about one’s own participation in quizbowl are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you act like people will react badly and mumble rather than sharing your sense of excitement, they’ll ...react badly and not share your sense of excitement.) When talking with other people about what interests you, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Even if there’s no way in any of the various tossupable underworlds that they’d want to do it themselves, high skill at a competitive activity reflects well on a person in its own right, and confidence is a huge component of ‘coolness’ by any metric.
Being able to point towards skill at a competitive activity with confidence and poise can make you, and by extension the thing you do, look really impressive, no matter what the thing is.
Speaking from personal experience, I started out more like the blushing person with downcast eyes. But during my senior year of high school, I decided to turn that around -- I wanted to be respected for what I was doing, and that required me to display self-respect as a prerequisite. The ability to just say “quizbowl” with a smile when asked where I was going on an upcoming weekend, or what that suspicious-looking box full of wires was for, or what have you, was crucial in helping me tell that side of my story.

Be comprehensible to total outsiders

So with that aside, even when people DO try to explain the basics of quizbowl, they often fail because they’re not well-rehearsed in making it make sense to others. Frequently, our attempts to describe quizbowl are extremely insular and even off-putting. To speak to this a bit: In the summer of 2013 I edited several of the most basic articles on QBWiki to simplify them and make them more comprehensible to newcomers/outsiders. The very page on ‘good quizbowl itself’, perhaps the most important page on that entire site, had over half of its text devoted to a useless theoretical exposition on “game-oriented versus learning-oriented good quizbowl,” an abstruse -piece of theorizing which probably existed in one person’s head seven years ago, which no one talks about in reality. In other instances, attempts to explain quizbowl can quickly degenerate into attacks on its enemies (“well, it’s NOTHING LIKE Jeopardy, how could you possibly think that!”) or jump straight to unexplained jargon -- words like “pyramidal” or even “tossup”. This insularity cuts deep among the people who play this game, since it is for the most part isolated from outside conversation or attention.

What’s the substance we should use to describe our game to outsiders?

I’ve given one basic attempt already, in this article, to give a beginner-friendly take on “what” quizbowl “is,” so I won’t repeat myself here, but rather give a few tips. In these situations, be it a social gathering or a funding meeting, it’s important to be succinct, and to touch on the most salient features of the game without getting into minutiae about formats and the like. Make sure you say buzzers, make sure you say questions from across the academic spectrum, make sure you mention that “unlike Jeopardy, you can buzz in during the middle of the question, and clues are arranged from harder to easier.” Maybe freestyle a brief tossup off the top of your head to illustrate the concept -- mention that the best teams have to keep learning more about the stuff they’ve already heard of, and keep mastering new subjects, to stay successful. Most people will understand the basic idea, and sort of see why this sort of game gets so many people into an addicting cycle of studying more and more stuff, without delving into too much detail or immediately presenting yourself as part of an embittered conflict against a worse game which you also then have to explain.

It can be useful in describing quizbowl to other people is to make sure that people know the depth and academic nature of the categories that get asked about. Because other forms of more recreational question-and-answer funtimes are often heavy with types of knowledge that we don’t value (ridges-on-a-coin style trivia, pop culture), it can be useful to ensure that the academic knowledge aspect of the game, and the rewarding of in-depth learning, is placed front and center. Pro tip: If you just rattle off the standard subcategories in the standard order -- “Oh, all kinds of academic subjects -- a lot of literature, history, and science, plus some fine arts, religion, mythology, philosophy, social science, geography, and current events, and other stuff sometimes” -- you can get a lot of really impressed reactions (they’ll often think you’re devising the list on the spot).

Sometimes, if I really need to reel in someone’s attention fast, I do say something especially short and snappy which is slightly off-base, such as “It’s like Team Jeopardy on steroids”. (That opening lets me explain thereafter that it’s more heavily academic, has the descending-order-of-difficulty factor, etc. if the other person is interested.)

Explaining why we do this

But there’s another thing we have to explain, beyond the basics of what quizbowl looks like, which we’re also failing to do properly, and that’s to explain, well, what do we get out of it? Or, in other terms, “Why should my kid play this game instead of staying at home?” “What keeps you getting onto buses at 5 AM and staying out all Saturday?”

Of course it’s true that most people in quizbowl do it because it’s “fun.” And that’s all well and good -- but that doesn’t set us apart from the Anime Club or whatever else people do as mere amusement in their spare time. We have a sense internally that full-throated participation in quizbowl has more constructive worth for its participants than mere passive entertainment. And our ability to convey that constructive worth to others will help us increase our success at getting quizbowl the respect it deserves. This is especially important if we’re convincing new schools to play, or trying to solicit big donors, or if star players are in a college interview, etc. etc.

To draw a comparison with another mind competition: I’ve seen debaters advocate for their activity quite effectively by telling outsiders what it can do to help build up well-recognized cognitive and interpersonal skills. [I tried policy debate for the first two years of high school; I decided it really wasn’t for me.] Debaters can (in theory, at least) help competitors towards increased rhetorical flourish, on-their-feet thinking skills, research acumen, a beyond-their-years understanding of ethical theory, and increased famliarity with specific areas of politics/policy for their efforts. (Of course, part of the reason why this is true of debate is that the whole activity revolves around presenting points well to audiences.) Athletics teams do this almost subconsciously; I need not rehash the litany of virtues attributed to playing a traditional sport such as basketball or tennis (leadership!), in part because we’ve heard it stated so many times over. And yet I only rarely see or hear quizbowlers even try to talk up the good effects the game had on them in a similar way, when they very well could.

But they’re there, and I promise you a lot of them can be made to sound very good. Here are some examples of real value that participating in quizbowl adds to participants, ready to use as part of a ‘sales pitch’:

  • Encourages and boosts precise memory/recall, a skill which is rapidly fading in today’s smartphone world
  • Encourages people to retain their learning well after their classes test them on it
  • Gets kids into serious academic pursuits, such as independently reading serious literature or looking at art, in their spare time -- which they otherwise might not have had exposure to or motivation for pursuing
  • Gives kids who already have serious academic interests in their spare time another venue for expressing, sharing, and expanding those interests (e.g.: literature questions which make a literary work sound interesting can function as a constant source of new book suggestions)
  • Exposes people to a much wider range of academically-relevant material than they could hear about within their high school’s curriculum (reminding even the best students that they don’t yet know it all)
  • Beyond fact recognition, helps with recognizing context clues and deducing one’s way to answers when there are multiple possibilities
  • Gives intellectually-curious people a chance to meet other like-minded kids at other schools and make new friends
  • (for TDs, set editors, team captains who organize trips, etc.) Gives particularly involved participants experience managing large logistical tasks and putting together polished, well-organized events
  • (for people who write questions) encourages precise in-depth factual research skills under time pressure, and clear writing ability
  • Useful cross-training for other mind competitions which a school might have already, such as Science Olympiad or Certamen
  • Promotes the general idea of the well-rounded, well-informed citizen; helps people navigate spaces where academic references are frequent or useful
  • Perhaps most importantly: Many rewards similar to athletics for people often unwilling or unable to do athletics seriously (builds teamwork skills, gives people who are often very individually-driven work together towards a common goal, a good safe outlet for competitive impulses, grace under pressure, learning how to handle wins/losses, confidence, humility, etc.) The sustained intensity of a 20 to 30-minute quizbowl match, times 10 on many a weekend, really sets us apart from many other mind competitions such as Model UN on this score.

I’m sure that’s not all, either -- what other benefits can you think of which you’ve derived from your quizbowl experience?

Staying wary of future technology
More existentially, we need to be prepared to answer the question: Why is this game important if anyone can look up information on the Internet or by tapping their smart phone at any time ? (I do have an answer: the Internet can get you very mediocre information very fast, but real learning takes some degree of internalization and dedication, and it’s that which quizbowl tests even if it’s not apparent on the surface to spectators. Sustained engagement with facts, drawing connections between things, the ability to remember things long after swiping a tab to delete it, the checking of facts with reputable sources beyond the latest rumors from Buzzfeed and wikis, conceptual understanding, etc. This is the same reason why we still have schools, even though it's theoretically possible to just surf the Net for fifteen years and become an informed citizen that way -- that's just not reality for all but the most dedicated [and directed] autodidacts.)

As our technology gets smaller and faster, we need to make sure that we have strong norms against the use of cell phones, Google Glass, etc. in game rooms; that stuff needs to be turned off. If someone has a serious emergency and needs to take a call, they can always leave the game room or call for a time out/score check.

In the event that some huge breakthrough like transcranial magnetic stimulation or brain implants comes about, with the promise of enhancing human memory and recall to the point that it’s completely invalid to test for it in a competitive setting, then we might have an existential crisis on our hands .
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Cheynem » Sat Aug 30, 2014 7:29 pm

I really like your section on the advantages of quizbowl. If I could distill them into a general idea, it might be "rewards intellectual curiosity"--at its best, quizbowl provides an instant conversational tool for any sort of academic or semi professional context; I can't think of the number of times I could at least make a halfway intelligent sounding comment about someone's professional interests because of quizbowl. This is helpful in talking with future employers, with professors, with writing applications or statements of purpose, etc.

I also think your point about recall is helpful; quizbowl certainly has helped me as a student. But it also I think has helped me as an educator; reading and playing questions in front of an audience, speaking as a TD, etc. have all helped me in my speaking and communication skills (particularly when I'm reading my own questions)--it helps project some confidence.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby cchiego » Sat Aug 30, 2014 7:53 pm

I fully agree on stimulating intellectual curiosity as the best distillation of the benefits of quizbowl. Unfortunately, I've also seen the very things that we like in quizbowl--that it goes beyond the standard curriculum, that it encourages actually learning specific things--be denigrated by teachers and administrators when pitching it to them. To many so-called educators, anything outside the curriculum is useless and testing specific facts goes against Common Core and all sorts of other newfangled fads in education. I would be cautious about bragging about going "beyond" the curriculum in initial outreach--just mention the specific categories that do come up. I'd also emphasize the context-heavy process of writing clues and questions to help prepare as well as the teamwork/pseudo-athletics part.

One thing that really needs to be mentioned further in sales pitches for quizbowl: quizbowl is incredibly cheap compared to other extracurricular activities. Anyone with an internet connection can access the same tools that the best players/teams in the country use to study (old packets, Quinterest, basic searching, etc.) for free. Tournaments are very cheap for what you get and the flexibility of the quizbowl schedule is also often undersold (sometimes to its detriment--it would be nice to have teams who commit to 20 league matches go to more than 1 or 2 Saturday tournaments a year).
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Strongside » Sat Aug 30, 2014 9:20 pm

Participating in quiz bowl and taking it seriously offered me a long list of awesome opportunities in high school, in college, and after college.

This is why I am frustrated that the level of high school quiz bowl in Minnesota has declined to the point where one quiz bowler on the irc said, "they just become like the 20 teams in minnesota who are (expletive) and don't care about being not (expletive) but enjoy spending the school's money on hanging out at the dairy queen under the hyatt regency atlanta for three days each may."

Speaking for Minnesota, the infrastructure is in place for a stronger local high school circuit, but it has not happened.

It is unfortunate because Robert Hentzel has worked very hard to make high school quiz bowl in Minnesota what it is, not to mention the other notable quiz bowlers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

One issue is that I feel it is hard for me convey to other people the positive impact that quiz bowl had on me (maybe that is something I should work on).
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Nick » Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:33 pm

Not to belabor a point here, but I think a very real and fundamental problem is our lack of consensus on what we call our game, not to mention what that game is.

Matt uses "quizbowl" throughout these posts (a term which I strongly prefer) but notably-experienced player Brendan Byrne uses "quiz bowl" in this very thread. This website uses "quizbowl" as does qbwiki.com but NAQT's website uses "quiz bowl." VHSL and IHSSBCA are some of the biggest quizbowl-organizing organizations out there, and they don't use either (they use "scholastic bowl").

Also, is quizbowl an umbrella term for all sorts of competitions or just the community of people and tournaments represented on this website? Is Questions Unlimited considered quizbowl? Is History Bowl under that umbrella? Science Bowl?

I think its difficult to educate outsiders if we're using 10 different terms for the same thing (or conversely, people use the same word for 10 different things).

Not to marginalize the other points in this thread, because I think they're great, but I'm just not sure there is as much conformity and agreement as Matt might suggest.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Aug 31, 2014 2:15 pm

I don't think a few semantics issues speak to any broad disagreement within the quizbowl community.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby kiestosuccess » Sun Aug 31, 2014 6:06 pm

Strongside wrote:Participating in quiz bowl and taking it seriously offered me a long list of awesome opportunities in high school, in college, and after college.

This is why I am frustrated that the level of high school quiz bowl in Minnesota has declined to the point where one quiz bowler on the irc said, "they just become like the 20 teams in minnesota who are (expletive) and don't care about being not (expletive) but enjoy spending the school's money on hanging out at the dairy queen under the hyatt regency atlanta for three days each may."

Speaking for Minnesota, the infrastructure is in place for a stronger local high school circuit, but it has not happened.

It is unfortunate because Robert Hentzel has worked very hard to make high school quiz bowl in Minnesota what it is, not to mention the other notable quiz bowlers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

One issue is that I feel it is hard for me convey to other people the positive impact that quiz bowl had on me (maybe that is something I should work on).


I'm not sure how it works in other states, but Brendan is really accurate with this. Almost every team in MN doesn't really care that much with a few exceptions (Eden Prairie, Wayzata, STA, Chaska are a few) Teams that have no business at HSNCT get to spend a nice touristy weekend on the school's dollar and get murdered every game by average teams. That attitude is endemic, and it'll be hard to reverse that flow. It's hard to get kids to participate because they think it'll be a waste of a saturday, which it is because they don't care. Helluva catch 22
I'm from the great white north, the land of 10,000+ lakes, where we should be better at quiz bowl, but we aren't. We got second at Knowledge Bowl State, but we don't talk about that.

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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Strongside » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:17 pm

Here are some general reasons why quiz bowl is a great activity.

Quiz bowl is…

1. A way to have fun

2. A way to gain confidence

3. A competition in which there is always an additional challenge

4. A way to learn how to stay calm in stressful situations

5. A way to become more knowledgable and cultured

6. A way to challenge oneself

7. A way to travel and see the country (sometimes at a discounted rate)

8. A way to be social

9. A way to improve mental and physical health

10. A way to learn future life lessons

Here are some of the specific opportunities quiz bowl offered me.

High school:

As a freshman, offered me the chance to be on a good team with some cool upperclassmen.

Participated in a televised match with Ken Jennings as the moderator. Ken graciously traveled to St. Paul to moderate seven rounds of a tournament that was shown on the local public television station.

I received about a minute long feature about me in a video on that local public television station with Robert Hentzel and others saying good things about me.

In December of 2005, Robert Hentzel told me something to the extent that he looked forward to seeing me at quiz bowl meets.

I was part of a graduation class (2006), and generation (2006-2009) that helped transform Minnesota high school quiz bowl.

My first year out of high school was the first year that Thursday night league was played on NAQT questions, as opposed to Patrick's Press questions.

I do not know exactly how R. went about "overthrowing" Patrick's Press, but the success of 2006 probably helped justify his decision.

Finishing 10th out of 128 teams at the 2006 HSNCT. This was somewhat improbable based on the stats from this tournament 18 months earlier.

I was featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (second largest newspaper in Minnesota) twice for my quiz bowl success.

A way to gain leadership opportunities.

A way to represent my high school. I went to a smaller high school, and my senior year was the first time we ever went to HSNCT. The trophy from HSNCT is now in a display case in the hallway.

We never took more than one team to any tournament when I was in high school, and if it were not for me it is possible the program would have died out, temporarily or perhaps even permanently.

In 2013-2014 the school had about 40 different people participate in at least one quiz bowl meet (this includes both middle school and high school). They have attended HSNCT seven years in a row, and have sent at least two teams to the last three MSNCTs.


College:

I want to focus more on high school, because I feel that quiz bowl is at its core a high school, (and now also a middle school game).

Even though I had more success at the collegiate level, I would say I am equally if not more proud of what I accomplished at the high school level.

I don't have specific examples like I do for high school, but I felt my list of ten things were enhanced by playing quiz bowl in college.


Post college:

I participated in football and sports trivia contests sponsored by a local radio station in 2011 and 2012. I won close to $2,000 doing this, was featured in a youtube video where I was called a legend, and was mentioned on the radio station numerous times. My quiz bowl experience and success laid a foundation for this.

I feel that quiz bowl has also helped me in my job. The success and skills I had in quiz bowl may have played a role in me getting promoted and appreciated by my supervisors.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:39 pm

cchiego wrote:Unfortunately, I've also seen the very things that we like in quizbowl--that it goes beyond the standard curriculum, that it encourages actually learning specific things--be denigrated by teachers and administrators when pitching it to them. To many so-called educators, anything outside the curriculum is useless and testing specific facts goes against Common Core and all sorts of other newfangled fads in education. I would be cautious about bragging about going "beyond" the curriculum in initial outreach--just mention the specific categories that do come up.


So, you were a teacher and I wasn't, but I feel like there's a way to phrase quizbowl's "beyond the curriculum" aspect in a way that's interesting to school administrators. First off, its not like quizbowl is a required class or anything other than a fun pasttime, so it's not a "threat" to the normal curriculum in any way. Secondly, quizbowl can only help students in their curricular pursuits. My math teachers, for example, know that the kids on the math team are slam-dunk 5s on the AP Calculus exam - there's no reason quizbowl can't be viewed similarly.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:11 pm

Matthew Jackson wrote:One of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of respect/support is that we’re not good at explaining what we do, or how this game rewards things of value. At least in my experience, the default reaction of a quizbowl person when quizbowl gets brought up outside the game-community is to blush or cast their eyes downward, and wait for the embarrassing revelation to pass.


I think Matt's absolutely right when he says that we shouldn't be embarrassed about quizbowl, but I think it's worth listing out why exactly people have this reaction when the "embarrassing revelation" comes to pass. As this has happened to me several times (by friends and people in power alike), I can think of three main reasons why I had/have that reaction when people bring it up:

1. The image of what "quizbowlers" must be like. Imagine what the average person's image of something like Comic-Con or an anime convention must be like. Now imagine worse. I'm sure that at least a few people imagine this is what quizbowl nationals must be like.

2. Triviality. There are nationals for everything, including Rock-Paper-Scissors, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and skeeball. Quizbowlers all know that the game is much, much deeper than all of these things (while not being as deep as other mind games like chess or go). But the average person's exposure to trivia is probably at a bar or watching Jeopardy!, which really doesn't help us.

3. General Anti-Intellectualism. Matt covered this elsewhere.

I think there are ways to combat all of these things. For the first, I'm not going to advocate that quizbowl become like Model UN or debate, where everyone dresses in a suit - however, I will call for some degree of professionalism among staffers and players. I remember the turning point for me was the Slate article, which features a YouTube video whose still is a picture of me in an ill-fitting t-shirt scratching my axilla - I reasoned that I was presenting a poor image to quizbowl by dressing that way, and have endeavored to do better since then (the T-shirt is lucky, so I still wear it to nationals, but I try to work around it).

I think the second can be combatted with more exposure, hopefully by reporters painting a sympathetic picture of quizbowl and more press from good quizbowl organizations.

Are there other sources of embarrassment that I'm missing?
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby vinteuil » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:45 pm

Sima Guang Hater wrote:
2. Triviality. There are nationals for everything, including Rock-Paper-Scissors, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and skeeball. Quizbowlers all know that the game is much, much deeper than all of these things (while not being as deep as other mind games like chess or go). But the average person's exposure to trivia is probably at a bar or watching Jeopardy!, which really doesn't help us.

I think the second can be combatted with more exposure, hopefully by reporters painting a sympathetic picture of quizbowl and more press from good quizbowl organizations.

Are there other sources of embarrassment that I'm missing?

Matt already explained this in detail, butI find that quiz bowlers (including myself) generally don't have a concise explanation of the game ready to hand (or at least one that does it any justice). I know that I'll either end up going on in a bit too much (—embarrassingly much—) detail, which usually makes the game sound "too intense," or making it sound too superficial.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby UlyssesInvictus » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:59 pm

I'm glad the triviality factor has been brought up. When I first talk to people about quizbowl, near 100% think it's a trivia based competition. This is bad for the deprecative association Eric mentions, but it also wards off a surprisingly high number of people from playing the game who I know would be good at it. They assume they'll have to do a lot of separate studying of meaningless trivia for the game that has no utility, when in fact last week's class would get them a lot of decent buzzes. Addressing the issue of triviality then leads into pyramidality (i.e. vs. speed buzzes) and rewarding knowledge, which makes people respect the game a lot more and feel like they're willing to play it (and even might be good at it). From there it's just following up on them and making sure they attend a practice, I guess.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Strongside » Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:41 pm

One issue is that I feel quiz bowl is seen as an inherently lazy activity, especially compared to speech, debate, Model U.N., chess, and probably other activities.

Quiz bowl is different that a lot of other activities in that is is easier to "hide." For example, if you don't know the answers to any of the questions, you can just sit there.

One way to market quiz bowl would be say to tell teams that most quiz bowl teams do not take quiz bowl seriously, and a team can have a significant advantage by taking quiz bowl seriously.

Examples of this include going to a lot of tournaments, practicing often (and efficiently), and having team members do some outside quiz bowl centered prep and/or studying.

The issues with that, is a team might wonder why they should take quiz bowl seriously if most other teams do not.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Excelsior (smack) » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:34 pm

Matt Jackson wrote:One of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of respect/support is that we’re not good at explaining what we do, or how this game rewards things of value. At least in my experience, the default reaction of a quizbowl person when quizbowl gets brought up outside the game-community is to blush or cast their eyes downward, and wait for the embarrassing revelation to pass.

Contra Eric, I don't think any amount of lipstick on this particular pig is going to fix this. Even if we were to somehow convey to outsiders that quizbowl is, in principle, a deep and non-trivial intellectual activity, the fact of the matter is that the mechanics of quizbowl are inherently embarrassing. We wake up at absurd hours on Saturday mornings for the pleasure of sitting in dank rooms and pushing buttons. Social decorum at quizbowl tournaments is basically not a thing. The community (as seen through the lens of the forums - which is obviously not a good lens, but it's all we have) is brimming with people I would never want to meet. Who would ever want to admit that this is how they spend their time? (As you will note, Matt, I was careful to avoid ever being the guy at the extracurricular bazaar precisely because the idea of telling people they should want to do this was... unappealing.)

What is particularly embarrassing about quizbowl at the collegiate level is the opportunity cost of the whole endeavor - while we are participating in this insular game, our peers are out combating poverty in underprivileged groups, or helping their professors cure cancer, or even just bettering themselves in less absurd ways than quizbowl (e.g. reading a [psychology text]book). Is it better to spend time playing quizbowl than to spend time at an anime convention? Probably, but only in the same sense that rotten eggs smell better than decaying fish. This is less relevant to the high school game (given that high school students are generally less inclined to otherwise spend their time gainfully), but probably not irrelevant altogether.

Eric M. wrote:1. The image of what "quizbowlers" must be like. Imagine what the average person's image of something like Comic-Con or an anime convention must be like. Now imagine worse. I'm sure that at least a few people imagine this is what quizbowl nationals must be like.
...
For the first, I'm not going to advocate that quizbowl become like Model UN or debate, where everyone dresses in a suit - however, I will call for some degree of professionalism among staffers and players. I remember the turning point for me was the Slate article, which features a YouTube video whose still is a picture of me in an ill-fitting t-shirt scratching my axilla - I reasoned that I was presenting a poor image to quizbowl by dressing that way, and have endeavored to do better since then (the T-shirt is lucky, so I still wear it to nationals, but I try to work around it).

I don't think that the average non-quizbowler really has an image of what a "quizbowler" is like so much as they have an image of what a "nerrrrd" is like. This imagery is pervasive (and extends to many other forms of "mind competitions"), and it seems unlikely that there is anything that the quizbowl community can do about it.

Besides, the days of "quizbowl funk" and generally ill-groomed quizbowlers are behind us (right?). At basically every non-open tournament I've been to, the participants looked more or less like a random sample drawn from a typical high school or college - not like a caricature of what someone might imagine a horde of turbonerds to look like. Is there really much more that can be done on the participant side of things without going the suits-for-everyone route? (On the other side of things, though, I think it would be reasonable to ask that people staffing important middle- and high-school tournaments dress somewhat better.)
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:56 pm

Excelsior (smack) wrote:What is particularly embarrassing about quizbowl at the collegiate level is the opportunity cost of the whole endeavor - while we are participating in this insular game, our peers are out combating poverty in underprivileged groups, or helping their professors cure cancer, or even just bettering themselves in less absurd ways than quizbowl (e.g. reading a [psychology text]book).

This seems a little overly-histrionic. Let's be honest--most college students ("our peers") are not the admissions-brochure paragons of virtue you've outlined here, and even if they were, is it really such a sin to spend a couple weekends a month on what is at worst an intellectually-focused leisure activity?
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:08 pm

Excelsior (smack) wrote:What is particularly embarrassing about quizbowl at the collegiate level is the opportunity cost of the whole endeavor - while we are participating in this insular game, our peers are out combating poverty in underprivileged groups, or helping their professors cure cancer, or even just bettering themselves in less absurd ways than quizbowl (e.g. reading a [psychology text]book).


As someone who's seen the gamut of this stuff from being a pre-med, most of it is bullshit posturing. 99% of undergrads who work in cancer labs are not "helping their professors cure cancer" in any meaningful sense, and volunteering to "help the poor" in college is also often cursory and not really worth that much beyond what people use to put on their applications (I'm looking at you, "alternative Spring Break" and the brown-nosing Indian kids who "volunteer" in India). Furthermore, these things aren't really mutually exclusive; I spent time volunteering, doing research, and doing quizbowl in UG, and I'm sure others do the same. It's not as if people who are out doing "useful" things have no use for recreation either.

Here's an analogy - as a physics student, would you feel "embarrassed" if your entire project was some obscure particle physics problem with little "real" application while your classmates were researching ALS or running a charity drive for random-African-country-of-the-week? I think not. There's no reason to be "embarrassed" about how you spend your time.

This really drives the point that we need to think about how to sell quizbowl to people, beyond just the game aspect. When I told people I tutored high schoolers in math, they thought it was legit, and when I tell people I write academic competition questions for high schoolers I get a similar response. It's worth playing up all of these aspects.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Excelsior (smack) » Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:10 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:This seems a little overly-histrionic. Let's be honest--most college students ("our peers") are not the admissions-brochure paragons of virtue you've outlined here, and even if they were, is it really such a sin to spend a couple weekends a month on what is at worst an intellectually-focused leisure activity?

No, of course there's nothing wrong with playing quizbowl. If there were, I would probably not actually play quizbowl. The whole point here is that this is why I hate telling people that I play quizbowl - because it seems like a "sin", and what I'm saying is that quizbowl is fundamentally played in a way that makes it very difficult to paper over with arguments about "intellectual engagement" or whatever.
(But let's not kid ourselves - for those heavily involved in the game, it's not just "a couple weekends a month". It's also all the time you spend practicing and writing questions and coordinating tournament logistics [and, frequently, bloviating on the forums].)

Also, to clarify, yes, I'm aware one can play quizbowl and yet at other times also do things that are not quizbowl, and that many quizbowlers, including the eponymous me, have actually accomplished that. I'm not a moron, and I resent the IRC implications to the contrary. That doesn't change the fact that every hour you spend playing quizbowl is an hour you are not spending on something else, and, more crucially in the context of this thread, is an hour of your life that sounds incredibly stupid when you try to describe it to someone else.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:17 am

Basically zero people (aside from occasional jabs from my fraternity brothers, though not folks in other fraternities/sororities) have publicly expressed any sort of disrespect or lower opinion for me on account of me being interested in and playing quizbowl, probably because I do what Matt Jackson says to do - tell people why I like the game, what happens in it, and what I get to do because of it. It does not, in my experience

Excelsior (smack) wrote:sounds incredibly stupid when you try to describe it to someone else.


since most people seem to understand that buzzers are a logical way to play an academic competition game, and studying academic material outside of class is generally something that people - at least at Dartmouth - think is respectable, contrary to the opinion of our school as some sort of purely finance and frat-dominated privileged Malebolge.

Maybe people snicker behind my back or whatever, but nothing intrinsic about the game makes me uncomfortable to talk about it. Then again, it may have to do with the school I go to, where a ton of the kids - even in our recently-notorious chapter of SAE - did debate, academic bowl, chess, Model UN, or some other extracurricular academically oriented activity in high school. At least superficially, a lot of people to seem to respect you more if you stick with one of these activities from high school and represent your school well in competitions rather than holding up a banner for some affiliation group or being one of the legions of people (myself included) who write for the awful school newspaper.

tl;dr confidence matters, act normal and talk about the game like it's a normal part of your life
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Tue Sep 02, 2014 1:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Tanay » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:55 am

Matthew Jackson wrote:The zeroth step in this process is to be confident.


This is exactly it. I have actually never had a problem discussing quizbowl with people because I am generally excited to talk about it and probably on the higher side of the spectrum as far as expressiveness goes. When quizbowl has come up as a topic of discussion among uninvolved friends, I have often been the one who brings it up, which is fantastic because it allows me to guide the dialogue on the topic ("Yeah, I first read that book just to get an edge in quizbowl but ended up loving it," or "<college that you just mentioned in this discussion> is a big quizbowl rival of ours this year," or "We're running a quizbowl tournament for some high school students this weekend."). This might seem awkwardly forthright or calculated to some, but it isn't so and doesn't have to be. There are a lot of immediately cool aspects of quizbowl (exposure to books/art/history/whatever, competitive nature, rivalries, travel to interesting places, outreach) that should be made apparent in a discussion about an activity in which you are proud of participating. At best, I have found that bringing it up in conversation leads to other interesting topics; at worst, it probably just reinforces the listener's existing perceptions of me, whatever those might be.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Rococo A Go Go » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:32 am

I don't really run into people who think quizbowl is a bad thing for me to be doing with my time, and anybody who has said negative things about quizbowl is usually not the type of person that spends their weekends curing cancer or eliminating poverty. When I bring up the fact that I spend time hosting quizbowl tournaments for high schools, coaching a high school quizbowl team, or doing outreach to get more high school teams to become more active and get better at this game, the vast majority of people see this as a thing that is good for kids and see it as an example of positive work. In fact, we've had people go so far as to list staffing our tournaments as community service hours for high schools, Greek organizations, and other groups.

When it comes to selling this competition as important to outsiders, I actually have a few recommendations to approach this:

1. Get Serious About a Media Strategy. I'll link this post I made last year about this, mainly because those ideas seem to universally accepted and have been mentioned recently. I think this must start at a local level, and I don't see any reason why teams who do well at big events shouldn't already be publicizing their success. If state quizbowl organizations, NAQT, and PACE have to step in, perhaps by writing a template for advertising this success and sending it to teams, then perhaps that's a possibility. NAQT and PACE should also bring in somebody (perhaps within the quizbowl community?) to take video of various parts of their tournament, especially the final matches and awards ceremonies, and include this footage in a 30 (?) minute promotional video that captures what these tournaments are about. These should include interviews with students, parents, and coaches, and this video should be made available on their website in addition to being emailed out to anybody they think it should be sent to. If state organizations want to do this with their tournaments and then send it out to prospective teams, it would probably be an effective tool.

2. Lobbying. I think our best opportunity for expansion isn't just flipping schools who already play bad quizbowl, but bringing in new schools who do nothing at all. How many times has somebody from our community met with the superintendent or school board of a large school district that has little or no participation in quizbowl among its schools, and simply presented to them why quizbowl could be an activity for their schools to participate in? Or for that matter, just going to talk with school principals? Explain to them how they could beat certain schools like rivals or prominent schools that are known throughout their area on the basis of academic performance and/or athletic success. Bring up all of the positive results of quizbowl mentioned here, and how many of the top colleges in the area/state/nation have teams who are active in quizbowl. In addition to this, teams who win state and national championships should have no problem contacting their state legislator and asking them to issue something official congratulating them on their victory. You might not always be successful, but I do know this is common for KAAC champions in Kentucky, and anytime quizbowl is rubbing elbows with people that powerful is a good thing; please also note that you can pretty much do this with any elected official from your city commissioner to a US Senator. And while we're talking about dealing with powerful people, something which I think parts of our community (NHBB and TQBA come to mind) are further ahead on, would be pursuing business partnerships. Not only can this be done with for-profit corporations, but non-profit organizations also love to be associated with academic competition; let's not ignore the fact that the Masons have been sponsoring academic competition in Illinois (even if that competition has had problems) for quite a long time, and several non-profit organizations sponsor KAAC's competitions.

3. Building a Pro-Quizbowl Army. One way we can expand the quizbowl community is not only build upon the people we already have, but actually expanding our notion of what the quizbowl community is. When kids graduate high school, we tend to believe they either play college quizbowl or leave the community altogether. This isn't entirely the case however, and definitely doesn't have to be in the future. Even more so, we tend to ignore the parents of students when they can actually be beneficial allies in changing the image of quizbowl, since they understand what the competition is like and the positive benefits it had for their kids. We can build networks of current and former players, staffers, parents, and coaches from all levels who may have extraordinarily different conceptions of what staying involved with quizbowl may be. Perhaps these people don't want to play quizbowl after they graduate in high school, but having a database of people who have ever done anything with quizbowl can help us try to keep them involved. It might not be a bad idea for certain organizations (especially on state and local levels) to have a regular newsletter to update these people on what is going on with quizbowl, and a contact database can also be used to get in touch with these people to inform them of upcoming events in their area that they can attend or help out with. Some of these people may even be willing to donate some money to state quizbowl alliances, local teams, national organizations like PACE, or quizbowl charities that provide outreach grants, buzzer systems and other current and future areas of quizbowl philanthropy. And the genius of this is that new people are added to these groups every year, we can build upon these numbers every year, and we can expand the concept of being a member of the quizbowl community from being somebody who is basically 18-30 years old to something that encompasses all age groups and cuts across every walk of life. Not everybody will listen to you and in fact most probably won't, but if 90% don't want to help quizbowl in any way, it's a lot better to be rejected by 90% of 1,000 people than 90% of 100 people.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Cheynem » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:06 am

In his Weinerian style, Matt Weiner has alluded to this of late, but I think quizbowl could do a better job of weeding out (or making them change their ways) the folks who are socially awkward. Now, I don't mean here any of the "nerrrrd" fooferah that plagues all quizbowlers, but like people who are just incredibly awkward, offensive, or bothersome to be around--I'm sure you can think of examples in your own clubs or perhaps more accurately, in other clubs. These people can drive away both recruits and favorable perceptions of quizbowl. In many cases, their weird social tics or obnoxious behavior can be very harmful, not just annoying. Quizbowl on a whole is fairly tolerant, which on the one hand is good, but something perhaps should be said about "how do you get tough on problem people."

I'll give two examples:

My first year at practice there was this I assume borderline autistic strange person who came to a number of practices. He would recite terrible Internet memes, cackle with glee at his own jokes, and push the buzzer a lot for no reason (believe it or not but he was actually okay on some topics, like philo). I got to the point where if I saw him going into the practice room ahead of me, I would not go. I'm sure for people who liked quizbowl on a weaker level than me, it was even worse.

A few years later, I pulled out of a tournament the week of--the only time this has happened in my quizbowl career and because I was in a fairly dark time, professionally and personally. I sent what I thought was a very apologetic, personal e-mail about my situation and apologized profusely. I received from my perspective a very dismissive e-mail about how pulling out of tournaments is a bad thing. Now I know that person was not trying to be mean (and that person immediately clarified it and we're completely cool now), but it's an example of how "talking up quizbowl" is more than big ad campaigns and media coverage; it's thinking of good social conventions when you interact with teammates and the like.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:14 pm

Cheynem wrote:In his Weinerian style, Matt Weiner has alluded to this of late, but I think quizbowl could do a better job of weeding out (or making them change their ways) the folks who are socially awkward. Now, I don't mean here any of the "nerrrrd" fooferah that plagues all quizbowlers, but like people who are just incredibly awkward, offensive, or bothersome to be around--I'm sure you can think of examples in your own clubs or perhaps more accurately, in other clubs. These people can drive away both recruits and favorable perceptions of quizbowl. In many cases, their weird social tics or obnoxious behavior can be very harmful, not just annoying. Quizbowl on a whole is fairly tolerant, which on the one hand is good, but something perhaps should be said about "how do you get tough on problem people."

I'll give two examples:

My first year at practice there was this I assume borderline autistic strange person who came to a number of practices. He would recite terrible Internet memes, cackle with glee at his own jokes, and push the buzzer a lot for no reason (believe it or not but he was actually okay on some topics, like philo). I got to the point where if I saw him going into the practice room ahead of me, I would not go. I'm sure for people who liked quizbowl on a weaker level than me, it was even worse.

A few years later, I pulled out of a tournament the week of--the only time this has happened in my quizbowl career and because I was in a fairly dark time, professionally and personally. I sent what I thought was a very apologetic, personal e-mail about my situation and apologized profusely. I received from my perspective a very dismissive e-mail about how pulling out of tournaments is a bad thing. Now I know that person was not trying to be mean (and that person immediately clarified it and we're completely cool now), but it's an example of how "talking up quizbowl" is more than big ad campaigns and media coverage; it's thinking of good social conventions when you interact with teammates and the like.


While I'm sure that this post is not intended to be a call for more vituperation and hostility, I think it could easily be interpreted as such. Phrases like "weeding out (or making them change their ways) the folks who are socially awkward" raise major red flags for me.

In all four years that I was on the Yale team, there was always some small degree of interpersonal conflict between people on the team, which naturally made those involved less willing to be involved in practices and tournaments. However, this conflict could be: (1) A "socially awkward" or "strange person" of the kind that Mike describes made practices uncomfortable or annoying for everyone else; (2) A socially "normal" person made someone more awkward or shy feel uncomfortable with too much in-joking, insufficient attempts to be inclusive and solicitous, behavior which the normal person considered to be inoffensive but which was interpreted as bullying, etc.; (3) People sometimes have clashing personalities, and small conflicts naturally occurred. These are three very different problems, which could only be solved on a case-specific, interpersonal basis. They would not have been improved by people deciding that "social awkwardness" was the root of the problem, and fronting some campaign against that. Sometimes that was the problem, but sometimes it wasn't at all, and the "normal" people were just too used to dealing with people who were temperamentally similar to themselves.

I find Mike's post worrying because from my experience of the boards, my infrequent visits to the IRC, and my perusal of the excerpts from IRC logs that have been posted online, I know that the quizbowl community can be very cruel to people who it does not like, about personal characteristics that have no bearing on the game itself. Anyone who has interacted with me personally knows that I'm happy to engage in personal dialogue that others might find harshly critical, but I always found the IRC to be an unwelcoming and uncomfortable environment, which I could not hope to be a part of. Some of the better recruiting I've seen has involved actively telling newcomers to avoid the IRC and the boards because the online community is cliquish and hostile in a way that one's experience of the game need not be.

There are people who genuinely do harm to the game or to their club, by writing or promoting bad tournaments and formats, flaking out on responsibilities, being irresponsible or dishonest in their dealings with others, etc. But there are also well-intentioned people who aren't doing anything morally harmful, who happen to have personalities that major community figures find really irritating. And I think there's a very bad habit of failing to distinguish between these sorts of people, and to engage in caustic and public mockery of both of them, as if they are equivalent.

If Mike is suggesting that we could do more as individuals interacting with other individuals to make the environments of our clubs more socially conducive to newcomers, then I totally agree. If he is suggesting that we need to do more as a semi-public community of people on the internet to enforce some sort of dubiously normative code of social conduct, then I very strongly disagree, and would suggest that our attempts to do this have often been unproductively toxic.

We should continue to combat corrosive quizbowl practices that damage the game. (I've addressed the abuses of the idea of "civility" on either side of the aisle here: viewtopic.php?f=151&t=15045&p=268968&hilit=civility#p268968) But irritating and awkward people are not a quizbowl-specific problem with some quizbowl-based solution; they're a basic life problem, that one should deal with via interpersonal, non-rabble-rousing means. We could afford to have more one-to-one conversations with people whose behavior we think is destructive and could be improved with constructive criticism, and to do less hiding behind avatars while taking potshots.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Cheynem » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:42 pm

I was definitely not suggesting we resort to Internet focused namecalling; I would hope my track record as a fairly nonvituperative person would support that. "Weeding out" was probably the wrong phrase--I don't mean like "you crack one ill advised joke or you do one thing that annoys me and YOU'RE GONE." I mean pervasively bothersome behavior.

I actually agree that a lot of the IRC/online community for quizbowl has many negative, cliquish aspects to it (I find it more welcoming than John, but I see where he's coming from and at least once per week I resolve never to visit it again, so maybe that's a discussion worth happening). I was not suggesting that the online community form campaigns to root out "socially awkward" behavior. In the examples, I listed there was nothing that the IRC/online community/whatever could have (or should have) done. Public mockery is, to be clear, not the answer for the vast majority of these issues (unless, of course, there are particularly toxic or negative issues, such, as trash capture or sexual harassment or what have you).

I also agree that social awkwardness is a part of life and was trying to get across the fact that I was not simply referring to "odd" behavior or shyness or anything of that nature. I'm pretty introverted and at times brusque; I've had a variety of teammates who could be described as "odd." These can all be resolved in mundane ways.

Instead, in the examples I listed, better interpersonal or interteam communication (as John alludes to) should have been performed. The strange person in example one should have been sat down for a non-mocking, serious heart to heart (and who knows, maybe this happened before I joined the team) in which he could have been politely told that aspects of his behavior (buzzing in all the time even when no question was being asked, for instance) were unacceptable. In the second example, I should have demonstrated better communication skills in telling the sender of that e-mail that I was extremely bothered by it, instead of letting it stew and warp my perception of the team for a semester. That could have improved overall communication within the team. Again, these are examples of "individuals interacting with other individuals" to improve the environment of clubs.

Regarding the last point John makes, about "dubiously normative code of social conduct," I think there is room for this, but again in the ways that John alludes--we must stamp out the behavior that genuinely does "harm to the game or to their club"--as a community, we should denounce trash capture, clubs that engage in creepily unwelcome sexual behavior, intentionally piss poor tournament direction, etc. The more specific (Person X is acting very bothersome, annoying all other team members) needs to be addressed on an individual, intra-team basis. My point in posting this is that I think quizbowlers tend to be very poor at doing this and that it might be worth it if people who are better at it shared some ideas about how to do it better.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Sima Guang Hater » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:53 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:While I'm sure that this post is not intended to be a call for more vituperation and hostility, I think it could easily be interpreted as such. Phrases like "weeding out (or making them change their ways) the folks who are socially awkward" raise major red flags for me.

In all four years that I was on the Yale team, there was always some small degree of interpersonal conflict between people on the team, which naturally made those involved less willing to be involved in practices and tournaments. However, this conflict could be: (1) A "socially awkward" or "strange person" of the kind that Mike describes made practices uncomfortable or annoying for everyone else; (2) A socially "normal" person made someone more awkward or shy feel uncomfortable with too much in-joking, insufficient attempts to be inclusive and solicitous, behavior which the normal person considered to be inoffensive but which was interpreted as bullying, etc.; (3) People sometimes have clashing personalities, and small conflicts naturally occurred. These are three very different problems, which could only be solved on a case-specific, interpersonal basis. They would not have been improved by people deciding that "social awkwardness" was the root of the problem, and fronting some campaign against that.


So I don't think that anyone's calling for some kind of Fatwa Council to hand out decisions against particularly annoying or socially awkward quizbowlers. I too have dealt with team disputes (and even been part of some/the cause of some), few of which were not solved by simply addressing the issue over Chipotle or a brief online conversation. I would just call for people, especially people in power, to be cognizant of social friction on the team, and try to do something about it. I also think you're failing to distinguish between dealing with normal disputes between [young] adults and not being afraid to have a serious conversation with that one kid who is annoying the hell out of everyone on the team - thankfully I've never really had to deal with the latter, but I imagine others have.

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I find Mike's post worrying because from my experience of the boards, my infrequent visits to the IRC, and my perusal of the excerpts from IRC logs that have been posted online, I know that the quizbowl community can be very cruel to people who it does not like, about personal characteristics that have no bearing on the game itself. Anyone who has interacted with me personally knows that I'm happy to engage in personal dialogue that others might find harshly critical, but I always found the IRC to be an unwelcoming and uncomfortable environment, which I could not hope to be a part of. Some of the better recruiting I've seen has involved actively telling newcomers to avoid the IRC and the boards because the online community is cliquish and hostile in a way that one's experience of the game need not be.


I'm not sure why you would do this, or why you would find the IRC particularly unwelcoming. Like you, I'm notorious for having strong opinions on a smallish portion of the canon and butting heads with people over it, but I don't seem to be receiving the kind of backlash that you are. You may also be confusing legitimate criticism of the music mafia with personal attacks.

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:There are people who genuinely do harm to the game or to their club, by writing or promoting bad tournaments and formats, flaking out on responsibilities, being irresponsible or dishonest in their dealings with others, etc. But there are also well-intentioned people who aren't doing anything morally harmful, who happen to have personalities that major community figures find really irritating. And I think there's a very bad habit of failing to distinguish between these sorts of people, and to engage in caustic and public mockery of both of them, as if they are equivalent.


I've found that if quizbowl at large finds a particular figure irritating, there's probably a good reason for it. Therefore, I'm not really sure who falls in your latter category. Furthermore, I think you're failing to make the distinction between finding people irritating in certain situations (in game, on the boards) but not others (in real life). There are some people (I won't name names) who I find it incredibly irritating to play against or edit with, for example, but I make the distinction between those situations and more general social interactions (like practice) that Mike is talking about.

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:We should continue to combat corrosive quizbowl practices that damage the game. (I've addressed the abuses of the idea of "civility" on either side of the aisle here: http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... ty#p268968)


Wow dude, you just linked to a very even-tempered and well-thought-out exchange between several prominent quizbowlers (many of whom frequent the IRC) . This isn't exactly supporting your point that the QB internet community is a cliquish and terrible place.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Sep 02, 2014 5:38 pm

Eric, I linked to that post because, in it, I list practices that I think drive people away from the forums. I was clearly not proffering the thread itself as an example of a discussion that got out of hand, since that was a nice discussion. So, I don't know what your point is. That linking to an example of a successful civilized discussion somehow fatally undermines my point that the environment here can be a turn-off?

First of all, that's simply not a reasoned line of argumentation. But second, I obviously don't need to be convinced that the forums have value and that the discussions we have can be productive and important for our game. If I didn't believe that, I would have stopped posting here a long time ago. And I myself don't dissuade people from going onto the forums or the IRC.

But I certainly understand why some people do. We are a community that host a public "airing of grievances" that has resulted in some unpleasant personal attacks on other people (the objects of which have sometimes found out about them later and been upset). Our IRC page publicly links to a compendium of humorous excerpts from discussions, some of which are nothing more than insults about how annoying certain people are. We had a side tournament recently which featured questions in which a quizbowl player is reimagined as the victim of various serial killers.

Your response is: "I've found that if quizbowl at large finds a particular figure irritating, there's probably a good reason for it." Well, sure. You and I might have a very similar list of who is and is not irritating, and simply a dissimilar conception of what kinds of public expressions of displeasure with irritating people we think are appropriate or conducive to our goals for the expansion of the game. I think you would have trouble maintaining that even the majority of these instances of ridicule are attempts to constructively solve issues with people impeding the functioning of good quizbowl.

The idea here is not to point fingers and say that we're all terrible people. I don't engage in the activities I listed before, but I certainly participate in things that enable them or do nothing to discourage them (e.g. though I did not write a Kirk-Jing-getting-murdered question, I still played Tricon), and so it would be hypocritical to do so. And though I have been the butt of jokes that I have not enjoyed, I also have been the subject of much humor that I have enjoyed, and which made me feel more a part of this community, rather than less (e.g the Liveblog, the John Lawrence category in the recent Mike Cheyne tournament, etc.). To the extent that I do participate in selected elements of the quizbowl culture that are not just playing the game, I obviously feel that the cost-benefit works out enough in my favor.

Nonetheless, because these areas are all public, and because the forums in particular also happen to be our place of official business, in which all tournaments are announced, organized, etc., it does reflect on the perception of the community of people and on the game as a whole. An internet culture saturated with in-jokes and which takes a certain pleasure in displays of bickering and jokes at each others' expenses is going to attract certain people and turn off other people. Among those who will be turned off are those whose experiences of the jokes exclusively involves either being on the outside or being the butt of the joke. It is a perfectly valid response to say that you think those people are being too thin-skinned, and you don't want to waste time accommodating them. I won't argue with that attitude in and of itself. But it seems counterproductive to me to take that attitude while at the same time expressing interest in improving expansion and retention.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Nabonidus » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:16 pm

To briefly return to something that was discussed a little earlier:

I actually think the notion of "studying for quizbowl" presents a pretty negative image, at least to the extent it sounds like rote memorization rather than multipurpose leisure activities like listening to podcasts or reading Science Magazine. The former doesn't result in fun for anyone, and it's not something that I would want to see incentivized in the future, much less used as a selling point.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Strongside » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:32 pm

I feel that the number one threat facing quiz bowl is the amount of hostility and vituperation.

This is primarily a problem at the college/open level but it has trickled down to the high school level, which is definitely a concern.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby vinteuil » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:47 pm

canonomics wrote:To briefly return to something that was discussed a little earlier:

I actually think the notion of "studying for quizbowl" presents a pretty negative image, at least to the extent it sounds like rote memorization rather than multipurpose leisure activities like listening to podcasts or reading Science Magazine. The former doesn't result in fun for anyone, and it's not something that I would want to see incentivized in the future, much less used as a selling point.

I find that stressing the opposite ("real knowledge") makes quizbowl sound impossibly difficult; obviously very good players have struck a balance favoring either direction, so I think the key is to emphasize both.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Mike Bentley » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:32 pm

With respect to "what are people's first impressions when someone says they play quizbowl", I imagine there's a sizable chunk of people out there who have some familiarity with other trivia formats like (in rough order of familiarity):

1. Jeopardy
2. Bar trivia
3. Trivial pursuit
4. Other gameshows
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Nabonidus » Wed Sep 03, 2014 1:23 am

vinteuil wrote:
canonomics wrote:To briefly return to something that was discussed a little earlier:

I actually think the notion of "studying for quizbowl" presents a pretty negative image, at least to the extent it sounds like rote memorization rather than multipurpose leisure activities like listening to podcasts or reading Science Magazine. The former doesn't result in fun for anyone, and it's not something that I would want to see incentivized in the future, much less used as a selling point.

I find that stressing the opposite ("real knowledge") makes quizbowl sound impossibly difficult; obviously very good players have struck a balance favoring either direction, so I think the key is to emphasize both.


I don't really think difficulty is the difference. We already have novice tournaments based on stuff a first-year student might reasonably be expected to have real knowledge about, don't we?

Come to think of it, in an ideal world we might stress neither and instead promote something along the lines of "quick critical thinking". The ability to make strong guesses based on discussion among your team mates is an important aspect of the quizbowl format. In a similar vein, although the points are the same when you hear something like a book title and buzz automatically and when you buzz aggressively based on an educated guess, the latter is more intellectually demanding, more rewarding when it pays off, and a better display of one's actual ability to play the game as a game rather than as a mental table of correlations.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:30 pm

The reason I first fell in love with quizbowl is because it rewarded me for things that I was already doing. I was going to read books anyway, but here was an activity that gave me points and trophies and adrenaline-laced competition and even eventually free trips to places like New Orleans and California for doing...what I would have done anyway. Those suckers!

If you add it all up, I've probably spent a solid week of my life logged into HSQB debating the precise meaning of the word "academic" in a quizbowl context. That might say something about me, but it also says something about the word "academic" - it's not precisely defined, not in the way we use it.

So instead of promising people "academic questions", why not tie quizbowl back to interests that potential quizbowlers likely already have. Do they like to read novels? There are questions about books, characters, and authors and they're written specifically so that people who've read the book have an advantage. Do they like art? etc. etc. Yeah, maybe the people who like to read books, listen to music, look at art, etc. are a small minority - but America is a nation of 300+ million people and our small minorities dwarf the total population of other sovereign states.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Bride by Mistake » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:29 pm

Not sure if this has already been mentioned, but a NAQT tossup appeared in the latest Time Magazine issue under the page "Are you smarter than a teenager? To find out, take this quiz with questions from the SAT, teen Jeopardy!, Oxford Dictionaries and more"

This featured twelve questions, including two SAT questions, two Common Core questions, a California DMV question, and a Teen Jeopardy! question on Tennessee(Shiloh/Colliersville).

The eighth question:

8) NATIONAL ACADEMIC QUIZ TOURNAMENTS, ART HISTORY

This artist created a gray-and-black portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and multiple seated portraits of the artist’s lover Dora Maar. His Portrait of Suzanne Bloch dates from the same era as his painting of an elderly street musician. In a 1937 mural, he showed a severed arm holding a broken sword and a dead child held by a screaming woman. Name this Spanish painter of The Old Guitarist and Guernica.


http://time.com/3204266/are-you-smarter-than-a-teenager/

Things wrong with this:

1. There is no distinction made between the presentation of an NAQT tossup (good quizbowl) and that of a question on emoji (bad trivia).

2. The reader, who's never heard of quizbowl, will have no idea of how the mechanisms work; all he/she sees is a paragraph of text on Picasso, and will not know that it is a pyramidal tossup meant to be read out loud for players to buzz and interrupt. Without this knowledge, quizbowl seems pretty silly, a waste of space for an entire paragraph when only the last line will do. Tossups should not be presented without at least SOME idea of how the game is played.

Although it's nice that NAQT gets exposure in a major media outlet, there's a need to get actual gameplay in these articles, not just a tossup or two which fail to distinguish us from Jeopardy! or various standardized testing questions.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby cvdwightw » Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:35 am

Now that I've read the whole series, I'm going to start writing some things about my experience that may or may not be generalizable to other places.

1. In some areas, it is easier to expand a small circuit than to convert "bad quizbowl" teams. Imagine that you're trying to convince your friends to see a new art film. One friend doesn't usually go out and see movies. The other one has only ever gone to the theater to see the latest comic book movie, and has been doing so since 2005. Which one would be easier to convince?

For the first friend, who doesn't really understand movies or why they would be interesting, you could come up with all sorts of great sales pitches on why you like art films. The second friend, however, has pretty clear and diametrically opposite preferences. Your sales pitches probably won't work, because you're not getting at the underlying issue - you have to convince him that your preferences are better than his preferences.

In my experience it's been much easier to get a team together from scratch (or, more realistically, from Science Bowl/debate team/etc. players or refugees) than to convince established teams to try "good quizbowl" for more than a tournament or two. The problem with these teams isn't that they stop playing, but that the interested people graduate and there's no institutional memory to sustain the team. Chris obviously had some different success in San Diego and he might disagree on this point.

2. Outreach doesn't begin and end with teachers and students. I think Matt might have covered this a little bit in some other parts, but I can think off the top of my head of several examples where a quizbowl-[other entity] partnership has tried to work. Generally, with the exception of NAQT taking over the ACUI contract, this has mostly worked with bad quizbowl. I suspect that this has more to do with the fact that "bad quizbowl" people are more adept at, or perhaps more invested in, "showcasing" a product than actually producing a quality one.

There's no reason why this can't work with good quizbowl. Is there a local nonprofit that might be interested in running or sponsoring tournaments? For instance, the Kiwanis Club in Santa Ana runs a series of tournaments for high schools in the city, some of which are on IS-A sets. If you go to a smaller or lesser-known state school, could you sell someone in the school's administration or honors college on the exposure that they would get by having a bunch of academically-oriented high schoolers competing on campus? What about the local Department of Education? I found the right people at the OC Department of Education a few years ago and got an in-person meeting, and I think that if they weren't worried about the number of teams leaving Academic Decathlon (apparently the entirety of every year's AcDec materials is written by a nonprofit affiliate of OCDE), I would have had a decent chance of selling them (I might also be delusional on this point).

The point is that we shouldn't limit outreach to just trying to convince new schools to join. There are plenty of passionate people outside of quizbowl that have plenty of experience in doing things that quizbowlers are notoriously bad at. If we can find the right groups of these people, we have a better chance of succeeding at outreach than if we just do it on our own.

The other point is that this needs to truly be a partnership. By this I mean that you will have to sacrifice some autonomy over some areas of the competition - you can't just expect a group to put their name on your event and maybe provide some money and staff without some sort of benefit to them. Often, this means that you will have to make some compromises. Realistically, in my opinion, the only things you should hold hard and fast on are that the tournament uses a valid good question source and that every team should be guaranteed some minimum number of games (5 is usually a good number). Outside of that, everything else should probably be up for discussion.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby theMoMA » Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:12 am

Dwight, I think you're onto something with the discussion of institutional memory. In the high school arena, quizbowl is pulling away from a lot of the older coaches whose allegiances were to inferior formats. In many places, largely student-run programs have sprung up. But without the constant guiding presence of faculty, it's hard for these student-run teams to sustain themselves. And unfortunately, it's not always possible for teams to have faculty advisers because budget-strapped schools are cutting support (usually faculty funding) for extracurriculars in many places.

The move to student-run programs is less harmful to team continuity in college (because players stick around longer), but the pressures on teams to move away from the sponsorship of their schools is greater. In the CBI era, many teams had full professors who served as coaches or advisers, and almost all teams were integrated into their schools' student unions or other official bureaucracy. This is nearly impossible on today's college campuses because of the combined trends of emphasis on faculty publication and research, the instructorization and gradstudentization of teaching positions at many schools, and the general emphasis on (cost-conscious) student-run activities over more official campus ones. College campuses are just fundamentally different in 2014 than they were in 1994, and it's harder for quizbowl to become embedded on campus as something more than a peer to Judo Club or whatever.

I also think you're onto something when it comes to team creation rather than conversion, and I think it ties in with your point about continuity and institutional memory. To use an ecology metaphor, the old-growth forest that was pre-modern quizbowl burned down about 20 years ago, leaving only a few sturdy trees behind, and we're still in the primary succession phase. The nutrients are there, and lots programs are sprouting up out of the ashes. But many of them are scrubby and will die off in a few years. We need to think of ways to help new teams achieve continuity without the old support systems that provided continuity in the pre-modern era. It's a tough problem because it often involves finding a steady source of money and institutional support in an increasingly corporate-run education system, but hopefully something that we can collectively figure out.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby cchiego » Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:53 am

Dwight's point about trying to find other entryways into the system than teachers/students is quite true, if hard to accomplish in practice. If you get a line-item in the district budget for quizbowl, it can be neigh-impossible to remove and often leads to more institutional support. If you fund quizbowl out of discretionary funds every year though, it's very easy to see those funds dry up and people move on to other things. The problem, of course, is figuring out where these opportunities exist and knowing what to say to make use of them.

Kiwanis and Rotary I think are very underutilized; there may be other groups out there that would love to sponsor something like this as well. I also don't think you have to make too many gameplay compromises per se, but you'd have to be comfortable with turning it into more of an event than a competition. For instance, I saw in San Diego several Rotary orgs got together with an experienced high school team to run a one-day Model UN event that was free, included students from pretty much every school in the Rotary areas (including many without any form of Model UN otherwise), and involved the Rotary members working with the students directly. It didn't really involve much direct competition, but it got to a lot of schools.

In my experience it's been much easier to get a team together from scratch (or, more realistically, from Science Bowl/debate team/etc. players or refugees) than to convince established teams to try "good quizbowl" for more than a tournament or two. The problem with these teams isn't that they stop playing, but that the interested people graduate and there's no institutional memory to sustain the team. Chris obviously had some different success in San Diego and he might disagree on this point.


I'm agnostic on whether it's easier/better to focus on converting existing bad QB or trying to start brand new teams. There are tradeoffs to both approaches and it seems the factor far more than bad QB or brand new is, once again, the importance of establishing a personal rapport with someone who's excited about quizbowl at the school. The key advantage of having an existing team is that it's often easier to get in touch with a teacher if there's already a team of some kind there. Groups of students coming to play should be welcomed too, but without a long-term adult presence those teams often don't last long.

Although it's nice that NAQT gets exposure in a major media outlet, there's a need to get actual gameplay in these articles, not just a tossup or two which fail to distinguish us from Jeopardy! or various standardized testing questions.


Why don't you write a letter to the editor? Time is always desperate for material. I still think we need to find some New Yorker, Atlantic, etc. writer who's interested enough in quizbowl to do a full-length story on the good qb vs. bad qb war. I'd also be curious if anyone in educational psychology wanted to compare people trained for both kinds of quizbowl for an academic article--this seems like an interesting way to compare how students learn/process info and could be a nice feather in our caps when doing outreach (it's PROVEN SCIENTIFICALLY to be better).
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Mark Wolfsberg » Sun Sep 28, 2014 3:40 pm

I was talking to my brother a few weeks ago about this topic. He is a scientist who has nothing at all to do with Quiz Bowl.

The first thing he said was that the Name " Quiz Bowl" is bad. It makes it seem like Trivia, and not academic at all. He felt that the name could not be worse. Quiz is bad on its own & so is Bowl. Something that lets you know it is an all subjects academic competition would be better, Anyone else have thoughts on the name itself? If we come up with something better, how do you implement the change?
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Cheynem » Sun Sep 28, 2014 3:51 pm

The one issue with switching quizbowl's name is that some potential names have ugly baggage or associations with bad quizbowl (College Bowl, Knowledge Bowl). Other names may be more appropriate but that might be an instance of reinventing the wheel, as it becomes tougher for teams to figure out that "academic challenge" or whatever is the same thing as what every other school is calling it.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Mark Wolfsberg » Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:41 am

I have no doubt that attempting a name change would be a huge endeavor. You would need widespread consensus to begin with; I wonder if other people even agree with me the "Quiz Bowl" is a bad name?
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Aaron Manby (ironmaster) » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:40 am

I don't see a problem with the Quizbowl name. When I started in high school, there was this thing called Quizbowl, and it turned out I liked Quizbowl it could have been called anything within reason, and I don't think it would have changed my mind or someone else's mind.

I think Quizbowl is a good name provided it uniquely refers to the standard format we play today and not the general scope of buzzer based competition, so it isn't associated with things like Knowledge Bowl, or College Bowl, or Whatever Bowl.

This stems from a brief discussion in an earlier thread about Canada. In Canada, we refer to "Quizbowl" as specifically pyramidal tossup/3 part bonus play. Reach for the Top is not Quizbowl. It's "Reach for the Top" or "Schoolreach" or "Reach". Whereas while reading the forums and qbwiki, nAC, Knowledge Bowl, other :chip: may be considered a form of "Quizbowl". Bad quizbowl would be things like poorly written tossups, or non 10-10-10 bonuses like VETO, or really old NAQT. Something like Battle of the Brains, or Knowledge Bowl are Bad in the way we think of Bad today, but shouldn't be referred to as "Quizbowl" as if it was something written intended to be 20/20.

Unrelated note, I think quizbowl is effective through the combination of being able to test what you know in your subject while also opening the doors to further intellectual pursuits. Having science knowledge in grade 9 got me into the game, but years later, stuff I absorbed through the game has influenced me to read certain novels and visit art museums.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Mark Wolfsberg » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:41 am

Joe,

The reason I brought up the name "problem", is that the question came to me from an outside source, my brother. You are an insider, as am I. We are used to the name and don't mind it. But for someone, outside our clique, who has school age children, who would be considered recruiting candidates, The name seemed hokey and cheap. It sounds like a bad game show, not an academic competition.

BTW Los Alamos High School, despite having a strong, music, drama, speech and debate, and science bowl programs has no Quiz Bowl Team.....
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby pajaro bobo » Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:41 am

Mark Wolfsberg wrote:BTW Los Alamos High School, despite having a strong, music, drama, speech and debate, and science bowl programs has no Quiz Bowl Team.....

I really hope you're not implying that their lack of a QB team has something to do with the name.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Nabonidus » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:02 pm

Speaking of names, does anyone think the game might sound more "official" to certain interested parties if we had actual team names like in intermural sports?

Weird idea, I know, but people already have lots of fun coming up with names for open tournaments. I don't see that expanding the practice would be harmful in any way provided the names were brief and distinct.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby bsmith » Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:41 pm

canonomics wrote:Speaking of names, does anyone think the game might sound more "official" to certain interested parties if we had actual team names like in intermural sports?

Weird idea, I know, but people already have lots of fun coming up with names for open tournaments. I don't see that expanding the practice would be harmful in any way provided the names were brief and distinct.

The "fun" team names of open and trash tournaments would not appear "official" to outsiders. The only team names that might bring some sense of formality would be school sport names ("Laval Rouge et Or", "Carleton Ravens", etc)- but for some schools, those names are trademarks that cannot be casually adopted by club teams.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Nabonidus » Wed Oct 01, 2014 12:35 am

I imagine it wouldn't be that hard to strike a balance between "fun" and "formal" if you kept names to pluralized nouns. I imagine most of them would end up being historical or literary references. You're definitely right about that trademark bit, though.
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Mark Wolfsberg » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:11 am

pajaro bobo wrote:
Mark Wolfsberg wrote:BTW Los Alamos High School, despite having a strong, music, drama, speech and debate, and science bowl programs has no Quiz Bowl Team.....

I really hope you're not implying that their lack of a QB team has something to do with the name.



Not at all... I live in Upstate NY now. Just pointing at NM as a place that some promotion could be undertaken....
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Re: The Big Vision: [2] The "Sales Pitch": Talking Up Quizbo

Postby Important Bird Area » Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:18 pm

Mark Wolfsberg wrote:Just pointing at NM as a place that some promotion could be undertaken....


Quoting this for emphasis. New Mexico is one of the very few places quizbowl has moved backwards in recent years. Five years ago, there was a small-but-extant circuit; now there is almost nothing.

(2009 NAQT New Mexico states; 2012 Albuquerque Academy, the most recent NM team to attend a national tournament)
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