Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

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Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:20 am

About a year ago, I started a thread titled Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? I did so shortly after Mike Cheyne had made a similarly-named thread about NHBB, causing Chris Ray to accuse me of some sort of rhetorical maneuvering. I pointed out that he was wrong, and that reading the thread had convinced me to submit an application to NAQT.

I now have an answer to that titular question: I absolutely would not recommend working for NAQT.

I will attempt to recreate the events that led to my conclusion. Everything I say will be accurate to the best of my recollection. (It's possible that Jonah can consult his tapes and find factual errors, but none would substantively affect the narrative.)

In the days after that thread played out, I contacted NAQT to tell them I'd like to submit an application. Jonah got back to me saying that the window to apply had literally closed the day before. However, he was willing to seek permission for a late application, although he told me that since he'd have to use some political capital to make it happen, I'd have to guarantee to write a reasonable volume throughout the year. (I'll leave the reader to consider how much political capital should be necessary to accept an application a day late.) I agreed and sent in an application in the first half of August 2016.

One month later, I got a call from Jonah. He told me that my questions were deemed to be of quality (his exact compliment was that they had not been barfed up by a cat), but that NAQT was reluctant to offer me a contract due to my involvement with NHBB. He also told me that the reason I had stopped getting invitations to staff NAQT events was that NAQT's policy is to not invite representatives of its competitors who might try to lure teams away.

First off, this "policy" does not exactly strike me as a real thing. I remember high-ranking HSAPQ people reading for me at HSNCT, and I had seen David Madden at the last HSNCT I coached, which he was staffing. Is this a new policy? So, I wrote to Jeff Hoppes asking if this was actual policy. His response was that there was no such formal policy and that I would be invited to staff the xCTS in Spring 2017. (Spoiler alert: I wasn't.)

Second, it was news to me that I was a "representative" of NHBB. My involvement with NHBB started when Brad, newly hired as NHBB question writing coordinator, contacted me for suggestions about marking up quizbowl questions in LaTeX. The more we talked, the more we realized that he needed a full-fledged question management system. Since I knew what the software needed to do and how to make it happen, I was hired as a contractor to build Packetizor.com/NHBB. David Madden allowed me to keep intellectual property of the software, but NHBB would retain a perpetual license of it. So, somehow being a contractor made me a representative, which goes against all precedent on what those words mean. When I asked Jonah how I came to be considered a "representative" of NHBB, he cited as evidence some post that David Madden had written about the introduction of USABB. Granted, Madden's post did make it seem that I was playing a central role in USABB, but my involvement there was equal to what I did for NHBB, which they could have found out by asking anyone.

At this point, Jonah begins questioning me back, asking whether I have any outstanding contracts with NHBB, whether I intend to have any in the future, and whether I would take any if offered. He asked if I intended to do any work for any other quizbowl organizations, and if so, which ones. When I told him I had no such plans (that is, a lack of plans, not an intentional absence of plans), he asked me in a gotcha tone of voice "What about SCOP?" In the months before this inquisition, I had built Packetizor.com/SCOP to help produce the annual novice set. I personally don't consider SCOP a "quizbowl organization", because to me, it's basically one set per year plus however much extra Kristin has to give. Jonah countered that not only was SCOP a quizbowl organization, but that he considered it a major competitor of NAQT. Later, we were talking about Packetizor and I mentioned that I intended to release a free version in the near future (which Madden allowed me to do under the terms of our contract), which seemed to worry him because he felt that my merely using Ginseng would pose too much of a risk to his company because then I would build its features into my system. At one point in this interrogation, Jonah mentioned that NAQT would not extend an offer of a writing contract to me until they heard back from their lawyer about whether it was legal to add a non-compete clause in it. Had Jonah stopped talking however briefly, he would have heard me tell him not to bother because I would never sign such a contract, (How dumb would I have to be to limit my work options for the sake of a near minimum-wage low-volume side job?) but this was pretty much a one-sided affair. He did tell me that NAQT will be getting back to me soon and apologized that it was talking so long for them to reach a decision.

Six months (!) later, I got an email with a contract offer. I did not sign it, because in the meantime, I started writing quite a bit for HSAPQ (who took far less time to process my "application") and I had no more bandwidth. By the time NASAT had wrapped up, the terms of the contract had virtually expired, so I wrote back to Jonah telling him that NAQT could make me an offer for the next year or not. He sent back a contract but told me that I would need to agree to additional terms (beyond what was in the contract), and that there was something else we needed to talk about, the topic of which he gave me no indication about. That sealed it; I rejected the offer.

I figured out when I was still in high school that when your friend Dave says that you can't be friends with both him and Steve, but that Steve imposes no limitations, you know that Dave is your crazy friend and you need to fade him. I have written for SCOP, HSAPQ, IHSA, NHBB/USABB, and others, and none of them has ever voiced any concern about what other work its contract writers do. It is clear to me who Crazy Dave is.

So, you understand why I cannot recommend working for NAQT. In addition to Jonah's calling my integrity into question, I've lost my trust in that company. Although I admire the individual members of NAQT for their commitment to the game and I rather enjoy them personally, their collective actions and inactions are starting to prove destructive. While my negative interactions have mostly dealt with a single member, other members were made aware of my concerns. Their thank-you-for-letting-us-know-rest-assured-we-will-deal-with-this-secretly-when-the-members-meet-and-never-follow-up-on-it-again policy of handling such matters forces me to assume he was speaking with the voice and support of the whole enterprise.

If you would like to work for NAQT, I wish you the best of luck and that your experience with them is better than mine. They're offering higher pay, and I won't fault anyone for talking advantage of it. But if you want to be a part of the larger quizbowl community, understand that that might not work for them and that they might not be so pleasant about it.
Dr. Noah Prince

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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by TheDoctor » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:24 am

Dominator wrote:Jonah countered that not only was SCOP a quizbowl organization, but that he considered it a major competitor of NAQT.
Oh gosh, I had no idea. I'd like to thank the Academy, of course, but does this mean I should stop recommending NAQT sets to hosts who ask for SCOP but can't use it?
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by alexdz » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:47 am

I've been debating about submitting an application myself, and this thread certainly makes me very apprehensive to do so as a so-called "competitor" to NAQT's middle school market. (I'm pretty sure my MS set was only ever used in circuits that had exhausted NAQT sets.)
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by AZQuizbowl » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:52 am

Idk, this sounds more to me like "David Madden :capybara:ed up someone else's life" except this time, the person doesn't know who he's been screwed by.

TIL That certain policies aren't real things if they've been enacted AFTER something has happened that warranted their adoption.

EDIT: Vastly amused by the "Crazy Dave" analogy. Spot on, mate.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:28 am

I can't speak for Noah and perhaps there are a lot more intricacies to this plotline than I can follow, but as someone who has a far greater claim to "competitor to NAQT" (in fact, someone who effectively employed Noah last year!), I've never encountered this problem. Last year, as the head of HSAPQ, I actually for the first time ever began writing for NAQT. Everyone was aware of my status (at least Seth, Andrew, R., Nathan Murphy, and I would assume Jonah were). I turned in questions and was asked to write questions. I was invited to staff tournaments. In addition, it was also no secret that I freelanced an entire set for Brad Fischer's NHBB enterprise. I am not sure if Noah was (perhaps incorrectly?) pegged as a higher ranking person in NHBB than he was and thus was seen as a more direct competitor to NAQT (HSAPQ is pretty small, I will admit). But his experience doesn't match mine. This is not to say that everything about working for NAQT is perfect (no job is), but I haven't encountered the same issues he spoke about, which hopefully Jonah or someone can explain further.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:12 am

Is it possible that NAQT's leaders dislike you for some reason unrelated to your work for its competitors, and they're using your NHBB connections as an excuse?

I no longer moderate NAQT events (I think I still get invited to almost all of them), but when I look at pictures of NAQT events all the moderators I see are people who were, or still are, high-ranking officials in PACE or ACF, both of which compete much more directly with NAQT than NHBB does.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:41 am

Cheynem wrote:(HSAPQ is pretty small, I will admit)
But SCOP is smaller.
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:Is it possible that NAQT's leaders dislike you for some reason unrelated to your work for its competitors, and they're using your NHBB connections as an excuse?
Sure it's possible. But if that's the case, they could just tell me. If they told me I wasn't getting invites anymore because I made that kid cry at MSNCT, I'd accept it and at least appreciate their honesty.

I cannot claim to have answers to the points that either of you have brought up. I think we would need a member of NAQT for that.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Father Comstock » Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:57 am

I applied for NAQT and was denied because I was a noob, and looking back, my questions did suck; I was a first timer and did not know to fact check and check for flow etc etc.. thank you Clark Smith and others for advice on that. However, they never treated me less than professionally, including Jonah putting me in contact with Jeff to work on my history writing so I can reapply next year. NAQT has been fantastic to me (even though I was pretty trash) and I think the majority of people have the same opinion.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by AZQuizbowl » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:23 pm

Is it possible that NAQT is not worried about other quizbowl organizations so much as they are about an individual who made packetizor and has the ability to understand the program that they made? That makes much more sense than singling out Noah for working for question writing competitors when obviously they allow people who formerly or currently work for organizations all the time?

Like, of course every single person/entity in the same industry producing similar products would be considered a competitor. It's just that some competitors are actually capable of taking business away or hurting the market while others aren't or are small enough that they're not currently a concern? So yeah, PACE, HSAPQ, SCOP, NHBB, and every single housewrite is technically a competitor to NAQT. It's just whether or not it's going to negatively impact their business.

But idk, it's probably definitely a conspiracy and a lack of professionalism and NAQT just hates certain people and uses their other affiliations as an excuse (though a current affiliation to NHBB is a pretty good excuse.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Fri Jun 30, 2017 12:37 pm

AZQuizbowl wrote:Is it possible that NAQT is not worried about other quizbowl organizations so much as they are about an individual who made packetizor and has the ability to understand the program that they made?
It is possible, but I am far from the best programmer in the quizbowl world. If I understand correctly, Jerry Vinokurov built QEMS, and Mike Bentley has continued to work on it. Does that mean that they cannot be trusted with Ginseng?
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by rhentzel » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:08 pm

Noah, I really am sorry that investigating the possibility of working for NAQT was such a negative experience. We obviously rely on community members as writers, editors, and staffers, so we want to make those interactions as friendly and mutually beneficial as possible (but, at the same time, making sure they are sufficiently professional to avoid misunderstandings).

I went back and reviewed our internal e-mails about your writer application. First of all, we did take an unprofessional amount of time to offer a contract, and for that I apologize. Certainly on behalf of NAQT, but also personally, since the delay was mostly my making: I had concerns about your roles in other organizations, and I wanted to make sure that we didn't make an offer without addressing them to both parties' satisfaction.

To be clear, though, this had nothing to do with writing questions for other groups: NAQT's writers are independent contractors, and NAQT places no limitations whether they can write for other companies or specific tournaments. Had you merely been a writer (or editor or tournament official) for HSAPQ, NHBB, PACE, or whomever, there wouldn't have been any question (or hold-up) in your application.

However, we do feel that our internal production software provides a competitive advantage, and we were wary of exposing it to somebody who was already writing similar software for use by organizations (like USABB) that offer competing events. I can see that you might view any stance other than, "We trust Noah to act ethically and will therefore say nothing about our concerns" to be impugning your integrity, but, to us, offering the contract was a clear signal that we thought you were trustworthy. We did add some stipulations to our usual contract, but those were meant to lay out our expectations that you wouldn't study our software for inspiration (without preventing you from continuing to do programming work for other organization or from implementing their specific requests). In addition, if they weren't acceptable to you, we wanted you to have a chance to say "no, thanks" before a misunderstanding developed.

I do wish that we had moved faster in getting legal advice and arriving at an internal consensus, but your case presented us with issues we hadn't addressed before. I'm sorry that the end result is that we won't be seeing your questions in our packets, but I do believe that there were legitimate differences between your case and the vast majority of our writing applicants, and that we were justified in asking questions about your work on Packetizor and thinking about its implications for our trade secrets.

We wish you luck with Packetizor and your other quiz bowl-related endeavors!
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by TheDoctor » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:09 pm

AZQuizbowl wrote:Like, of course every single person/entity in the same industry producing similar products would be considered a competitor. It's just that some competitors are actually capable of taking business away or hurting the market while others aren't or are small enough that they're not currently a concern?
I'm hurting the market now. I've been Bonnie and Clyde this entire time and no one told me!

For the record, in its very best years, SCOP's collective mirrors pull down $2,700 in revenue and make up to $500 in profit if we're lucky. This is mostly because I pay Brad and myself very little for editing; a new question set mirrored like SCOP is mirrored would almost certainly not be profitable for NAQT, even at the minimum writer rates and NAQT prices. I think if you bothered to do the analysis, you'd find that most SCOP mirrors occur in places where all NAQT sets are already spoken for. Admittedly, I haven't done that analysis, but as I've mentioned, NAQT has been among the question sources that I recommend to potential hosts who find they can't use SCOP after all, and the response to that recommendation has almost always been "we've already looked into it, but there are no sets free for us."
AZQuizbowl wrote:But idk, it's probably definitely a conspiracy and a lack of professionalism and NAQT just hates certain people and uses their other affiliations as an excuse (though a current affiliation to NHBB [quoter's edit: and SCOP] is a pretty good excuse.
Given that there's no legitimate reason, in my view, for NAQT as an organization to demonize SCOP for taking a pretty small portion of the annual allotment of sweet, sweet quizbowl dollars, it's probably germane to this discussion that Jonah has a personal grudge against me for a blow-up of our friendship that happened some years ago. I think we'd both prefer not to rehash it publicly (if he does, in fact, prefer to rehash ancient history publicly, I'll be leaving this conversation immediately), but the fact is that my invitations to NAQT events stopped when that falling-out occurred and long before I had anything to do with USABB seems suspect to me with respect to how the above statement is framed. I just shrugged and went along with my banning at the time, since despite the fact that nationals is a huge tournament and there should theoretically be room for two people who don't want to see each other, it did seem like my not being there was the surest way to avoid creating more conflict than I already had. On reflection, I'm not certain what internal justification was used for this, but if it had to do with SCOP, maybe I should consider getting an evil moustache to twirl or something.

Joking aside, I like the vast majority of NAQT members. They're my friends, and I miss seeing them in person. It bothers me that SCOP has been used by one of them in the course of negotiating a contract with another of my friends, and it hurts me greatly to think that any of them view my set as anything but a collaborative part of the quizbowl landscape.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:30 pm

rhentzel wrote:(stuff)
R, I do appreciate your taking the time to respond in this thread, and it is reassuring that you acknowledge some fault on NAQT's part.

However, the length of time in evaluating my contract is not the only issue here. If NAQT was worried about my having written Packetizor, then it should have told me before Jonah used his political capital to authorize my writing an application in the first place. What was he doing at that point other than asking his other members if I should be considered as a writer? Given that he got the okay to have me submit a late writer's kit within about a day, it does not seem that there were strong concerns. This fact also deals with the "What if NAQT just hates you?" arguments: if so, they could have let me know before I submitted my application. They had the opportunity. But they didn't take it.

Furthermore, what does all of this have to do with staffing xCTs? That issue certainly has nothing to do with Ginseng. Again, if NAQT just hates me or finds me to be a sub-par staffer, they could tell me that. But instead, I got an email from Jeff Hoppes last fall saying that I unconditionally would be getting invitations. I didn't.

R is right that NAQT demonstrated some unprofessionalism in taking so long to respond to me, but that's honestly not what bothers me. I know that stuff happens, and I can accept the apology for that part and move on. But there's a larger picture here that I find more disturbing.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Ike » Fri Jun 30, 2017 4:20 pm

Personally, my experience with NAQT has been good / great. As Mike Cheyne writes, no job is perfect, but NAQT sure has done a much better job than many other quizbowl organizations.
I know that stuff happens, and I can accept the apology for that part and move on. But there's a larger picture here that I find more disturbing.
I think it's pretty reasonable for NAQT to be worried about its trade secrets. And while I would be pretty incensed about a long delay, this thread seems to indicate that a lot of the friction was a result of NAQT wanting to protect its IP, and I don't see really anything unreasonable about that. What exactly about this "larger picture" is really disturbing?
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:54 pm

Ike wrote:I think it's pretty reasonable for NAQT to be worried about its trade secrets.
I don't blame them for wanting to protect their secrets either, but if that is their concern, then:
  • They should be far more worried about letting you write for them than me. I have no doubts that you can program better than I can, and you have more free time with which to do it.
  • They could have simply told me from the outset, rather than have me produce new questions for them and then stringing me along for over half a year.
  • The whole xCT staffing issue is still baffling.
Ike wrote:What exactly about this "larger picture" is really disturbing?
The larger picture is that NAQT seems to be forming a blacklist based on its own assumptions about how involved certain people are in arbitrarily-defined "major competitors". A lot of people in the quizbowl community work for multiple organizations, and based on the experience I've described, those people have reason to be concerned.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jun 30, 2017 6:03 pm

A blacklist seems somewhat presumptuous unless there are other people who have been similarly turned down.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Fri Jun 30, 2017 6:57 pm

Cheynem wrote:A blacklist seems somewhat presumptuous unless there are other people who have been similarly turned down.
Fair enough, but I don't see anyone else from those "major competitors" doing anything for NAQT either.

We could set up a scientific experiment and compare the experiences of other SCOP people applying at NAQT to test the claim, but that process would not be nearly as enlightening as NAQT giving me an honest answer to the questions I emailed them with.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Deviant Insider » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:57 pm

I wrote questions for NAQT this year and got invited to staff at least SSNCT and possibly others, and I had kind of a big role in an organization that's kind of an NAQT competitor.

The issue of why Noah wasn't invited to staff is still unanswered to the best of my knowledge, though it's possible that the issue is best handled privately. I will say that I have seen Noah moderate, and he is a very good moderator. I'll also say as somebody who runs some big tournaments that sometimes moderators slip through the cracks and somehow don't get an invitation from me even though I should have sent them one and did send invitations to lots of other people. As I said, I don't know what happened in this case.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Important Bird Area » Sat Jul 01, 2017 4:01 pm

Noah, I would like to apologize on behalf of NAQT that you weren't invited to attend our 2017 national championships. This was an unfortunate oversight stemming from a clerical error on our part (a section of your staffer profile wasn't correctly activated). We appreciate the contributions that you have made to our national championships in the past, and very much hope that you will consider staffing NAQT events in the future.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:04 pm

Cheynem wrote:A blacklist seems somewhat presumptuous unless there are other people who have been similarly turned down.
After several years of moderating for NAQT national events, Kristin and I haven't received an invitation to staff an NAQT xCT since 2014 HSNCT. Summer/Fall 2014 was the approximate timing of the falling out with Jonah that Kristin mentioned upthread (which involved me as well), so there were several years of SCOP "competition" in which I was invited, then a year's worth of xCTs missed before I was hired by NHBB in 2015.

That timeline made it pretty clear to me that Kristin and I weren't invited to NAQT xCT events anymore because Jonah doesn't want us there. It's further supported by the fact that Jonah's stated claim about "not inviting competitors" was contradicted (then and now) by Jeff. (It's also trivially supported by the curiosity that Jonah declined my offer to send cookies to the HSNCT staff room this year.) This is, however, all speculation on my part.

So I'll ask - Jeff, is there a stated reason by NAQT that I'm no longer invited to staff xCTs? If it is a clerical error a la Noah, I would greatly appreciate being invited again; staffing xCTs was one of the great joys of my year while I was invited to do them. I miss working with people there, and there is roughly a 2017 NSC full of players/coaches/staffers who can vouch for the fact that I'm not a company shill while assisting someone else's tournament. If it is the notion that I'm a competitor now, I would like to ask why NAQT treats me differently than David Reinstein or Mike Cheyne, and if there is anything I can do personally to change that. If it is Jonah's personal preference, I understand 100% and respect that decision - staffing is a privilege, not a right, and NAQT has a responsibility to keep its members happy at their events - I just want to have that confirmed so that other people don't get the mistaken impression that "you can work for NAQT and PACE, etc., but you can't work for NAQT and NHBB."
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Father Comstock » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:11 pm

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:
Cheynem wrote:A blacklist seems somewhat presumptuous unless there are other people who have been similarly turned down.
stuff
I can confirm what Brad said about not being a company shill. I didn't even know who he was when he read for us until the end of my last match with him and I had messaged him several times regarding working for him previously. Whoops.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by TheDoctor » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:17 pm

While we are asking Jeff questions, I would like to know whether anyone at NAQT other than Jonah does, in fact, think that SCOP really is a competitor in any meaningful sense. I ask because Noah was specifically interrogated about his affiliation with SCOP (the "gotcha" moment mentioned in OP) after providing me with a software framework for packetizing, and because SCOP was the only "organization" with which I was affiliated when I stopped receiving invitations. If this is the official view of NAQT as an organization, I would like to know so I can communicate with my writing and editing team before this becomes a problem for them.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:25 pm

Important Bird Area wrote:Noah, I would like to apologize on behalf of NAQT that you weren't invited to attend our 2017 national championships.
Jeff, I appreciate the apology. Once again, I understand that things sometimes happen, which is what I had assumed happened when I had not gotten an invitation in Spring of 2016. If that had been the entire story, then I would have never posted here about it and the apology would have ended it.

However, that is not the whole story. I was specifically told by Jonah on the phone that I was intentionally excluded for working for NAQT's competitors, and when I asked you by email to confirm or deny the policy, I sure got the impression that you acknowledged that my exclusion had been strategic. This is in spite of the facts that:
  • HSNCT was my first and last national tournament as a coach, and I took at least one team every year in between. I called my paternity leave short 2 weeks after the birth of my second son for the sole reason of taking my teams to HSNCT 2012.
  • During my (short) time on the IHSSBCA steering committee, I worked to encourage more NAQT tournaments and to grow the NAQT State tournament.
  • When asked for advice by new coaches, I always recommended HSNCT. Always.
  • I voluntarily staffed 2 MSNCTs and an ICT with generally positive feedback (except for the team of that kid I made cry).
Even if you're concerned that I'm going to shill for some competitor, how would that affect my invitation to 2016 ICT? What harm could I have done to your college game? You would have actually had to pay extra money to bring in an out-of-town staffer rather than invite me.

What we are looking at right now is a bunch of facts that only half make sense. On the surface, it is plausible that NAQT would want to protect its business. But the steps it is taking do not actually accomplish that goal.
  • It has no evidence that I would attempt to lure students away, but it does have three events' worth of evidence to the contrary, and in spite of them, any such concerns could only be limited to the middle school and high school markets.
  • NAQT is targeting individuals/organizations in seemingly capricious ways.
  • Frankly, if my seeing the writer interface of Ginseng could give away trade secrets, then the fault lies with Ginseng.
Now, it is possible that I'm quizbowl's biggest schlimazel, and that a six-month delay in a one-month application process just happened to affect me and that a coinciding clerical error just happened to also affect me and that both things just happened to have happened after I was told by two of your members that I was deliberately unwelcome at your events, but you have to see what a tough pill to swallow this is becoming.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by An Economic Ignoramus » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:06 am

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:It's also trivially supported by the curiosity that Jonah declined my offer to send cookies to the HSNCT staff room this year.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:09 pm

Noah, you're correct that there was a difference between 2016 and 2017. As I told you by email, NAQT makes case-by-case decisions when issuing staff invitations to our championship tournaments.

Over the years, many of the staffers who make NAQT's national championships possible have also been affiliated with other quizbowl organizations. (Given the number of hats people wear in this community, any other approach would be foolish.)

However, NAQT does reserve the right to not invite national championship staff for any reason. One of the factors we consider is how senior members of other organizations have behaved at past NAQT events. In particular, we have had concerns in the past about representatives of other organizations using NAQT events to recruit teams and staff to attend competing national championships (note that the issue of staff recruitment applies to college as well as to high school nationals). In light of past incidents we sometimes choose not to invite core members of such organizations to our nationals, even if those members have not personally done anything to raise concerns. We also re-evaluate such decisions from time to time. In the summer of 2016, as a result of our conversations with you, we decided to invite you to our 2017 championships (as I communicated to you at the time). However, as a result of the clerical error I mentioned in my previous post, those invitations were not sent out. Once again, I apologize for this oversight, and hope that you will be able to staff NAQT championships in the future.

I've gone into some detail here because NAQT regrets the administrative error that affected you, and because we wanted to lay out certain general principles that apply to our staffing decisions. While we don't intend to comment publicly on a series of individual cases, we do want to reassure community members that a very wide range of quizbowl activities are compatible with staffing NAQT's nationals, and that we greatly value the contributions of staffers with a variety of organizational affiliations.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by the return of AHAN » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:28 pm

Just dropping by to add that SCOP representatives have even suggested to me directly that I use an NAQT A-set for the 'challenge' division of my tournament next year to decrease the stratospheric power rates therein. That hardly sounds like someone who is a threat to NAQT.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:07 pm

I think it's worth pointing out that the SCOP production team is also heavily involved with USABB- which is far more directly a competitor with NAQT, and if what I'm hearing about its reason for existing is correct, it's in fact explicitly intended to compete with NAQT at the Middle School level. I agree that the suggestion that SCOP is some sort of threat to NAQT as a business is laughable, however, as Jeff mentions, people in quizbowl wear many hats, and the USABB involvement would concern me if I were NAQT.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:16 pm

Important Bird Area wrote:...In particular, we have had concerns in the past about representatives of other organizations using NAQT events to recruit teams and staff to attend competing national championships (note that the issue of staff recruitment applies to college as well as to high school nationals)...
I cannot speak about that other than to see I've never seen it happen (but not denying that it may have). However, I have seen David Madden himself at his own events has recommended all-subject quizbowl to competitors. I think he envisions NHBB and quizbowl enjoying a "both...and..." relationship instead of an "either...or..." one. More importantly, I have been a fly on the wall when Brad tried everything he could to get Madden/NHBB to use different dates for championships for the sole purpose of not conflicting with NAQT events. Those attempts were unsuccessful, mostly because the number of national quizbowl championships has grown and the number of end-of-year weekends has not. If the real issue is that representatives of competitors may not play nice, rest assured that you have nothing to worry about with Brad.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by TheDoctor » Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:24 pm

Part of wearing many hats is deciding which one you're going to put on top. I think those here who know me know that SCOP is my uppermost hat. USABB is the thing that I do to make sure I can keep producing SCOP, so that I can afford to pay my writers even in the years when a lot of tournaments need their mirror fees waived.

I'm the only member of the SCOP production team that I would describe as being heavily involved in USABB, and even that connection is of the kind found all over quizbowl. Two of my regulars write for both, but that's more a function of friends writing with friends than of some sort of nefarious link. I'm not involved in USABB 's business decisions. I just write the questions. As far as I know, I've never recruited for the writing team while at an NAQT tournament.

I have received a private assurance that NAQT's official policy is that SCOP is not a major competitor to NAQT and that writers and editors are welcome to produce content for both organizations.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:24 pm

Dominator wrote:More importantly, I have been a fly on the wall when Brad tried everything he could to get Madden/NHBB to use different dates for championships for the sole purpose of not conflicting with NAQT events. Those attempts were unsuccessful, mostly because the number of national quizbowl championships has grown and the number of end-of-year weekends has not.
Were unsuccessful *this year*; I'm not done, and Madden's now conducive to moving USABB Nationals later into June (avoiding NSC and NASAT). He put it on Memorial Day weekend this year because we needed four days of play; we're convincing him that you can do 4 days in June without too much fear of people still being in school.
Everything in the Whole Wide World wrote:I think it's worth pointing out that the SCOP production team is also heavily involved with USABB- which is far more directly a competitor with NAQT, and if what I'm hearing about its reason for existing is correct, it's in fact explicitly intended to compete with NAQT at the Middle School level. I agree that the suggestion that SCOP is some sort of threat to NAQT as a business is laughable, however, as Jeff mentions, people in quizbowl wear many hats, and the USABB involvement would concern me if I were NAQT.
This is the right direction for the SCOP half of this conversation to go; indeed, it probably would have started there if Noah hadn't been asked about SCOP originally. The rest of this post is me officially speaking for NHBB/USABB/etc.

Madden's initial pitching of USABB to me was a direct analogy of HSNCT:NSC::MSNCT:USABB - that both would coexist nicely and boost the overall MS circuit, rather than try to cannibalize each other for market share. The fact that the MS circuit essentially only had a few NAQT MS sets, the then-announced idea that SCOP Novice would get converted into an MS set, and SAGES to work with made it clear that there was demand for more MS quizbowl. The fact that the high school circuit supports two proper national quizbowl tournaments (HSNCT and NSC) plus NHBB plus NASAT, while MS only had MSNCT and NHBB (as run by ACE), made it apparent that a second proper national tournament could coexist in the MS circuit.

USABB puts out one regional set per year plus one nationals weekend. I can understand the assumption that Madden would want that to grow - maybe expand up to maybe the 3 regionals model that NHBB uses - but I'm not divulging any trade secret when I say we're not planning on writing more than one USABB regional set. We truly do want to coexist as a part of a healthy, multi-faceted MS circuit - specifically, a larger one than existed three years ago.

The notion that we want USABB to complement, not compete with, NAQT may not have been as publicly known as, say, NAQT may have liked; for that, I'll offer my personal lament. The community is healthier when people have the security of knowing that people want to work with you, rather than keep you at bay. I'll hold the banner for that idea the rest of my life; my personal health suffered in summer 2015 when I was trying to put together a writing staff in the face of all of NHBB's prior faults. As it became clear that I was doing things the right way, more community support came out to help, and everything got better exponentially.

No matter how professionalized things get (and that trend is a positive one), quizbowl isn't an industry, it's a community. Competition doesn't work the same here as it does in other fields. It's been a bad thing for the game that people have treated NHBB as a competitor. More importantly, it's been a bad thing that NHBB has, in the past, operated in ways that have fostered and deserved that treatment. People who know me know that that isn't what I stand for, and you can see that NHBB has moved in line with community standards in my time with it.

In summary - USABB wants to work not as a competitor, but as a complement, in building the middle school circuit. I'm sorry for, over the last two years, any worry that NAQT's experienced as a result of us not making that clear.

What can we do to repair this relationship?
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by vinteuil » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:49 pm

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Madden's initial pitching of USABB to me was a direct analogy of HSNCT:NSC::MSNCT:USABB - that both would coexist nicely and boost the overall MS circuit, rather than try to cannibalize each other for market share. The fact that the MS circuit essentially only had a few NAQT MS sets, the then-announced idea that SCOP Novice would get converted into an MS set, and SAGES to work with made it clear that there was demand for more MS quizbowl. The fact that the high school circuit supports two proper national quizbowl tournaments (HSNCT and NSC) plus NHBB plus NASAT, while MS only had MSNCT and NHBB (as run by ACE), made it apparent that a second proper national tournament could coexist in the MS circuit.
This logic makes the huge assumption that the high school and middle school circuits are reasonably analogous, despite the latter being a much more recent development and having extreme distributional/curricular restrictions.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:53 pm

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:What can we do to repair this relationship?
Get rid of Dave Madden.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Dominator » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:03 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Madden's initial pitching of USABB to me was a direct analogy of HSNCT:NSC::MSNCT:USABB - that both would coexist nicely and boost the overall MS circuit, rather than try to cannibalize each other for market share. The fact that the MS circuit essentially only had a few NAQT MS sets, the then-announced idea that SCOP Novice would get converted into an MS set, and SAGES to work with made it clear that there was demand for more MS quizbowl. The fact that the high school circuit supports two proper national quizbowl tournaments (HSNCT and NSC) plus NHBB plus NASAT, while MS only had MSNCT and NHBB (as run by ACE), made it apparent that a second proper national tournament could coexist in the MS circuit.
This logic makes the huge assumption that the high school and middle school circuits are reasonably analogous, despite the latter being a much more recent development and having extreme distributional/curricular restrictions.
I'm not sure that this argument holds any water. Yes, MS quizbowl and HS quizbowl are different. Both NAQT and NHBB treat their MS divisions differently than their HS divisions, producing fewer regional sets and tailoring the questions to the younger audience.

Because I only really know math words, I think Brad was stating a similarity relationship and not a congruence.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by cchiego » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:25 pm

Brad wrote:What can we do to repair this relationship?
Well, let's see, USABB is:

-Copying the NAC strategy of bribing the top teams to play worse competition and claim to be "national champions."

-Running 14 TU matches (!!) and claiming it's just as legit as regular quizbowl (and charging basically the same).

-Continuing to try to schedule and run slapdash tournaments around the country rather than engage in real outreach and growth of middle school circuits (at least as far as I can see based on the tons of late-announced regionals and "possible" regionals in seemingly every corner of the country on the USABB website).

It is underappreciated just how much outreach work NAQT has done/tried to do around the country to get circuits set up at both the high school and middle school level. It is not surprising, then, that NAQT might view a competitor known for over-promising and under-delivering in the synergy department waltzing in to try to piggy-back off all that initial work with some trepidation.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:25 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Madden's initial pitching of USABB to me was a direct analogy of HSNCT:NSC::MSNCT:USABB - that both would coexist nicely and boost the overall MS circuit, rather than try to cannibalize each other for market share. The fact that the MS circuit essentially only had a few NAQT MS sets, the then-announced idea that SCOP Novice would get converted into an MS set, and SAGES to work with made it clear that there was demand for more MS quizbowl. The fact that the high school circuit supports two proper national quizbowl tournaments (HSNCT and NSC) plus NHBB plus NASAT, while MS only had MSNCT and NHBB (as run by ACE), made it apparent that a second proper national tournament could coexist in the MS circuit.
This logic makes the huge assumption that the high school and middle school circuits are reasonably analogous, despite the latter being a much more recent development and having extreme distributional/curricular restrictions.
This is a fair point, but I'd argue the analogy holds.

Distribution: The MS canon is narrow, yes, but from what I've seen out of the top tier MS players, there is a *ton* of room to maneuver at the high ends of the canon. We could have made USABB Nats twice as hard as it was - taken it into a pure HS regular season distribution - and the reception would have been better. This may not speak well if we want USABB Nats to be the size of MSNCT - but I'm not the head editor, so it doesn't actually "speak" at all. Kristin would veto me if I tried to go as hard as I wanted to with USABB Nats. :)

Recency: PACE NSC and HSNCT both began within a year of each other and flourished despite the existence of other, bad things like NAC and ASCN. The HS circuit back then couldn't handle four or more Nats events (especially when only two of them were run well), so things like ASCN died. If MS can't hold two good Nats events and USABB fails...that would suck, but that's life, I guess? I can't see USABB bringing MSNCT down with it; this isn't the video game crash of the 80s, where a supply glut of garbage games made everyone hate video games. I also can't see USABB outpacing MSNCT and "killing" it - but I won't begrudge NAQT worrying about that over the last two years, in the absence of any reassurance from us that that's not our goal.

I argue the analogy holds because of a couple things we're doing in planning USABB. One is continuing to advertise every other form of good quizbowl at all of our events - we all want the circuit to grow, and that's not possible if people only play our stuff! The other big aspect is the idea that USABB Nats is held a few/several weeks after MSNCT in a geographically distinct place. There are plenty of schools for which long travel can't happen; for every Pi-oneers that flies to both MSNCT and USABB, there are a half dozen schools like Daniel Wright who drive to the Hyatt Regency O'Hare for whichever tournament is in Chicago that year and stay home if nothing's in town.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh » Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:29 pm

Chris - I hear you (and you're very right that NAQT doesn't get enough public credit for their circuit building and other outreach work), but I don't think you've addressed my question. It explains why there's a question at all, yes, and you're listing things like "14/14 matches*" and "there weren't very many USABB Regional events this year" that are things we're going to improve, but I somewhat imagine that if we did those things without communicating and working with the community, NAQT could reasonably view it as "we have stronger competition, better push back harder." My question is "what can we do to make that not the response?"

Put another way - if NHBB is "known for over-promising and under-delivering in the synergy department," I would like to hear ideas (from NAQT and from the rest of the community) on what you would like me to do to change that. We advertise other tournaments at every event we run. We work to avoid conflict with other national events and, when a conflict with HSNCT/USABB Nats was unavoidable this year, actively avoided any sort of staff recruitment battle. When ACF Nats scheduled against NHBB Nats this year, we tried to coordinate staff in a way that helped both tournaments (and, from what I've heard, that worked well). Next year, when SSNCT comes into conflict with NHBB Nats, we'll do the same. There are certainly more things we are doing and more things we can do, with "putting more effort into setting up regional events" at the top of that list. So I want that brainstorming, yes.

But my overall question here is somewhat narrower - what do we need to do differently such that NAQT views us in the same light as PACE, HSAPQ, and SCOP?


*Re: 14/14 rounds -- It shouldn't be a real surprise that Madden's original plan for USABB Bowl format was identical to NHBB Bowl format; while I would prefer if David's default was standard 20/20 quizbowl, I don't need him to think that way so long as he listens to people like Kristin and me when we tell him "no, you can't do four-quarter mostly-tossups all-subject quizbowl." He acknowledged to us that standard tossup/bonus format was important, and lightning rounds were important to him. The compromise we reached (14/14+LRs) isn't something definitively set in stone.

When we originally settled on this, I dealt with lightning rounds grudgingly. With that said, having heard from players/coaches at USABB Nats this year, they're more popular than I'd expected, and they can actually play well within the context of a quizbowl game. I'm glad that nobody else does them - writing good LRs is hard, and screwing up the difficulty calibration on them makes them annoying and broken - but they serve an interesting role. We can challenge teams deeper on part 6 of a LR than we can on a given 3-part bonus. (Also, the feedback was very much of the form "they're a novelty and it's good that they're not in other tournaments" - we're not creating a groundswell of anti-20/20 momentum, nor would we want to.)

So the low number of TU/B cycles per round is the biggest issue - and to me, too. As is, it's lower than 20/20 to fit both the Bowl and a Bee into a Regionals Saturday schedule. I'm expecting to get the number raised this year - I don't like that FA and RM are each 1/1 instead of 2/2, for one thing.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:34 pm

Megachile ambigua wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:What can we do to repair this relationship?
Get rid of Dave Madden.
This, basically. I appreciate the idealism, Brad, and I believe you are sincere in your desire to have both NAQT and the Madden-empire co-exist in the all-subject competition space. However, as you know as well as me or anyone else, Dave's record on ethics is such that a large segment of the quizbowl community will never be able to take such efforts in good faith with Madden as the head figure of USABB or anything similar. It' simply never going to happen at this point- Dave Madden empire products are tainted.
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Henderson High School (2007-2011) [West Chester, PA]
University of Delaware (2011-2015)
Penn State University (2015-Present)
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by cchiego » Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:40 pm

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:My question is "what can we do to make that not the response?"
Go into areas that don't have pyramidal MS quizbowl right now. Work to change IESA's question source (I know, this could be a decades-long project, but see if you can get into local leagues and such at first). Go into Northern Indiana, Eastern Iowa, Southern Michigan, the Milwaukee area, etc. Call up local archdioceses, districts, sports conferences, etc. and pitch them on the idea. Or go national and try to target some other areas that are underserved right now.

That kind of circuit-building outreach would be amazing and would go a long ways towards being complementary towards existing pyramidal quizbowl efforts. But it might also require a reallocation of NHBB-world resources that does not seem likely to happen in the current state.
Chris C.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:31 pm

cchiego wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:My question is "what can we do to make that not the response?"
Go into areas that don't have pyramidal MS quizbowl right now. Work to change IESA's question source (I know, this could be a decades-long project, but see if you can get into local leagues and such at first). Go into Northern Indiana, Eastern Iowa, Southern Michigan, the Milwaukee area, etc. Call up local archdioceses, districts, sports conferences, etc. and pitch them on the idea. Or go national and try to target some other areas that are underserved right now.

That kind of circuit-building outreach would be amazing and would go a long ways towards being complementary towards existing pyramidal quizbowl efforts. But it might also require a reallocation of NHBB-world resources that does not seem likely to happen in the current state.
That's a fantastic answer to the question, and duly noted.
Brad Fischer
Head Editor, IHSA State Series

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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by idek » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:36 pm

cchiego wrote:
Brad wrote:What can we do to repair this relationship?
Well, let's see, USABB is:

-Copying the NAC strategy of bribing the top teams to play worse competition and claim to be "national champions."

-Running 14 TU matches (!!) and claiming it's just as legit as regular quizbowl (and charging basically the same).

-Continuing to try to schedule and run slapdash tournaments around the country rather than engage in real outreach and growth of middle school circuits (at least as far as I can see based on the tons of late-announced regionals and "possible" regionals in seemingly every corner of the country on the USABB website).

It is underappreciated just how much outreach work NAQT has done/tried to do around the country to get circuits set up at both the high school and middle school level. It is not surprising, then, that NAQT might view a competitor known for over-promising and under-delivering in the synergy department waltzing in to try to piggy-back off all that initial work with some trepidation.
Honestly USABB's difficulty was just short of MSNCT, and a drastic improvement from last year's set. The majority of the field, despite being small this year in the Academic Bowl, had made the playoffs at MSNCT, or had at least been competitive in NAQT competition. The fact of the matter is, the top teams are coming and the format isn't bad quiz bowl. It's not like USABB is legitimately taking an NAC like approach. USABB Regionals actually cost me much less to play than any Texas tournament for my team (albeit we sent 4 solo teams). It's still growing. NAQT had 20 team national tournaments way back when and look how it's grown. I'm not saying there isn't things to be improved but let's not act like USABB is such a travesty to where we should actively consider teams not to come.

Take it from someone who actually competed. The staffing was great, tournament events were timely, and the set was very high quality. There was a lot more variety than MSNCT, I didn't feel like was just hearing a harder version of the MS canon as I did MSNCT. Although there was definetly much more guaranteed games at MSNCT, but as USABB grows, I feel like it's going to be a true equal. As a coach now, I will try to send a team to USABB and MSNCT, and I won't regret it.
Vishal Sivamani
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:55 pm

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:
cchiego wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:My question is "what can we do to make that not the response?"
Go into areas that don't have pyramidal MS quizbowl right now. Work to change IESA's question source (I know, this could be a decades-long project, but see if you can get into local leagues and such at first). Go into Northern Indiana, Eastern Iowa, Southern Michigan, the Milwaukee area, etc. Call up local archdioceses, districts, sports conferences, etc. and pitch them on the idea. Or go national and try to target some other areas that are underserved right now.

That kind of circuit-building outreach would be amazing and would go a long ways towards being complementary towards existing pyramidal quizbowl efforts. But it might also require a reallocation of NHBB-world resources that does not seem likely to happen in the current state.
That's a fantastic answer to the question, and duly noted.
The IESA just got a new ED. The contract with Avery is up next year. If the change is going to happen, the sooner you can get buy-in from coaches, the better.
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Re: Would You Recommend Working for NAQT? Revisited

Post by the return of AHAN » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:30 pm

dtaylor4 wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:
cchiego wrote:
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:My question is "what can we do to make that not the response?"
Go into areas that don't have pyramidal MS quizbowl right now. Work to change IESA's question source (I know, this could be a decades-long project, but see if you can get into local leagues and such at first). Go into Northern Indiana, Eastern Iowa, Southern Michigan, the Milwaukee area, etc. Call up local archdioceses, districts, sports conferences, etc. and pitch them on the idea. Or go national and try to target some other areas that are underserved right now.

That kind of circuit-building outreach would be amazing and would go a long ways towards being complementary towards existing pyramidal quizbowl efforts. But it might also require a reallocation of NHBB-world resources that does not seem likely to happen in the current state.
That's a fantastic answer to the question, and duly noted.
The IESA just got a new ED. The contract with Avery is up next year. If the change is going to happen, the sooner you can get buy-in from coaches, the better.
[DERAIL] Majority of IESA coaches are not interested in aligning the format to IHSA, I suspect they mostly don't understand the format IS different; Avery is willing to continue to write it. If I'm Avery, I ask for a 5 to 10 year contract at a 20% bump, because the IESA has precious few options. [/DERAIL]
Jeff Price, Barrington Station Middle School Coach (2013 MSNCT Champions, 2013 & 2017 Illinois Class AA State Champions)
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