ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

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ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:45 pm

Please feel free to post your thoughts, tirades, and ruminations regarding anything related to this year's ACF Nationals in this thread.

I'm sure I'll have more to say at some point, but I was personally very pleased with this set. I will also say that I really liked the way that the schedule turned out. I'd like to see future versions of ACF Nats emulate the schedule we used here, where the top teams (maybe the top one or two brackets) play a few more games than other brackets, on the order of three or four more games. I think that does a very nice job of offering more competitive quizbowl to the teams who have a lot to play for (whether that might playing for the overall title, the UG or D2 title, or just your overall place of finish in the tournament). At the same time, I think that type of schedule gives a probably-appreciated break at some point to the teams in the lower brackets (which is no offense to those teams, but we can all recognize that this is an extremely demanding tournament that isn't easy to play on a less-skilled team).

I know that every year will be unique in that we'll be accommodating different numbers of teams and different logistical concerns, but I hope that we can shoot in the future for a schedule like the one we used at this tournament. Everything seemed to run quite well logistically with this schedule, and everything was finished at a time that noone could complain about (on both Saturday and Sunday). This was obviously the pilot run for an ACF Nats in the "qualification age" and, while there are plenty of things that I know we'll be tweaking, I thought that logistics in general were pretty solid.


Here's the breakdown of who did what editing for this tournament (other editors can modify this if there's any slight errors):

Ryan Westbrook - history, religion, "other academic" (about 33% social sci, 33% geography/current events, and 33% weird academic junk like Time Lord Sandford Fleming)
Ike Jose - a portion of literature, philosophy, other art, a portion of visual art, and social science
Rob Carson - a portion of the literature, myth, a portion of visual art, classical music
Billy Busse - all science, all the time

Several others also submitted questions to us or helped provide editing commentary/proofreading on the set. Those people included Jonathan Magin, Ezequiel Berdichevsky, Jerry Vinokurov, Gautam Kandlikar, Seth Teitler, Andrew Hart, Cody Voight, Joelle Smart, Ted Gioia, Will Alston, and probably a good chunk of others at some point as well. Thanks to all of those people. Obviously, thanks also to Matt Jackson who stepped in to direct the tournament.



I have thoughts about the question-writing side of things (related to both how teams write questions and how editors edit questions), but I'll wait for a little bit to offer those. In my mind, ACF Nationals is a very difficult tournament to write, because it's a submission event that features teams with a wide range of skill levels. It's not an open tournament where anything can go, and it's not a "regular difficulty" tournament where there's a pretty well-understood concept of about what the tournament should look like. It's somewhere in the liminal space between those two notions. To me, a big part of what makes ACF Nationals great is that it's not very predictable, and not easy to pin down as a certain thing....there can be several easy answer lines, and there can also be wild shots taken on the Selous Scouts and Billy Sunday.

Anyway, I hope that I continue to have the time, energy, and opportunity to edit events like these in the future, because it's generally a pretty rewarding experience. Thanks to everyone for coming out. Commence the discussion.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:23 pm

I didn't do any of the visual arts, but I did edit all of the lit (though Ike did write a lot of the editors' packet questions).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Windows ME » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:24 pm

I don't have too much to say but I just want to check-in to say I thought the tournament as a whole was very enjoyable and the science was fantastic.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Borel hierarchy » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:34 pm

I'd just like to say that I don't think there's been a set in existence with better chemistry than this one
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Ike » Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:15 pm

Hi all,

Congratulations to Penn A for their ACF Nationals victory, I believe their entire squad played incredibly well over the course of this tournament, and their dominating performance in the finals was a treat to watch. I saw many action packed games, great buzzes and unbelievable bonus* pulls over the course of this tournament, and as someone who spent hundreds of hours on this set, I am happy with the performance of teams as a whole.

Ryan made a mistake: I edited the other science - mathematics, computer science, earth science, and astronomy, and that one applied engineering question on wastewater treatment. That's not to say Billy didn't do a crazy amount of work on the set - he did, as someone who took on a bit of a "managing role" I can attest to the fact that he put in hundreds of hours into the set. I also wrote a lot of the playoffs mythology and lit as Rob alluded to earlier, so hopefully you also enjoyed that. In fact, I had a couple of questions in every area of the tournament...except for mysticism - no kids, I didn't write that Jakob Bohme tossup.

In addition to the people Ryan named, I want to thank Jonathan Magin for contributing some jazz questions, Andrew Yaphe for writing a couple of law questions, Libo for writing four math questions, Marshall and Sam for collectively producing several economics questions. These people made my life easier by writing very solid questions. I also want to single out Jonathan Magin, Jerry Vinokurov and Seth Teitler for their extensive contributions during the commenting phase of the writing process, my categories were very much improved because of their hard work.

As an editor, I want to say that I spent hours on every question. This started back in September when I read books in my subjects (from jazz to linguistics to architecture) to just learn about the topics without having an answerline in mind, to basically spending hours on every submission. You have no idea how elated it makes me to see someone have a great buzz on a question on which I spent hours to make sure the leadins are buzzable, the middle clues are distinguishing, the answer is gettable and the question is interesting. Speaking from my own personal experience - as I enter the 10th year of my quizbowl career, my knowledge base just feels so dwarfed to the vast mounds of things that are just so interesting. I hope that by writing this tournament, I am offering everyone a taste for that love of knowledge that fills me.

You are free to discuss any aspect of the tournament here or even email or PM me - I can't promise I will respond right away since I need a bit of a break, but I definitely will listen to all feedback positive and negative.

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Ewan MacAulay » Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:24 pm

Black Miao wrote:I'd just like to say that I don't think there's been a set in existence with better chemistry than this one


Yeah, the science (especially the chemistry) in this tournament was really well done. Tossups on the electrical double layer and water treatment were particular highlights.

Thanks to all the editors and staffers for all their work on this tournament - hope we can see more of the same next year!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Aaron Manby (ironmaster) » Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:30 pm

Ewan MacAulay wrote:
Black Miao wrote:I'd just like to say that I don't think there's been a set in existence with better chemistry than this one


Yeah, the science in this tournament was really well done. Tossups on the electrical double layer and water treatment were particular highlights.

Thanks to all the editors and staffers for all their work on this tournament - hope we can see more of the same next year!


Yeah, the science was awesome!

The only small issue I had was that I wish we got to play more than 3 games on Sunday - these games were all close and exciting, and it's also nice to play against and meet more people.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Apr 19, 2015 11:36 pm

So I very unfortunately did not get to play either this tournament or ICT, nor watch any games (yet, at least - super looking forward to video or audio, if it was obtained) of either - though from what I have heard and seen thus far in discussion threads, the editors and writers for those respective sets did an excellent job and wrote and edited thousands of good quizbowl questions. I don't want any of my criticisms, based mostly on hearsay and looking at stats, to be taken as a criticism of the quality of the work done on the set, since they're mainly aimed at systematic issues.

I would like to point out that, from what I have seen in the stats, a shockingly high number of tossups went dead. Even among the top teams, you had many games where three or more tossups went dead, the most jarring example to me being the final round (Editor's 6) in which only fourteen tossups were converted in a game between Chicago and Maryland. There were even five dead tossups in the finals! Granted, both of those games had a number of negs, but the fact that two of the five best teams in the nation are missing that many tossups at the end of the question doesn't seem like a great outcome to me.

I know that ACF Nationals is designed to distinguish between the top teams, but I feel there's a not-insubstantial muddying of the battlefield, even at the top, when that many questions are so hard that they don't (or wouldn't even) trigger buzzer races - they just don't get converted. Given that Nationals is trying to reach a wider audience as well, it seems that making questions more accessible, while still using [somewhat less?] difficult clues, may be appropriate. Non-canonical, deep canonical, obscure, and lesser known things are definitely fun, worth asking about and tossing up, and certainly worth learning about, but if it's damaging the the ability of the tournament to do its job rather than improving it, then that seems like a bad direction to tack in.

I think there are other potentially problematic trends with regards to difficulty that are worth discussing - only two teams in the bottom three brackets had a bonus conversion above 10, for example. And furthermore, I suppose I can't call myself guiltless with regards to this trend that I am criticizing here, as I wrote almost all the tossups with difficult answerlines for my team's submitted packet and I freelanced a tossup with a pretty difficult answerline at Ryan's request. But these do seem like problems worth thinking about for future Nationals, especially if we want to expand Nationals for a wider audience.
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:28 am

A few disclaimers up front: I had nothing to do with the writing or editing of the tournament, I was not deeply involved in running it (I was in charge of assigning buzzers to rooms), and I participated mostly as a reader/moderator.

First of all I want to praise the logistics of this tournament. Its not that nothing went wrong: rather, things did go wrong, but were dealt with quickly without disruption to the schedule. Despite having the largest field in ACF Nationals history, day 1 finished ahead of schedule and day 2 finished on time. This is a great credit to both the tournament directors staff (Jerry, Matt Jackson, Sarah Angelo, Cody Voight) but also to the Michigan hosts who seemed completely on top of things and ready to help.

Second, I wanted to single out Matt Jackson for praise. Not only did he have a commanding role in directing this logistically successful ACF Nats, he also just directed the writing and editing of NHBB with (now noted ACF Nats champion) Eric M.. This was a gargantuan task that took up a lot of his time. Matt has carried the quizbowl world upon his shoulders the last few weeks and after seeing him do this up close for both events, I am very impressed. The community should both thank him and politely encourage him to run more of the things, though I think he has limited interest in doing so.

Third, bonuses seemed very consistent. This is hard to pull off and I wanted to single that out for praise before criticizing the set.

The questions though: they were hard. The history seemed really hard in particular and there were a lot of long history tossups about hard things that seemed to widely go dead, including in the finals. If I were playing this Nats as a history specialist, I would feel frustrated, as if the buzzer had been taken out of my hand in many cases because there were tossups on obscure things I would not having anticipated needing to know about to score at Nats.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Robert Williams Avenger » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:40 am

Things I liked: This was almost definitely the best run tournament I've ever been to, and if not is definitely in the top 3 or so. And this is an ACF Nationals where the tournament director bailed out like a month ago, no less! Mad props to the ACF folks responsible for making this thing run like a well-oiled machine. I was also pleased with the amount of jazz, which as was brought up in a conversation with Ike, felt like a shitload after the nearly jazzless Oppen and ICT, but was super enjoyable for me.

I may have limited experience with events at this level, but this tournament felt really hard, even for a Nats-level event. For all the cawwing about Oppen being Nats-plus, this certainly felt like it was roughly the same difficulty. I did enjoy the set though: I may post more thoughts on this later, but I particularly liked the physics and the music a whole lot.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Muriel Axon » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:18 am

This tournament was very enjoyable: Basically, it delivered the kind of intellectual experience I want from Nationals, where there are so many cool things coming up that I feel compelled to write them all down and look them up afterward. I might make a post later explaining in more detail what I liked about it (probably not though), but for now, a couple errata:

  • If I remember correctly, the last bonus part from the "Rosas danst Rosas" bonus described Frederick Ashton as "Keersmaeker's fellow Belgian." Since Ashton was British, I assume this part was a relict from my description of Cesar Franck as "Keersmaeker's fellow Belgian," followed by a convoluted tie-in to Ashton via his ballet on Franck's Symphonic Variations, but the editor cut out the middleman
  • Boccherini's famous minuet came from a string quintet, not a cello concerto.
  • I'm not sure that this was an error, but I'd thought that Baude Cordier wrote many of his famous works in the 1400s. In any case, I wasn't happy that a tossup on the 1300s was based mostly on works in a style that lasted into the 1400s.

Also: Was it just me, or was there a lot of Beethoven in this set? Pathetique, Appassionata bonus, Diabelli Variations, Symphony No. 7, bonus part on Fidelio...I'm still not sure that's all of them. I like the idea of asking about very canonical works by important composers, but this seemed a little excessive.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:38 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Obviously, thanks also to Matt Jackson who stepped in to direct the tournament.


A grievous slander-by-omission of Jerry, the actual person who stepped up to be TD!

This was certainly a well crafted set -- I think I have edited enough stuff now to have an intuitive "sense" of when a question, a packet, or a set has had a lot of extra effort go into it to make it really shine, and I got that sense regularly reading this set. Lots of very cool new material broached, such as (off the top of my head) Kaplan's "dthat", agon, poshlost, and Jerzy Grotowski. We are lucky as a community to have editors and packet submitters who can draw on lots of off-the-beaten-path Real stuff year in and year out even as the editing team changes.

I think that the inferences Will Alston drew above from looking at the stats bore out in reality at least in the experience I had as a moderator. I think I saw exactly one match all day where all twenty tossups were converted, and most (even between very good teams) had between 3 and 5 dead tossups no matter what. Bonus middle parts were also very frequently pushing teams to the edge of their knowledge before the hard part even got read. I don't think it Ruined the tournament that this was the hardest ACF Nats since (and to be clear, finals excepted, certainly way less hard than) 2011. And the teams I read to at least in the third playoff bracket were still engaged and having that most mysterious emotion "fun" even in games where 8-10 tossups went dead, I.e. I don't suspect high difficulty will actually drive many folks away. But I earnestly think that devoting 15-25% of this tournament to "have you heard of this bowl" style outliers of a type far more extreme than those of last year was not optimal, as it more or less meant there were many tossups in every match where pyramidality went out the window in favor of mere recognition testing.

Though I don't think either Sardis or Francois Guizot is actually that difficult as Nats answer lines go, that finals packet was hard as balls. A true sadistic master stroke.
Last edited by Adventure Temple Trail on Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Cheynem » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:38 am

In reading for this set to a variety of teams, I definitely agree that it's hard but I also don't think it was excessively so. The bonus conversion and PPG's generally skew pretty normal; many of the teams in the last few brackets were shorthanded or quite inexperienced, so I don't think it's that problematic that so many of them were 10 PPB (and quite a few were at 9 anyway). I also think the finals packet seemed, at least tossup-wise, pretty normal--a lot of the dead answerlines (High Toned Old Christian Woman, the two Matt mentioned, even Amana) were hard, sure, but nothing insane.

In short, I think the set was very well put together and the numbers show logical results.

One thing I noticed was that the bonus consistency, especially in terms of "what's an easy part?", was a bit iffy at times. At times, I actually thought easy parts were too easy--did we really need easy parts asking for the "animal that delivers eggs on Easter" or "the saint of Ireland"? At some point, the easy parts have to differentiate between teams too. Of course, that criticism is inverted when we have bonuses that do NOT have such generous easy parts (which I felt like was more common in the playoffs, although the two examples I listed are from the playoffs as well). Defining the basic threshold of knowledge needed to get an easy part is probably worth a go at some point.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:38 am

Far be it from me to suggest there's anything wrong with sodomy, but for the record, the evidence suggests that John G. Lawrence did not, in fact, engage in it. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/ ... a-lithwick
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:49 am

Cheynem wrote:One thing I noticed was that the bonus consistency, especially in terms of "what's an easy part?", was a bit iffy at times. At times, I actually thought easy parts were too easy--did we really need easy parts asking for the "animal that delivers eggs on Easter" or "the saint of Ireland"? At some point, the easy parts have to differentiate between teams too. Of course, that criticism is inverted when we have bonuses that do NOT have such generous easy parts (which I felt like was more common in the playoffs, although the two examples I listed are from the playoffs as well). Defining the basic threshold of knowledge needed to get an easy part is probably worth a go at some point.


This is a point I was going to make, but Mike Cheyne plagiarized me before I had a chance to. I noticed a number of cases where an insultingly easy part seemed meant to counter-balance two hard parts or a hard part and an impossible part. This is something I've been guilty of in editing before as well. But it's a problem. IF you're going to have two hard parts, it makes things worse to make the easy part ridiculously easy, not better. The object in a bonus, broadly speaking, is to maximize variation, not hue to a constant mean.

Of course, the object of an ACF Nationals bonus should be to maximize variation in the right tail of the distribution, which is why the easy/hard/impossible structure is even worse there than elsewhere. I think there's a tendency to try to use hard tournaments to expand the canon, but cramming hard answer lines into bonuses actually harms the goal of crowning the best quizbowl team as national champion.

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:52 am

Cheynem wrote:I also think the finals packet seemed, at least tossup-wise, pretty normal--a lot of the dead answerlines (High Toned Old Christian Woman, the two Matt mentioned, even Amana) were hard, sure, but nothing insane.


There's a huge difference between "a fine answer line for a tossup" and "a fine tossup," though, especially when there is opportunity for up to 10 lines of clues to distinguish teams. Again, I do think the set was quite good, but it's important to note that it is in some sense a failure of the concept of pyramidality as such if a tossup serves only to see if a team knows the answer at the very end. I'd be interested to hear what teams have to say once they make it home, and will more or less let them say what they think from here on out without adding much to the discussion.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby vinteuil » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:04 am

I agree with almost everything above: this tournament had absolutely spectacular logistics, great science (except the tossup on kT, which probably should have accepted RT), almost uniformly well-written questions (very little useless fluff, typos, etc.), some really iffy choices in the way of history answerlines, and was hard enough to muddy up the battlefield substantially for teams below the top bracket. I'm sure teams in the third bracket and below would/will have more to say about this (not to single him out, but Victor Prieto and I had a conversation about this), but games with 10 dead tossups and almost no bonuses 20d are much more about coin flips than about actual superior knowledge. If ACF Nationals wants to be a true national championship for ~50 teams, it can't be just about determining the top ~8 teams in the correct order.

I know that this always happens, but there really were a fair number of pretty hard 10s (Tzara and McKinder in one round), 20s (at least half of the bonuses), and frankly impossible 30s. I really promise not to derail this thread with music discussion (it doesn't need it—Rob did a pretty great job), but Schobert without the connection to Mozart that people might actually know—K. 310 is usually cited as being inspired by him—is not a reasonable third part; nor is Zelenka, really (although I, personally, don't mind more and more obscure baroque composers coming up!). I'm just not sure what kind of teams' knowledge third parts like those are supposed to be distinguishing between.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Lightinfa » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:24 am

When is the set going up?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:26 am

The set will be up in the next day or so. I'm on the road right now but I will try and either upload it or send it to someone who can in the next few hours.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:34 am

Muriel Axon wrote: I'm not sure that this was an error, but I'd thought that Baude Cordier wrote many of his famous works in the 1400s. In any case, I wasn't happy that a tossup on the 1300s was based mostly on works in a style that lasted into the 1400s.


The most popular theory about Baude Cordier (that supported by Craig Wright and Reinhard Strohm) is that he is the nom-de-plume of Baude Fresnel, who is known to have died in 1397/1398. Other sources place Cordier's death in the early 15th century, but I haven't read any reputable historical sources that securely date his music as being written in that century. However, knowing that the dating is insecure, I didn't do something stupid like say: "Baude Cordier lived in this century"; I clued him only in his capacity as a practitioner of the Ars subtilior, and asked what century the Ars subtilior is from.

I don't know how my tossup may have been changed in the editing, since I didn't see the version that was read on Saturday, but in my original version, the Ars subtilior clues are two lines of an eight-line tossup, which is not what "based mostly" means.

Grove Music defines the Ars subtilior as "The highly refined musical style of the late 14th century, centered primarily on the secular courts of southern France, Aragon and Cyprus". The movement is traditionally analyzed as a cultural product of the beginning of the Avignon papacy. The most famous scholarly work on this repertoire (drawing upon the music of the Chantilly Codex) is Willi Apel's French Secular Music of the Late Fourteenth Century.

You are right that some composers (such as some of the Italian composers whose works are collected in the Modena Codex) continued using the style into the very early 15th century (although I purposely did not draw upon their stuff). Therefore, I was careful to describe the Ars subtilior stylistic features as being "from this century", whereas I used "in this century" for the Ars nova stuff, which is entirely 14th-century. If your argument is that I shouldn't have used any clues from an artistic movement that crosses centuries, then that's silly. We wouldn't hesitate to describe Impressionism as a movement "from the 19th century", even though many of Monet's water lilies were painted in the 20th century. This tossup would have been much harder if I couldn't talk about the most canonical examples of late 14th-century music.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Victor Prieto » Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:25 am

vinteuil wrote:I'm sure teams in the third bracket and below would/will have more to say about this (not to single him out, but Victor Prieto and I had a conversation about this), but games with 10 dead tossups and almost no bonuses 20d are much more about coin flips than about actual superior knowledge. If ACF Nationals wants to be a true national championship for ~50 teams, it can't be just about determining the top ~8 teams in the correct order.


This pretty accurately describes my team's feelings about the tournament. It was, in a word, frustrating.

The logistics at the tournament were perfect, kudos to everyone who put it together. The tournament building itself was really ideal, especially with a plethora of food options close by.

I will reserve my opinion on the quality of the set itself until I get a copy, because my current perspective is probably biased from the experience of this past weekend.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:50 am

Congratulations to Penn on their impressive victory and to Chicago for a very impressive campaign to finish second. What an amazing experience to have read the final for these two great teams. Congratulations also to Maryland for their solid third-place finish, handing the champions their only loss of the tournament.

As TD, I want to hand out some accolades to the people who made this Nationals the most efficient ACF Nationals ever. I do not believe this is an exaggeration: we have never had this many teams, and yet we were able to give you one additional round on Saturday and finish on Sunday at the projected time. That is an amazing achievement and one to which I contributed only a little bit. Let's recognize the people who made it happen:

First, I cannot heap enough praise on Matt Jackson's work on Nationals. When Matt Weiner disappeared in March, we were left in the unenviable situation of having to reconstruct our entire staffing and logistics situations from scratch. Matt J was indefatigable in the midst of all his other commitments (which included taking on the completion of NHBB and helping coordinate PACE NSC) in corralling staffers and figuring out the logistics of which rooms they'd be in. He was absolutely instrumental in getting together what I think was one of the best staffing cores ever assembled at an ACF Nationals, and this tournament could not have gone as smoothly as it did without his titanic efforts. Through the initiative of Andrew Hart, Matt was recognized for those efforts in the award ceremony. you should be able to see that when I post the video of it.

Second, I would like to thank Sarah Angelo and Andrew Feist for their monumental work on stats. They were just amazing in getting stats completed after every round and posting them promptly to help us figure out things like tiebreakers and standings. I don't know if people realize just how crucial and incredible these folks are, but if you see either of them at a tournament you go to, thank them, because they do the kind of work that keeps tournaments on track, except you don't see it happening. We literally could not have done it without Sarah and Andrew; in my capacity as Nationals TD, I would like to recognize them as Heroes of Great Socialist Quizbowl Labor.

Third, a giant thank you to all the staffers who drove, flew, trained, bused, and in some cases, walked down the street, to help make this tournament happen. In no particular order, these people are: Matt Lafer, Bryan Berend, Saul Hankin, Ben Forster, Kurtis Droge, Mike Cheyne, Cody Voight, Cory Haala, Bruce Arthur, Michael Hausinger, Jasper Lee, Austin Listerud, Carsten Gehring, Andrew Hart, Marshall Steinbaum, Joe Nutter, Charles Martin, Jonathan Magin, Mike Sorice, Jeff Geringer, Katy Peters, Di Xiao, Seth Teitler, Eric Douglass, Bryn Douglass, Libo Zeng, Aaron Dos Remedios, Mike Bentley, Zhuying Sheng, Brian Luong, Brendan McKendy, Roxanne Ilagan, Catherine Yang, Daniel Evans, Justin Millman, Andrea Lin, and Jarret Greene. You were all absolutely amazing, and did everything we asked of you to help this tournament run on schedule. Thank you all so much for taking time out of your no doubt busy lives to staff Nationals. You're welcome aboard any time.

Finally, I want to thank Roxanne Ilagan, Peter Jiang, and the rest of the Michigan crew (listed above) for taking care of all the room reservations and for being phenomenal hosts. Even after we ran into the unfortunate room situation, they were absolute rock stars in getting security to unlock doors for us and let us into rooms. They were a pleasure to work and communicate with and were incredibly proactive behind the scenes in helping us set this whole thing up.

Thank you all so very much. Everything great about this tournament is to their credit, anything you didn't like is probably my fault. You are all contributors of extraordinary magnitude; you have our gratitude.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:59 am

A word on video: if you would prefer not to have video of you in it posted online, please let me know. I will be happy to edit out any sections that you are in. I believe I asked every team whether they'd mind being taped, but there's also video of the awards, and if you are in that video and prefer that sections with you in them not be posted, I will be happy to remove them. Please let me know via email at grapesmoker@gmail.com.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:03 pm

Oh, I must be getting senile in my old age. I forgot to thank one of the most important people involved in this tournament, Jon Pinyan. Jon did yeoman's work on the schedule, figuring out multiple contingency plans and ultimately constructing a schedule that delivered what I think was one of the best all-around tournaments in terms of accommodating teams of all levels. Jon Pinyan is a goddamn wizard.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby The Stately Rhododendron » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:17 pm

I really enjoyed this set (though a set that mentions Kertesz, The Captive Mind, Kadare, Krasznahorkai by way of Tarr and the White Mountains [my own question :twisted:] is hard for me to dislike).
The only question I had an issue with that comes to mind was the New Year TU. Beyond the fairly transparent nature of the answer line, my 1st/2nd line answer of "Nooruz" wasn't accepted/prompted, despite the first clues entirely being about Nooruz (and erroneously saying something about Arabic names in relation to it) and Nooruz literally meaning "New Year"!
I liked the rest of the religion, though.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:37 pm

For the record, I will say that we were pretty careful to have the finals packet have consistent difficulty across the three big subjects.

Each topic had two pretty flipping hard tossups - My Brilliant Career and A High Toned Old Christian Woman in lit, Old Court/New Court and Guizot in history (I really don't think On-to-Ottawa or Sardis are that difficult at all), and Geostrophy and N.Crassa in science. The rub comes in the fact that M. has a much more surehanded ability to scale the difficulty ladder in science than any corresponding player has the ability to do in history or literature (even though there certainly was plenty of lit and history knowledge present in the room, it's always a less sure probability that those players will be able to climb the ladder).

Outside of a very small handful of history tossups (maybe: Selous Scouts, Palenque, Pendleton, and Maji Maji), I don't think there's hardly any answerlines in the whole tournament that I would characterize as "taking the buzzer out of the hand" of the history player. Contra Bruce, if I were a player specializing in history (which I was, and still am, to a large extent)....I would personally prefer a tournament which dwells as much as possible in the upper areas of the canon, because that boxes out people with more casually-acquired knowledge outside of quizbowl. Unlike most writers these days, I will take a handful of shots across the bow with questions in my tournaments - i.e. maybe five or so questions which are just way out of left field, and are intended to back people off the plate, keep them from getting too comfortable in that batter's box.

I do write history in a very traditional quizbowl way, a throwback style that is very anti-Marshall Steinbaum (i.e. it rejects a social science-derived approach to history, in favor of focusing on the hard facts of increasingly deep names and events and people). So, there's always going to be preferences on that style, the same as many people will prefer Ted Gioia lit to Ike Jose lit or Rob Carson lit. But, outside of a very few (maybe five or so) outlying questions, I don't think the history answerlines were at a surprising level at all.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:48 pm

The problem is that many of those answers, especially Old Court/New Court, are hard in a pretty dumb way. I know this is the Westbrook style, but snipping out clues from musty hard packets and writing tossups on them is an archaic and primitive style of writing. Although there were also some really good ideas - Oberlin was great, even though we didn't get it - I was disappointed that so much of the set, across categories, catered to a superficial level of knowledge.

Previous posters in this topic have suggested this was a generally sound tournament with flaws in how it managed difficulty; good, but a little sloppy. Although I agree that this set was reasonably playable, I disagree with that characterization. The editors' packets had too many answers that were fundamentally poorly chosen as tests of the knowledge of the field. I think the editors' technical skill in selecting and ordering clues was excellent enough to make it a decent set; so, it was extremely well-executed, but unsound.

I won't deny that my team's poor performance on the editors' packets wasn't very fun. However, I'm old enough that I know that stuff happens, and I can play badly on good questions or well on bad questions. I'm also really happy that Eric pulled it off in such dominant fashion. Setting all emotion aside, though, I hope hard tournaments in future years do not use this tournament as a model to choose answers in the humanities and history.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Ike » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:21 pm

If ACF Nationals wants to be a true national championship for ~50 teams, it can't be just about determining the top ~8 teams in the correct order.


As an editor, one of my priorities was distinguishing between the top teams - and I used the middle and hard parts for this. I think that is perfectly okay and to be honest ideal. When you have a bonus, you get to put teams into four equivalence classes - unlike most tournaments, I think you have to use the easy part to separate teams, some teams will 0 a bonus - and that's okay, if we're handing out perfunctory easy parts, why not just make a tossup worth 20 points and have two part bonuses? In all of "my categories, I tried to make my easy parts what I called "non-insulting to the intelligence" or not "touch your butt" as Seth once put it. I agree with Marshall that bonuses like the "easter bunny" are non-ideal as easy parts, but driving them out with fire and sword and replacing them with slightly less silly easy parts was not my highest priority.

All of you who have difficulty issues, I want to get more specific feedback, so I'm going to post my tossup answerlines for my categories in the editor's packets:

Philosophy: epoche, Kenneth and Edmund Burke, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, John Langshaw Austin, The Will to Believe, A System of Logic, Lorenzo Valla
Painting: Agnolo Bronzino, Pablo Picasso, The Architect's Dream, The Nightmare, The Last Judgment, Eugene Delacroix, Francisco Goya
Other Arts: Jelly Roll Morton, Bela Tarr, Frank Lloyd Wright, Indonesia (ethnomusicology), Patience, Great Britain (YBA clues), Watermelon Man
SS: Elizabeth Loftus, game theory, Richard Posner, Tristes Tropiques, The Mystery of Capital, inflection, China (anthropology)
Other science: splines, positive feedback processes, halting problem, Oort, water treatment, metric spaces, x-64

I bolded what I thought was an intentionally difficult question. In fact, I don't think any of the things I bolded were that difficult, four of the five things that I bolded I saw answered in the top bracket. I honestly think that the unbolded answers are all reasonable for a Regs++ or Nats-- event, if people want to tell me, "this one category I think you edited skews too hard in answerlines / clues" I'm willing to listen. If people think some other categories were just bonkers, than I think Rob, Billy or Westbrook want to find out about it.

I actually do care about making sure the second and third brackets being able to answer my questions - Jacob complained to me about Halford Mackinder being an easy part and I think he's right that Mackinder is a bit tough for an easy part - though not criminal or anything.

I'll also step back and say that one reason that this tournament may have felt tough in my categories is that you couldn't just mine old packets for clues to answer my questions - where are those Mr. Tibbs stlock clues? How do I learn all this jazz? Etc. I think I wrote one or two questions using the old style that Matt articulates, and that in terms of the old style-new style controversy, I actually set myself amongst the new style for the most part. That's not to say that the "old style" of Westbrook is illegitimate - in fact I think it's great to have a couple of hokey questions on Hemingway's Fifth Column in the set.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:18 pm

Ike wrote:
If ACF Nationals wants to be a true national championship for ~50 teams, it can't be just about determining the top ~8 teams in the correct order.


As an editor, one of my priorities was distinguishing between the top teams - and I used the middle and hard parts for this. I think that is perfectly okay and to be honest ideal. When you have a bonus, you get to put teams into four equivalence classes - unlike most tournaments, I think you have to use the easy part to separate teams, some teams will 0 a bonus - and that's okay, if we're handing out perfunctory easy parts, why not just make a tossup worth 20 points and have two part bonuses? In all of "my categories, I tried to make my easy parts what I called "non-insulting to the intelligence" or not "touch your butt" as Seth once put it. I agree with Marshall that bonuses like the "easter bunny" are non-ideal as easy parts, but driving them out with fire and sword and replacing them with slightly less silly easy parts was not my highest priority.

All of you who have difficulty issues, I want to get more specific feedback, so I'm going to post my tossup answerlines for my categories in the editor's packets:

Philosophy: epoche, Kenneth and Edmund Burke, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, John Langshaw Austin, The Will to Believe, A System of Logic, Lorenzo Valla
Painting: Agnolo Bronzino, Pablo Picasso, The Architect's Dream, The Nightmare, The Last Judgment, Eugene Delacroix, Francisco Goya
Other Arts: Jelly Roll Morton, Bela Tarr, Frank Lloyd Wright, Indonesia (ethnomusicology), Patience, Great Britain (YBA clues), Watermelon Man
SS: Elizabeth Loftus, game theory, Richard Posner, Tristes Tropiques, The Mystery of Capital, inflection, China (anthropology)
Other science: splines, positive feedback processes, halting problem, Oort, water treatment, metric spaces, x-64

I bolded what I thought was an intentionally difficult question. In fact, I don't think any of the things I bolded were that difficult, four of the five things that I bolded I saw answered in the top bracket. I honestly think that the unbolded answers are all reasonable for a Regs++ or Nats-- event, if people want to tell me, "this one category I think you edited skews too hard in answerlines / clues" I'm willing to listen. If people think some other categories were just bonkers, than I think Rob, Billy or Westbrook want to find out about it.

I actually do care about making sure the second and third brackets being able to answer my questions - Jacob complained to me about Halford Mackinder being an easy part and I think he's right that Mackinder is a bit tough for an easy part - though not criminal or anything.

I'll also step back and say that one reason that this tournament may have felt tough in my categories is that you couldn't just mine old packets for clues to answer my questions - where are those Mr. Tibbs stlock clues? How do I learn all this jazz? Etc. I think I wrote one or two questions using the old style that Matt articulates, and that in terms of the old style-new style controversy, I actually set myself amongst the new style for the most part. That's not to say that the "old style" of Westbrook is illegitimate - in fact I think it's great to have a couple of hokey questions on Hemingway's Fifth Column in the set.


I have to admit, I liked most of these questions. I think your arts/philosophy questions have a good distribution of difficulty from easy (Picasso, Goya) to Regionals-level (Bronzino) to hard and novel (Bela Tarr, Last Judgment by Memling). The "hard tournament tossup on Frank Lloyd Wright" thing has been done a couple times, and the Delacroix question probably could have withheld titles longer than it did, but these were good.

My complaint was more about the other stuff. One packet had four lit tossups with the answers of pataphysics*, John Buchan, Death and the Maiden, and Dictionary of the Khazars. That's crazily distorted. Frankly, I don't think you should ever be writing tossups on The Fifth Column for Nationals...but if you want to use the argument that it's just one wacky question, the rest of its category should be immaculate. As it stood, The Fifth Column wasn't one wacky question, it was the most obscure of many obscure answers.

*It's possible that was "Your Choice," I guess, so I'd have to confirm. Still not easy.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:23 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:The problem is that many of those answers, especially Old Court/New Court, are hard in a pretty dumb way. I know this is the Westbrook style, but snipping out clues from musty hard packets and writing tossups on them is an archaic and primitive style of writing.


I just want to speak to this as someone who has worked with Ryan many times and also has relatively strong disagreements with his writing style: this is not a fair assessment of how Ryan writes questions. I don't know many writers who are more careful in their research than Ryan is; he most certainly is not copying clues out of old packets. He does have a penchant for promoting hard things that have come up before as answers, and maybe some of the answer choices were not as ideal as they could have been, but he's one of the hardest-working people I know in terms of doing research for the questions he writes.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:26 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:The problem is that many of those answers, especially Old Court/New Court, are hard in a pretty dumb way. I know this is the Westbrook style, but snipping out clues from musty hard packets and writing tossups on them is an archaic and primitive style of writing.


I just want to speak to this as someone who has worked with Ryan many times and also has relatively strong disagreements with his writing style: this is not a fair assessment of how Ryan writes questions. I don't know many writers who are more careful in their research than Ryan is; he most certainly is not copying clues out of old packets. He does have a penchant for promoting hard things that have come up before as answers, and maybe some of the answer choices were not as ideal as they could have been, but he's one of the hardest-working people I know in terms of doing research for the questions he writes.


I didn't say Ryan didn't work hard on his questions, I said he chose answers by taking middle clues from hard packets and turning them into answerlines. He definitely does a ton of research and puts a lot of care into ordering the clues he finds for those answers.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:29 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:The problem is that many of those answers, especially Old Court/New Court, are hard in a pretty dumb way. I know this is the Westbrook style, but snipping out clues from musty hard packets and writing tossups on them is an archaic and primitive style of writing.


I just want to speak to this as someone who has worked with Ryan many times and also has relatively strong disagreements with his writing style: this is not a fair assessment of how Ryan writes questions. I don't know many writers who are more careful in their research than Ryan is; he most certainly is not copying clues out of old packets. He does have a penchant for promoting hard things that have come up before as answers, and maybe some of the answer choices were not as ideal as they could have been, but he's one of the hardest-working people I know in terms of doing research for the questions he writes.


I didn't say Ryan didn't work hard on his questions, I said he chose answers by taking middle clues from hard packets and turning them into answerlines. He definitely does a ton of research and puts a lot of care into ordering the clues he finds for those answers.


My mistake, I misread what you wrote. Sorry about that.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Auks Ran Ova » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:31 pm

To clarify, V. was the fourth lit tossup that round. Pataphysics was OA.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:02 pm

Yeah, I'm not really that interested in tooting my own horn about how much effort I expend...and I'm in the middle of adding a post to the "Burnout" thread right now that will cover this ground anyway...but, quite frankly (sorry if this sounds brash): I don't think there's ever been a single editor in all of quizbowl who spends more time researching questions than I do, and more time ordering and re-ordering the clues.

I pour a ridiculous number of hours into writing questions; the last two to three months has been pretty much nothing but 5 hours per day of staring at Google Books and other places to mine clues. I do sometimes run a packet search on my hard drive to see what has and hasn't come up before, and what clues have and haven't been used, but that is an extremely minor percentage of the substantial amount of research that I do.


As to actual content, the non-Finals history answers for this tournament which I think are in the realm of "deliberately quite hard" are as follows: Thurlow Weed, William Pendleton, Metaxas, Hayreddin Barbarossa, Palenque, Selous Scouts, Arsaces, Taizong, Kushan, Maji Maji Uprising, and Piast Dynasty. (that's 11 questions - almost all of them were submissions, and none of them were in the editors packets - they were all in submitted team packets). I think every single other non-Finals history answer in this tournament was well within the traditional range of difficulty.

So, I think the difficulty angle is a mirage.

I think the real split in play is between the traditional "canon expansion based writing style" (for which I am the poster child) and the new "primary source-driven style" (which I'd identify with people like John Lawrence and Matt Jackson). I thought a tossup on the Old Court/New Court controversy was one of the more inspired ideas I've had in a long time, and I thought that Fifth Column idea was the bee's knees (that was a freelance submission from Zeke, btw) - but you're simply not going to like either of those tossups if you're irrevocably wedded to the gospel of the new style. I do take a lot of pride in being a throwback to the old style, because the pendulum has been swung so far in the other direction...I see entire packets and tournaments now that literally try to do everything in their power to stymie anyone trying to buzz off of packet knowledge instead of book-reading knowledge. "Bury that really hard title after FTP! - someone might have memorized that, and we can't be encouraging that!" Whenever I try to gently tug the pendulum back in the other direction, there's inevitably these immediate winces of pain that come out of certain people.

Also, for the record, that's Ike's tossup on pataphysics (which I thought was a great idea, though perhaps it becomes figure-outable a tad too fast, when people who know what's up realize that there's wacky sciencey philosophy going on).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:10 pm

Here's the rest of the history tossups in the non-finals packets - which of these are really "taking middle clues and turning them into tossups"?

New Jersey, Bela Kun, Anarchy, Umar
Thurlow Weed, Estado Novo, Miltiades, Chakri Dynasty
Chinese Gordon, people with the last name Reed, Arsaces, War of the Pacific
desegregation of military, Metaxas, Catherine the Great, Solomonic Dynasty
Know-Nothing Party, Claudius, Siege of Orleans, ABC Powers
Equiano, Piast, Louis the Pious, Spring and Autumn
Pendleton, Goa, Philby's ring, Silla Kingdom
Israel Putnam, Abel Tasman, the Duke of Marlborough, Pedro II
Alben Barkley, Diggers, Ukrainian language, Costa Rica
Declaration of Sentiments, Lockerbie Bombing, Brandenburg, Megiddo
Pontiac's Rebellion, Urban II, Pierre Laval, Maji Maji
Secretary of Interior, Medizing, Elizabeth of Russia, Kushan
Chicago Tribune, Philip of Macedon, Offa, Taizong
Atlanta, Edward VI, Metaurus River, Marathas
Columbia University, Willy Brandt, Stilicho, Selous Scouts
streetcars, Hayreddin Barbarossa, Louisiana, Palenque
Foreign Affairs, Abdulhamid, John Wilkes, Ching Dynasty
Eaton, Seleucus I, Battle of Pavia, the UAR
Peter Minuit, Chamberlain, Polybius, Dacko
West Virginia, Argos, Battle of Shrewsbury, Satsuma
Thomas Hart Benton, Livonian Order, Naples, Elamites
Oberlin, Black and Tans, Licinius, Abydos
Cyrus Vance, Fashoda Incident, Isidore of Seville, Miguel Hidalgo
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby gyre and gimble » Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:25 pm

First, of all, I want to say that the set was enjoyable as a collection of fun and interesting questions. It was absolutely clear that the editors put a lot of work into putting it together and I'd like to thank them for all their efforts.

That said, I did not think that this set was anywhere near a good model for questions that should decide a national championship. For example, Nationals is not the place to make up for the lack of jazz in other tournaments by including a ton (seriously, the amount of jazz was ridiculous) of jazz tossups at the cost of literally one tossup devoted to sculpture (Tilted Arc, which only two teams played; two, if you count the installation art tossup on the UK), two tossups on architecture (Wright and Pompidou, from what I can recall), and one tossup on photography (Man Ray). This kind of arbitrary skewing of the distribution is not acceptable at Nationals, which should conform closely, though I won't go as far as to say exactly, to sub-distributions that teams can expect going into the tournament.

I can't speak to distributionary skews in categories I don't know much about, but the poetry also seemed to emphasize older works and poets very heavily. I think I only played four poetry tossups on 20th century English-language writers (Thomas, "Burnt Norton," Death of a Naturalist, John Ashbery), and six 20th century questions total ("Identity Card," "A Season in Hell"). The myth was fantastic, though, as was the painting, minus a few bad questions (that White Crucifixion tossup could have been powered by 30 teams at NSC). Overall, other than distribution issues, the tossups were fun to play and I guess I don't mind a few really obscure and unimportant answerlines here and there.

My main issue was actually with the bonuses. There were a lot of questions where you really couldn't tell what the hard part was supposed to be because there were two of them. This is just my opinion, but I've always thought that if you can 30 a Regionals bonus on a topic, you should be able to get at least 20 on a Nationals bonus on that topic. But a lot of the middle parts of bonuses in this set seemed harder than hard parts at regular difficulty.

tl;dr - The questions were predominantly good at an individual level, but the set as a whole seemed somewhere between the carefully-distributed-and-curated Nationals ideal and the more anything-goes-let's-just-play-fun-questions CO model.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Auroni » Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:53 pm

I greatly enjoyed the freshness, innovativeness, and intellectual challenge of this tournament in pretty much all categories. That said, I think MattBo nailed it in his earlier post. Many questions in the tournament, particularly those in editors' packets, were on topics that people just don't know that much about other than having heard of it. The Old Court-New Court tossup is a perfect example. Even supposing that Ryan came across that in some other manner than as a clue for Kentucky in past packets, how much knowledge of that event did Ryan really think people had? Not that much, it turns out -- it went all the way to a very late neg in the finals match, before being picked up at the end. Many other tossups throughout Sunday played similarly. The finals packet had a 2011-esque vibe of "this is a thing, therefore I am going to toss it up," without critical consideration of how much people might actually know of each subject. It was a step back in quality from the 2014 ACF Nationals finals packets which Jerry, Ted, Ryan, and I put together, did a far better job of actually giving a teams to duke it out on both the depth and breadth of their knowledge. That said, this isn't to impugn the entire packet -- which did have excellent tossups on Mephistopheles and Hector's body that were very knowable from deep knowledge of accessible and widely-read texts.

At the risk of being a hypocrite, I want to call out a specific kind of writing practice (that I've certainly been guilty of myself). Ike informed me that The Fifth Column tossup was written by Zeke and was kept because it amused the editors. This is not a good justification for having a question, especially not at a Nationals tournament, especially not during the last stages of the playoff rounds where every tossup in every game between the best teams counts.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Ike » Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:54 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:That said, I did not think that this set was anywhere near a good model for questions that should decide a national championship. For example, Nationals is not the place to make up for the lack of jazz in other tournaments by including a ton (seriously, the amount of jazz was ridiculous) of jazz tossups at the cost of literally one tossup devoted to sculpture (Tilted Arc, which only two teams played; two, if you count the installation art tossup on the UK), two tossups on architecture (Wright and Pompidou, from what I can recall), and one tossup on photography (Man Ray). This kind of arbitrary skewing of the distribution is not acceptable at Nationals, which should conform closely, though I won't go as far as to say exactly, to sub-distributions that teams can expect going into the tournament.


I was going to bring this up later, but I'll talk about this now since Billy's playing Xenoblade and not me:

I didn't really deviate from any distribution. There's nothing in the ACF Distribution or implicit code or "cool's kids club rules" that says we can't have 5/6 jazz in a set over the course of 25 packets*. The other arts distribution is kind of like the "wheel of fortune" in my view, some categories will rise, and fall with the whims of the submissions and the editors. Also, I think you're reaction to jazz is kind of preference-oriented - a lot of people actually care about jazz and blues and I'm sure they were more than thrilled to hear questions on these topics.

Secondly, I think you're taking a super rigid approach to how I view the other arts - I think it makes no sense to have a distinction between architecture, sculpture, performance arts, etc. That Pompidou Center tossup for example, was an architecture question ostensibly, but it had sculptural clues, video art clues and architectural criticism clues. That Italy tossup also had sculpture clues, performance art clues, photography clues, and fashion design (!) clues. That Great Britain tossup also had a mix between sculpture, performance, installation art...you get the point. Hell, look at that Indonesia ethnomusicology tossup I wrote - those instruments are actually viewable if you go to the "ethnic art" section of a major museum. So yes, there weren't that many "pure sculpture" questions, but to say there was little sculpture or little architecture isn't right to me.

*We technically produced 26 packets, but the last one was a collaboration between me and Billy that was blind to everyone else that will either be folded into our CO packet or used in next year's nats. It was designed for use in extreme situations, (such as Penn needing to play a tiebreaker, and then needing to play into the finals) - thankfully we didn't need it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby vcuEvan » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:07 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I thought a tossup on the Old Court/New Court controversy was one of the more inspired ideas I've had in a long time


This is the dumbest ACF Nationals tossup answer I've seen since the Reptiles Fund tossup. It's a regional squabble that affected the court system of one state for a few years with no national significance. This is the kind of answer you get when you either don't think about or don't care about the kinds of things your field will know outside of the quizbowl questions they read.

There's a Kentucky governor named Ruby Laffoon. He has a funny name and a great nickname: "the terrible Turk from Madisonville." He seems to be most famous for bringing the sales tax to Kentucky and making Colonel Sanders a colonel. Let's say I use him at a clue in my Kentucky tossup for Regionals. Chris Manners notices and includes him as a clue in his Kentucky tossup at a later packet submission. Mike Cheyne uses him as a bonus part for his CO packet. Ryan gets the inspired idea to make him a tossup at Nationals. Sure, it gets answered, but is this really what people want out of this game?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby gyre and gimble » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:10 pm

Ike wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:That said, I did not think that this set was anywhere near a good model for questions that should decide a national championship. For example, Nationals is not the place to make up for the lack of jazz in other tournaments by including a ton (seriously, the amount of jazz was ridiculous) of jazz tossups at the cost of literally one tossup devoted to sculpture (Tilted Arc, which only two teams played; two, if you count the installation art tossup on the UK), two tossups on architecture (Wright and Pompidou, from what I can recall), and one tossup on photography (Man Ray). This kind of arbitrary skewing of the distribution is not acceptable at Nationals, which should conform closely, though I won't go as far as to say exactly, to sub-distributions that teams can expect going into the tournament.


I was going to bring this up later, but I'll talk about this now since Billy's playing Xenoblade and not me:

I didn't really deviate from any distribution. There's nothing in the ACF Distribution or implicit code or "cool's kids club rules" that says we can't have 5/6 jazz in a set over the course of 25 packets*. The other arts distribution is kind of like the "wheel of fortune" in my view, some categories will rise, and fall with the whims of the submissions and the editors. Also, I think you're reaction to jazz is kind of preference-oriented - a lot of people actually care about jazz and blues and I'm sure they were more than thrilled to hear questions on these topics.

Secondly, I think you're taking a super rigid approach to how I view the other arts - I think it makes no sense to have a distinction between architecture, sculpture, performance arts, etc. That Pompidou Center tossup for example, was an architecture question ostensibly, but it had sculptural clues, video art clues and architectural criticism clues. That Italy tossup also had sculpture clues, performance art clues, photography clues, and fashion design (!) clues. That Great Britain tossup also had a mix between sculpture, performance, installation art...you get the point. Hell, look at that Indonesia ethnomusicology tossup I wrote - those instruments are actually viewable if you go to the "ethnic art" section of a major museum. So yes, there weren't that many "pure sculpture" questions, but to say there was little sculpture or little architecture isn't right to me.


I mean, I only differentiated the way I did for the sake of enumeration. And I guess I forgot about Italy. But that makes 6 tossups! There should not be 6 total tossups on non-film other visual arts next to 5 jazz ones. This isn't about how I feel about jazz (frankly, I don't really care if there's more jazz and less opera or something, as long as the extra jazz comes out of auditory arts and not visual). Nor am I proposing some sort of "cool kid's club rules." I'm only asking that Nationals have a reasonable, balanced sub-distribution, which this tournament did not.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:28 pm

I am still a Westbrookian and would not in theory object to Ruby Laffoon being a tossup one day if it came after many years of him coming up all the time as a clue. However, I think the empirics are on my side when I say there were a lot of hard history tossup answers in this set that were not ready to be a tossup answer - and therefore went dead in many rooms in games between top teams. The Reptiles Fund (which I admit to writing a mostly poorly-received ACF Nationals tossup about) had been coming up as a stock clue for years.

Whether they were not ready because they're not inherently important enough in some objective sense, or not ready because they hadn't come up enough times before, the point is that they largely went dead and resulted in no additional information (points, in this case) about how to rank these two teams playing. In many cases, they could have been folded into an easier answer choice. I'm sure a tossup on Rhodesia would have rewarded people who knew about those scouts, then gone on to clues that rewarded people for knowing about the Bush War, then gone on the clues that, in the absence of players who knew about the scouts and their Bush War, would have ranked teams based on how much they knew about a relatively noteworthy polity.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Cody » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:36 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:I'm only asking that Nationals have a reasonable, balanced sub-distribution, which this tournament did not.
Who determines what is a "reasonable, balanced sub-distribution"? This is a common complaint in other arts and a few other categories, but to quote the master...

This jazz complaint, in particular, is mighty specious. Here is a breakdown of the Other Arts for the tournament, for tossups (I redacted a few answerlines given what people might not've seen yet). Given the clues used, I've grouped some stuff under "Visual Misc." and "Auditory Misc." for ease of categorization.

Editor:
4/0 Auditory
2/0 Opera (Patience, Finals 2 TU)
1/0 Jazz (Jelly Roll Morton)
1/0 Auditory Misc. (Indonesia)

5/0 Visual
2/0 Film (Bela Tarr, Ed. 7 TU)
1/0 Arch (FL Wright)
1/0 Sculpture (Tilted Arc)
1/0 Visual Misc. (Great Britain)

Submitted:
6/0 Auditory
3/0 Jazz (free jazz, Kansas City, electric guitar)
2/0 Opera (Penn A TU, Don Pasquale)
1/0 Auditory Misc. (Virgil Thomson)

10/0 Visual
6/0 Visual Misc. (Man Ray, Pompidou Center, Warhol's Factory, John Ruskin, thrones, Italy)
4/0 Film (Aguirre, Mr. Tibbs, Iran, Tokyo)

It'd be really great if people would learn that spot impressions from playing the tournament don't give you an accurate view of subdistributions. And that the range of acceptable subdistributions is pretty wide—editor's needn't cleave to your personal conception of what a category's subdistribution should be as long as most categories are somewhat fairly represented. I think the 2015 ACF Nationals set did a fine job of representing a lot of categories in fine arts and an awesome job of employing clues from various disciplines in the "Visual Misc." and "Auditory Misc." categories I ``defined'' above.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:41 pm

I'll do a more thorough packet-by-packet breakdown of the answer selections you've listed later, Ryan. For now, I'll just note that you're leaving David Dacko, among others, out of your list of extremely hard answers.

I don't think the history was as big a problem area as the literature, which was a real letdown from Ted's amazing work last year. I'll get to that later, too. Here's what I'll ask you, though: if you don't like where this "pendulum" has swung, what's your competing standard for what makes a good question? We younger guys have pretty much laid out what we want from the game. Here's what I wrote in the George Oppen discussion:

I wrote:As I've argued before, popular culture has a place in quizbowl because (1) people know it, (2) it's worth knowing, and (3) it allows for novel questions.


I was talking about trash questions, but to me, these are the essential criteria for answers in any category. What are yours? You seem to put emphasis on (1), making your questions answerable by the end with ordered clues. Do you distinguish between answers that are "worth knowing" - i.e., those that incentivize people to cultivate an actual interest in the topic - and not?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Aaron Manby (ironmaster) » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:44 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: One packet had four lit tossups with the answers of pataphysics*, John Buchan, Death and the Maiden, and Dictionary of the Khazars.


In my game, the Death and the Maiden tossup ended up being a buzzer race between the music players after the Schubert giveaway. I don't think giveaways should leak into another discipline.

Matthew J wrote:And the teams I read to at least in the third playoff bracket were still engaged and having that most mysterious emotion "fun" even in games where 8-10 tossups went dead, I.e. I don't suspect high difficulty will actually drive many folks away.


On the subject of the middle bracket clusterfucks, I think there's nothing wrong with being unable to perfectly sort out teams 21 to 28 if the same packets can do the job in sorting out a top 8 or so. I had a great time playing close games in the rebracket; I never entered a game where it was obvious who was going to win or lose. I wish the playoffs were longer so we got to play more of these types of games against teams of very similar skill level. The variance was certainly A Thing, which is one of the reasons I think there should be more playoff games.

Muriel Axon wrote:Also: Was it just me, or was there a lot of Beethoven in this set? Pathetique, Appassionata bonus, Diabelli Variations, Symphony No. 7, bonus part on Fidelio...I'm still not sure that's all of them. I like the idea of asking about very canonical works by important composers, but this seemed a little excessive


I was guilty of writing the tossup on Pathetique. I also felt the music was skewed pre-1850, especially with all the Beethoven, but I'd have to see the set again to make a real conclusion.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:50 pm

I have nothing to do with the Old Court/New Court tossup, but I should note that I've seen this incident referenced in a number of books; in particular, discussion of this controversy occupies several pages of Sean Wilentz's The Rise of American Democracy as an example of a key point of friction between the newly politically active Jacksonians and the older Kentucky establishment. It's not some sort of frivolous thing with a silly name but an actually important political moment in American history.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:54 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I have nothing to do with the Old Court/New Court tossup, but I should note that I've seen this incident referenced in a number of books; in particular, discussion of this controversy occupies several pages of Sean Wilentz's The Rise of American Democracy as an example of a key point of friction between the newly politically active Jacksonians and the older Kentucky establishment. It's not some sort of frivolous thing with a silly name but an actually important political moment in American history.


I second this. The problem here is not the answer line (*), it's the clues. The Old Court/New Court controversy is highly relevant to the birth of the second party system, not to mention contemporary discussions of who should get a bailout when there's a financial crisis and what constitutes "going too far" in the context of constitutional government.

(*) of course, answer lines should adhere to what people know. People "should" know about the Old Court/New Court controversy, but they don't. And my problem with this and other tossups is that it incentivizes studying unimportant minutia, rather than reading (and comprehending) good books.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:01 pm

Tees-Exe Line wrote:(*) of course, answer lines should adhere to what people know. People "should" know about the Old Court/New Court controversy, but they don't. And my problem with this and other tossups is that it incentivizes studying unimportant minutia, rather than reading (and comprehending) good books.


Well, I think I made a pretty good argument that reading at least one specific good book would have gotten you points on that!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby Tees-Exe Line » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:04 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Tees-Exe Line wrote:(*) of course, answer lines should adhere to what people know. People "should" know about the Old Court/New Court controversy, but they don't. And my problem with this and other tossups is that it incentivizes studying unimportant minutia, rather than reading (and comprehending) good books.


Well, I think I made a pretty good argument that reading at least one specific good book would have gotten you points on that!


Would it have, though? Granted, I haven't read Wilentz, and I should, nor do I have the question text in front of me. But from what I recall of the question, it did not convey what the controversy was actually about. It was more "here are obscure names associated with a controversy. Do you know which controversy these names are associated with?"
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:12 pm

Tees-Exe Line wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:
Tees-Exe Line wrote:(*) of course, answer lines should adhere to what people know. People "should" know about the Old Court/New Court controversy, but they don't. And my problem with this and other tossups is that it incentivizes studying unimportant minutia, rather than reading (and comprehending) good books.


Well, I think I made a pretty good argument that reading at least one specific good book would have gotten you points on that!


Would it have, though? Granted, I haven't read Wilentz, and I should, nor do I have the question text in front of me. But from what I recall of the question, it did not convey what the controversy was actually about. It was more "here are obscure names associated with a controversy. Do you know which controversy these names are associated with?"


Yeah, agreed. I think the clues could have been better chosen to highlight just what the substance of the controversy was. I'm going to make a more general post, probably in a new thread, about the difference between writing styles, which is what I think a lot of this debate comes down to.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Postby felgon123 » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:29 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Each topic had two pretty flipping hard tossups - My Brilliant Career and A High Toned Old Christian Woman in lit, Old Court/New Court and Guizot in history (I really don't think On-to-Ottawa or Sardis are that difficult at all), and Geostrophy and N.Crassa in science. The rub comes in the fact that M. has a much more surehanded ability to scale the difficulty ladder in science than any corresponding player has the ability to do in history or literature (even though there certainly was plenty of lit and history knowledge present in the room, it's always a less sure probability that those players will be able to climb the ladder).


With all due respect to Eric, I found this particular claim amusing. Have you ever seen Matt play a CO packet? Eric is indeed the best science player the game has produced, but the notion that he scales up on science in a way that no one else does in any other category is, shall we say, dubious. The reason Eric handled most of the difficult science so well (as did other players, myself included, who are especially partial to science questions), was that that category was by and large responsibly executed, whereas the lit and history in the editors' packets were full of stupid answerlines that shouldn't be tossups. For instance, N. crassa does not strike me as being even borderline too hard for Nats, but rather entirely reasonable and fine. On the other hand, although we're a much better lit team than science team, our shot at beating Penn evaporated when Matt and I couldn't convert the penultimate tossup of the game: The Fifth Column. That "hokey" bit of fun put every great literature player in the tournament out of commission and decided crucial games between top-seed teams. A great science player like Eric didn't flounder on the science not because he's better at science than any lit player is at lit or any history player is at history, but because most of the science was pretty good, and a lot of the lit and history was subpar, to put it mildly; the discrepancy lay in the questions, not the players. Again, I am speaking primarily of the editors' packets here. The packets created from submissions were mostly great. I'm guessing this is due to the fact that the submitting teams were simply much wiser in their answer selection than the editors were, so whenever the editors applied their ample talents to reshaping submitted material, excellent questions were the primary result, but when left to their own devices, impossible speedchecks abounded.
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