Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

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Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:05 pm

I just recovered from a long day of quizbowl so I'm finally in a state to make this post that I've been kind of thinking about for a while but haven't quite had the fire under my ass to write until now.
Basically, ACF Winter ran until almost 9 o'clock yesterday including the final game. I honestly am at a loss to explain how this happened, because it seemed to me like the direction was actually under control. There weren't hour long waits inbetween games or anything like that, so I don't understand what happened, but it doesn't change my point anyway. It seems like to me, this is far too late to run a tournament aimed at the general circuit, and now the last 2 tournaments I've gone to fall into this category. I understand full well, at an event like Chicago Open where lots of teams show up with the intention of spending a weekend to play 4 or 5 events, there's not much of an alternative, but the point is that these teams are full of people who know that firsthand they are going to be doing nothing but playing quizbowl for long swathes of time. I think for standard circuit events like ACF events that aren't nationals, independent events that aren't having a bunch of side events, etc. should aim towards getting started with their pre-finals awards ceremony at 6PM and no later. If that means getting rid of slow moderators for a few rounds, then disband your house team and have the bad moderators play (granted, Rolla did actually do all kinds of weird things for their house team so Matt and Jeffrey were staffing a lot, so once again I'm at a loss to explain how it went so long). Beyond that, I'm not really sure what you can do other than emphasize to moderators that they should be aiming to get through 1 round in 25 minutes, and we need teams to move to their next room quickly. The reason why I'm posting this is because i think we need to recognize that the circuit is nowhere near as hardcore as the top individuals who don't mind playing quizbowl well into the night. For the vast majority of the circuit I'd say these are people who just want to play some quizbowl but don't need to play it all the way into the night, not to mention many of them have over an hour to drive back and already got up early. It seems like dragging them through tournaments that last forever is going to be a surefire way to alienate these new players who haven't gotten serious yet. I'm honestly concerned about this, because I'm seeing it a little in my own teammates, and I can only imagine what's going on in situations that don't have a captain who is as willing to stick around quizbowl as me. I think we should really start exploring ways to cut down how long a tournament takes, and would like to take this as an opportunity for more experienced directors than myself to chime in with their own experience on how to fix this.
A secondary point about timing tournaments I would like to make now is one that I don't think enough people have paid attention to. I really think it's a bad idea to schedule lunch earlier than about halfway through the tournament. At EFT we went for 4 rounds, then ate lunch, then played 8 games in a row. Even worse, yesterday we had an 11 game marathon after lunch. I think too many directors are concerned about having lunch around noon and would like to point out that I think many, many people out there would gladly be willing to trade an early lunch for being able to break up the games into reasonable chunks like 7-7 or 6-7 or whatever. Playing 11 games almost non-stop was a fantastic drain, and I can't imagine anybody enjoyed that. Please directors, in the future I would kill to see lunch be later to break up the day better.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Matt Weiner » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:20 pm

I endorse the above post.

25 minutes is how long it should take to read a 20/20 packet, regardless of how long the questions are. If you can't do this, you are not a good moderator. Get better or get replaced. TDs, make sure you take adequate steps to prepare your moderators to read at the correct speed, or recruit people who are if you have people that it's impossible to work with for some reason. Expecting to run an adequate number of rounds when your slowest moderator takes 45 minutes per game is no better than just showing up with 4 moderators for a 5 room tournament and hoping that a miracle saves you.

If you are a slow moderator and you're not sure how to get better, my primary piece of advice is to learn to move immediately from one question to the next without pausing yourself or allowing the teams to break out into chatter. This is always the cause of slow games; the actual speed at which you read the text rarely has much to do with it, nor does the length of the questions. Practice going from one tossup, to the bonus, to the next tossup, etc without any pause, and you will be able to finish on time. Not everyone can read the question text at breakneck speed and remain intelligible, but everyone can learn to keep the game room under control and finish promptly by doing that.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:22 pm

Do you have a good moderator tree whose seeds you can distribute to other teams, Matt?

Also, Dees: paragraphs are your friends.

One thing I have toyed with doing is instructing moderators to aggressively call illegal conference on people who talk after bonuses.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:26 pm

I think Dees and Weiner are in dreamland here. Here's what I think: sometimes tournaments take a long time, for various reasons, and sometimes moderators aren't very good. I don't think setting a goal to be done around 6 P.M. or running a round in 25 minutes is very realistic at all. I'll buy the premise that tournaments stretching deep into the night could discourage some of the less-hardcore participants, but I don't really see any solution...unless you want to be running 9 or 10 round tournaments, and I don't think anyone does.

As Bruce intimates, many places don't have the luxury of being able to recruit a sufficient number of really good moderators, which, don't let Matt Weiner fool you, is what it's going to take to consistently get through rounds in 25 minutes. Surely, everyone believes that we should allocate the best possible moderators to each room, so as not to produce any unnecessary delays. But, we can't very well hold extensive "training sessions" or whatever for moderators, and Weiner severely overestimates the ability of poor moderators to just improve with "three easy steps!" - eh, some people just aren't terribly good at moderating, and this (along with chatter, granted) is going to cause delays. Sometimes, the reality of the situation is just what Dees describes above - nothing really goes wrong and noone is incompetent in directing the tournament; things just end up taking a really long time, and there' s not much anyone can do about it.

I think it's more realistic to just tell people up front that - when you sign up to go to a QB tournament, you're giving up your weekend. More specifically, there's a high probability that you'll have to: (1) get a hotel where you'll probably get four hours of uncomfortable sleep and then drag your body out of bed to make your way to a shitty university building where you'll be sitting for most of the next 12 hours AND (2) sit in a car and/or drive for a considerable distance, perhaps at obscene hours of the night, and perhaps in an exhausted state in order to get to and from whereever you need to be. It's just life on the QB road, man.

However, I will agree on the point about lunch - I don't understand why you need to eat lunch at noon after four rounds and then play a billion more rounds after that. I'm all for having lunch around 2 or so if it nicely splits up the playing time. And, I'm all for NOT using things like electronic scorekeeping and other delay-creating innovations at events...but, I'll have a separate post on that.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:29 pm

I know that, due to travel, a lot of teams don't eat breakfast. That may be one reason for early lunch.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Susan » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:31 pm

I agree with Matt et al that getting people to cut down on the chatter between questions (and to sit down and play immediately as soon as both teams are present) can do a lot to keep a tournament moving. You can also save a great deal of time by providing food on-site (since people tend to dawdle on the way back from lunch), and I think most people do not mind paying a bit extra (to cover food) if they get out earlier.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:37 pm

I don't know, I never eat breakfast, and I usually feel like lunch is too early at most tournaments...that is, I usually feel like it would be better to wait until close to the actual half-way point of a tourney to eat. Might be interesting to poll people about this.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Irreligion in Bangladesh » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:40 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:As Bruce intimates, many places don't have the luxury of being able to recruit a sufficient number of really good moderators, which, don't let Matt Weiner fool you, is what it's going to take to consistently get through rounds in 25 minutes. Surely, everyone believes that we should allocate the best possible moderators to each room, so as not to produce any unnecessary delays. But, we can't very well hold extensive "training sessions" or whatever for moderators, and Weiner severely overestimates the ability of poor moderators to just improve with "three easy steps!" - eh, some people just aren't terribly good at moderating, and this (along with chatter, granted) is going to cause delays. Sometimes, the reality of the situation is just what Dees describes above - nothing really goes wrong and noone is incompetent in directing the tournament; things just end up taking a really long time, and there' s not much anyone can do about it.


Maybe it's just that I have an abnormally high number of people with high interest in quizbowl and low experience in moderating, but running training sessions is exactly what I've been doing for the tournaments I've run, and when Kristin runs Huskie Bowl, she's running some as well. It doesn't take a ton of time to get the small handful of people together for 30 minutes to an hour - if I'm not mistaken, that happens on a regular basis with practice, so that takes care of any members of your team that moderate - and it doesn't take much to emphasize that the key is to keep the questions coming. Chatter is the key to slow rounds and delayed tourneys, and I don't think Weiner's out of line for demanding that moderators get better. The only thing I'd do is put more an emphasis on the TD to make sure that their moderators are capable of doing such a thing.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Mike Bentley » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:13 pm

I guess I'm in the minority, but at regular events I never really felt like I wasn't getting enough quizbowl if we did like 12 rounds + finals. These tournaments will get out around 6 or 7 with decent readers, which seems like a pretty reasonable time to me.

The best teams still win the tournaments, everyone still gets to play a lot of matches against other teams, and for at least a few teams it makes it possible to get back before midnight.

Tournaments drawing national style fields will obviously want to include more rounds, but for regular tournaments, I don't really see the point in playing 16-18 rounds.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Matt Weiner » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:18 pm

The ACF minimum is 11, and around 12 also seems ideal to me. The issue is that, with certain field sizes, the only way to get the minimum 11 games is to use a schedule that's actually 14 games or whatever.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:27 am

Anything from 11-15 rounds is usually standard, anything over that is really unusual. 12 is certainly in the range of an acceptable number of rounds. But, this "getting back by midnight" stuff is a mirage...if you're getting back by midnight terribly often, you're either not playing qb or you've got some wacky time travel machine that I think you should let us all in on.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby BuzzerZen » Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:27 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Anything from 11-15 rounds is usually standard, anything over that is really unusual. 12 is certainly in the range of an acceptable number of rounds. But, this "getting back by midnight" stuff is a mirage...if you're getting back by midnight terribly often, you're either not playing qb or you've got some wacky time travel machine that I think you should let us all in on.

...or you are playing quiz bowl in the northeast, where all tournaments take place in Boston, which is not far away from anywhere.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Cheynem » Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:41 pm

I agree with Charlie's observations that a "normal" quiz bowl tourney without side events should aim to get done around the 6-7 mark, with a little wiggle room for playoffs/finals that would not involve every team anyway.

Lunch is a bugaboo for me. I'm an ugly American, so I eat fast and I tend to eat junk, so in my ideal world, I'd get in a car, hop to the nearest fast food place, get some food, return and eat in about 20 minutes or so. Obviously, with more people and more discriminatory palates, that isn't always an option. But seriously, no more than a hour for lunch. And enforce this relatively hard. I do think that sometimes it feels like post-lunch matches go on and on, but I'm always hungry early despite continental breakfasts, so I guess I'd be a hypocrite to complain.

And now for speeding up games. I guess my only advice is for a good reader to take control of the game. It's tough because I think sometimes teams might think you're an asshole, but there is nothing wrong with saying "Please be quiet" or "let's move on" if chatter threatens to overwhelm a game. I used to be very bad at crosstalking and chattering and I'm trying to cut it out. On the same level, some onus should be on teams to knock out the jibbety-jabbering and play the game. Obviously, we're human beings and there are moments of levity and interaction, but within reason. On the same level, there is absolutely no reason that a reader should ENCOURAGE chatter either ("Oh, Steve, you should have buzzed there--aren't you a classics major?").
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby cvdwightw » Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:49 pm

I'm probably in the minority too, but I think that 35 minutes a round is acceptable. With an hour lunch, that puts a fourteen round tournament ending before 7. Here's where I see most of the time actually being lost:

Talking between questions. It happens, and as long as it's not overly disruptive or constantly between every question I don't really mind it. That said, moderators need to be able to keep the comments to a minimum. If a team is talking after they got a tossup, reading the bonus lead-in will shut them up pretty quickly.

Switching between questions. This is one place where I think paperless tournaments are worse than paper tournaments, since scrolling down (and then scrolling back up when you realize that the answer to the last bonus part is on the next page) takes longer than just tossing the page when you're done with all the questions on it and reclaiming the pages after the round is over. Adding page breaks when a question spills over onto the next page would reduce the time used up in unnecessary scrolling. If you've got someone using someone else's computer, or Word 2007 decides that it hates you, this can take a surprisingly long time.

Scorekeeping. There are a few of us who can read the packet, scorekeep, and finish under 30 minutes with only a few mistakes a tournament. I see a lot of people having trouble doing both, especially the people who find it imperative to keep a running total after every question. Here's a hint: record who got the tossup, find bonus, read bonus, record bonus points. Wait for half/end of game to do running totals, and only add on the lines where points are scored. Having a scorekeeper greatly reduces game time (Zot Bowl ran 10 rounds with an hour for lunch, started a little before 10 and ended a little after 4, thanks to competent moderators and teams willing to scorekeep on bye), at least until BEeS and its automatic scorekeeping feature comes out.

Overly "lenient" five second calls. At UCLA we called this the "Charlie Steinhice five seconds" because he would do this during timed rounds. If you're moderating, you need to have a good idea of how long five seconds is. If fifteen tossups are answered, spending eight seconds instead of five to wait for the bonus prompt adds over 2 minutes to the game. All twenty tossups and averaging ten seconds, you just added 5 minutes to the game. It doesn't matter if the team is still talking or you've got the captain trying to pull the answer, when you hit five seconds, ask for an answer, count one second, and call time if there's no directed answer. Outside of unnecessary talking, this probably adds more time to any round than anything else, and is the biggest waste of time in timed tournaments since people don't talk as much when they're on the clock.

In short: stop disruptive, overly long talks between questions (Having six people erupt in laughter when they expect the third part of a bonus to be the hard part and instead the part asks for a certain "oceanic country" doesn't count); put page breaks in packets so that questions don't spill over onto two pages; find a scorekeeper if at all possible; and practice counting to five seconds on the bonus. I really think those four steps can cut rounds down from 45 minutes to under 35, regardless of how hard a time you're having making sense of random spelling and grammar errors or weird pronunciations.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:54 pm

Good suggestions, Dwight. On this point:

Switching between questions. This is one place where I think paperless tournaments are worse than paper tournaments, since scrolling down (and then scrolling back up when you realize that the answer to the last bonus part is on the next page) takes longer than just tossing the page when you're done with all the questions on it and reclaiming the pages after the round is over.


You can open two copies and use alt-tab-switching (or clicking in the taskbar if you're so inclined, but the keyboard is way faster) so that you're always on the next tossup in one file and the next bonus in the other. This definitely saves time and aggravation compared to scrolling through the packet on every question.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Susan » Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:57 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Good suggestions, Dwight. On this point:

Switching between questions. This is one place where I think paperless tournaments are worse than paper tournaments, since scrolling down (and then scrolling back up when you realize that the answer to the last bonus part is on the next page) takes longer than just tossing the page when you're done with all the questions on it and reclaiming the pages after the round is over.


You can open two copies and use alt-tab-switching (or clicking in the taskbar if you're so inclined, but the keyboard is way faster) so that you're always on the next tossup in one file and the next bonus in the other. This definitely saves time and aggravation compared to scrolling through the packet on every question.


Good God, people! Split the screen!
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby BuzzerZen » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:03 pm

myamphigory wrote:Good God, people! Split the screen!

Yeah, do this. If you're on a Mac and the questions are PDFs (and they ought to be, or TDs ought at least to provide that option when passing out files), I endorse Skim, which uses Apple's built-in PDFKit framework to display PDFs but does so with a rather more robust feature set than Preview, including document split-screening.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:09 pm

Questions are handed out in .doc form fairly universally, so any solution should address that.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby theMoMA » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:17 pm

In case people aren't aware, there is a horizontal gray bar atop the scroll bar on the right-hand side of Word documents that allows you to splitscreen. Just double-click on it.

Image

Then something like this happens:

Image

Scroll down to the bonuses in the lower half, and you're good to go.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby BuzzerZen » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:23 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Questions are handed out in .doc form fairly universally, so any solution should address that.

I realize this, but my point is that MS Word, while fairly ubiquitous, is not at all a standard, in the technical sense. At ACF Nationals and Chicago Open, I opened up each round in TextEdit and used OS X's built in "print to PDF" functionality to make a PDF of each round so I could use Skim instead of TextEdit, which does not include split-window functionality.

Really, though, if questions were distributed as HTML, we could use JavaScript to make the current question really really big on the screen and attach "next tossup" and "next bonus" links to things. This will be moot, of course, if BEeS materializes and makes our lives all better forever and ever.

Besides, in this ever-evolving quiz bowl world, it's all about multi-tasking. In fact, more and more I'm seeing tournament directors give their moderators two game rooms so they can moderate to four teams at once.

Anyway, I will take my nerd-snobbery out of this thread.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Susan » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:24 pm

If for some reason you fear little grey buttons, there's also an option to split the screen under "Window".
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:06 pm

Yeah, hey gang, maybe you know me as the guy who hates computers. This is absurd. Split your Word screen and start reading...it works well.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Jan 19, 2009 8:06 pm

Yeah, I just scroll one screen down while I'm reading the other screen and it cuts all that time out.
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Re: Timing tournaments well (with added lunch placement talk)

Postby First Chairman » Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:13 pm

I am catching this thread late, so consider this obsolete if we've tread this path already.

I do think that a 20/20 round should plan for about 30 minutes each, and that a lunch break occurs at halfway through prelims. But what makes a tournament run really well is the training imparted beyond just reading on the moderating staff. It takes time to develop a core group at the grassroots level compared to a nationals group. Thus if you have some unreliable readers, plan to go 40 minutes for a 20/20 match (heaven help you to do one question a minute). Tiebreakers and protests also slow up a game, so question-writing and editing are also critical.

No added comments on split-screening in Word. You should be able to split screen PDF documents the same way you can with Word. (At least I could.)

I am all in favor of having anyone create a slideshow for training moderators along with an audiotrack that we can slidecast and post publicly on this website.
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