The Buzzer Dilemma

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The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Cheynem » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:35 am

Jerry made an informative post summarizing the buzzer issues at ACF Nationals in that discussion thread. I don't want to get into that too much in that thread, so I decided to start another one.

Over the weekend, a former (?) ACF member made this proposal about buzzers. I like a great deal of the idea, and wonder what (a). ACF and (b). others think. I am assuming since that person posted this idea publicly, he won't mind my sharing it here:
The rule going forward at all official ACF events needs to be that all teams [read as programs, not individual teams at a school] not in their first year of existence as a program must bring a buzzer to the tournament. There is no discount for your first buzzer, there is just a $100 penalty if you do not bring it or it does not meet the definition of a working buzzer (https://www.naqt.com/buzzer-discount-policy.html) and you may only claim discounts for buzzers 2+.
I don't think we need this for "all official ACF events" (certainly not Fall), but especially for Nats, I think the idea has promise. The $100 penalties would go specifically to a fund for ACF to buy buzzers, which perhaps in a few years or so might eliminate the need for the buzzer requirement.

Do other people have ideas about how to ensure the buzzer dilemma does not continue to pop up at Nats (or other events)?
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:51 am

I'm not sure if we'll do this for Fall or Regionals (ok, I'm guessing almost certainly not for Fall) but for Nationals this idea is very much in play. We're definitely going to consider fining teams that say they will bring buzzers and don't.

edit: I would formulate this as "If you have buzzers you must bring them," to exempt teams that may not own a buzzer system. I also understand that traveling on a plane with a buzzer may not be the most convenient thing, so this might apply more forcefully to teams that drive.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:15 am

High school teams are pretty good at bringing their buzzer sets; I was at multiple high school tournaments this semester where there were nearly as many buzzer sets as teams playing in the field. I know high school teams are usually closer by (so nobody is unable to bring sets due to air travel) and comparatively well funded, but I also know almost every college team playing an event like ACF Nationals probably has a buzzer set. If you are playing a college quizbowl tournament, have a working buzzer system, have room in your car to bring the buzzers, and don't forget about it completely...what excuse do you actually have for not bringing your buzzers? Do college teams only bring them based on getting a tiny discount?

I have in previous years suggested taking away the carrot (the tiny discount) and replacing it with a stick (a fine for not bringing your buzzers). I don't like the idea of doing that on a wide ranging basis because there are plenty of teams with good reasons for not having buzzers sometimes (traveling on a plane, not having buzzers, etc.) but we have this discussion almost every year.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:36 am

This situation seems like a bunch of teams fucked up and not on ACF or whatever. With responsible teams ACF buying like 10 buzzer sets seems wasteful...

Furthermore, it's clear that there are enough buzzers out there (even locally) between official organizations (NAQT, PACE, NHBB, but NHBB was conficting this particular tournament) and major HS/MS schools that one could pick up a handful of buzzers during their drive. Not even just with school owned buzzers -- there are something like 3 buzzers owned by NHBB that have immigrated to Ottawa for use at History stuff but we can also use them for HS and college tournaments.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:07 pm

If ACF owned buzzers where would they be stored and who would take care of them. This is a serious question. ACF has much less turnover and institutional buildout than NAQT or NHBB. There's not a Dave Madden or R. Hentzel type figure who will always be there; the closest ACF ever had to such a Heimdall-like figure was Matt Weiner and he left a few years back.

I guess you could have ACF officials transfer possessions of buzzers at the end of their terms, but I think we've seen handoffs like that fail at the club level.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Charbroil » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:49 pm

Does NAQT own a large portion of the buzzers used at ICT? And, along those lines, would ICT have the same problem as ACF Nationals if NAQT didn't own its own buzzers?

I'm asking this because it seems to me that more teams bring buzzers to ICT than ACF Nationals, enough so that ICT wouldn't have this issue even if NAQT didn't own its own buzzers. This seems true to me even though ICT has a larger proportion of 2nd, 3rd, etc. teams from the same school, meaning that they should get fewer buzzers per team than ACF Nationals.

If my impression is true, it seems like NAQT is doing something to make sure they have enough buzzers at ICT other than owning their own buzzers. Is that "something" just giving a bigger buzzer discount? If so, it seems like it would be easier to solve ACF's problems that way rather than by imposing a multi-year change in the tournament fee structure in order to get enough money to buy thousands of dollars of equipment which would, as Bruce noted, have to be tracked and stored.

That said, it is quite possible that my impression is totally wrong and ICT avoids this problem because NAQT owns enough buzzers to cover any shortfalls. If so, that might be the best solution to this problem.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by sonstige » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:08 pm

Apologies in advance for this idea sounding perhaps a bit unorthodox, but what prevents an event like ACF Nats, ICT, etc. from getting a rep from ZeeCraft or Electramatic (or wherever) to attend?

That is, could a buzzer manufacturer attend said event with buzzers in-hand for the purposes of renting or selling to teams that otherwise may not have a set available for said event (or who may want to acquire a new set to take home)?

Or even having said company "demo" their product over the course of the tournament?

I imagine the logistics of coordinating this might be complex and that there may be some other restrictions that could make this impossible --- but of the various ideas I've seen bounced around on how to address this topic, I don't recall anyone suggesting involving the buzzer manufacturers directly.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:21 pm

Aaron Manby (ironmaster) wrote:This situation seems like a bunch of teams fucked up and not on ACF or whatever. With responsible teams ACF buying like 10 buzzer sets seems wasteful...

Furthermore, it's clear that there are enough buzzers out there (even locally) between official organizations (NAQT, PACE, NHBB, but NHBB was conficting this particular tournament) and major HS/MS schools that one could pick up a handful of buzzers during their drive. Not even just with school owned buzzers -- there are something like 3 buzzers owned by NHBB that have immigrated to Ottawa for use at History stuff but we can also use them for HS and college tournaments.
I've discussed the situation at length in my post on the discussion thread, so I don't want to be quizbowl's Herzen and rehash the question of who is to blame. I prefer to be instead quizbowl's Chernyshevsky and answer the question "given that teams can apparently not be counted on to bring buzzers that they promised to bring, what is to be done?" ACF owning, say, five sets of buzzers is one solution, which is not exclusive of other things that have been discussed in this thread and in our meetings, like penalizing teams for failing to do what they promised to do. Whether it's "wasteful" or not will ultimately depend on whether it helps us run tournaments better; I don't view spending $1000 on such a thing as wasteful if it gets us to our goal.

As for trading buzzers between various organizations, that is certainly something that could be explored; we didn't have a chance to do that this year with e.g. NHBB because we ran on the same day as them. This also introduces many of the logistical difficulties of actual buzzer ownership with few of the benefits. Of course if there's a cache of buzzers located nearby that can be accessed conveniently we should take care to coordinate before the event to see if we can make it happen, but I prefer the certainty of knowing that we'll have buzzers on hand to the possibility of getting them from third parties.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Cheynem » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:25 pm

In terms of "who would keep the buzzers," one idea might be for someone in ACF to basically be the Buzzer Wrangler and make that an official job. The person who has committed to be the Buzzer Wrangler for that year has a place to keep the buzzers that ACF owns and is committed to going to Nats and bringing them. When another person becomes the Buzzer Wrangler, Buzzer Wrangler pere ensures that the buzzers are handed off to Buzzer Wrangler fils (perhaps some of the money accrued as buzzer penalties can go as a stipend for the Buzzer Wrangler, or he/she can be given tips like a valet at a nice hotel throughout the weekend).
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Cody » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:27 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:If ACF owned buzzers where would they be stored and who would take care of them. This is a serious question. ACF has much less turnover and institutional buildout than NAQT or NHBB. There's not a Dave Madden or R. Hentzel type figure who will always be there; the closest ACF ever had to such a Heimdall-like figure was Matt Weiner and he left a few years back.

I guess you could have ACF officials transfer possessions of buzzers at the end of their terms, but I think we've seen handoffs like that fail at the club level.
I don't understand how this is remotely a problem. Jerry could've held ACF buzzers and brought them for the past 7 years, as just one example. Who in an an organization would hold and bring the buzzers is the easiest problem to solve.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:32 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:If ACF owned buzzers where would they be stored and who would take care of them. This is a serious question. ACF has much less turnover and institutional buildout than NAQT or NHBB. There's not a Dave Madden or R. Hentzel type figure who will always be there; the closest ACF ever had to such a Heimdall-like figure was Matt Weiner and he left a few years back.

I guess you could have ACF officials transfer possessions of buzzers at the end of their terms, but I think we've seen handoffs like that fail at the club level.
Presumably, you mean ACF has much more turnover? Otherwise I'm confused about what you mean by the subsequent sentences.

Anyway, I'll humbly submit that within the parameters of ACF's current incarnation, I've probably been the longest-tenured fully-active-at-all-levels member. I cannot promise that I will always be there; in fact, as I made clear in the ACF meeting, and I don't see any reason not to say this publicly, I will be taking a significant step back from official ACF activity in the next year, and maybe permanently. That doesn't mean I won't be available to help (I'll almost certainly be showing up at Nationals as long as there are no commitments preventing me from doing so), but I will not be running it, nor will I, as per my CO 2015 post mortem, be involved in editing. One thing I can do quite easily though is send emails, so it's possible that my activity will move to the communications side of things, although that's something that will be hashed out amongst the membership.

Logistically, I think the question of organizational buzzer ownership is a tractable problem. We just need the buzzers to be available once a year at a specific location known well in advance. In the interim, we can probably find a place to store them with someone in the organization who has some spare closet or basement space (not me!), or, in the worst case scenario, we store them in a locker somewhere. Storage is relatively cheap in many places (I've seen ~$50-60 for a 5x5 locker, which is more than adequate for 5 buzzers), so at the end of the day, we can easily allocate some money to that and shipping, if necessary.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:33 pm

Cody wrote:
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:If ACF owned buzzers where would they be stored and who would take care of them. This is a serious question. ACF has much less turnover and institutional buildout than NAQT or NHBB. There's not a Dave Madden or R. Hentzel type figure who will always be there; the closest ACF ever had to such a Heimdall-like figure was Matt Weiner and he left a few years back.

I guess you could have ACF officials transfer possessions of buzzers at the end of their terms, but I think we've seen handoffs like that fail at the club level.
I don't understand how this is remotely a problem. Jerry could've held ACF buzzers and brought them for the past 7 years, as just one example. Who in an an organization would hold and bring the buzzers is the easiest problem to solve.
Indeed. Ironically this is the first year that I couldn't play this role, and won't be able to for the foreseeable future.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:35 pm

sonstige wrote:Apologies in advance for this idea sounding perhaps a bit unorthodox, but what prevents an event like ACF Nats, ICT, etc. from getting a rep from ZeeCraft or Electramatic (or wherever) to attend?

That is, could a buzzer manufacturer attend said event with buzzers in-hand for the purposes of renting or selling to teams that otherwise may not have a set available for said event (or who may want to acquire a new set to take home)?

Or even having said company "demo" their product over the course of the tournament?

I imagine the logistics of coordinating this might be complex and that there may be some other restrictions that could make this impossible --- but of the various ideas I've seen bounced around on how to address this topic, I don't recall anyone suggesting involving the buzzer manufacturers directly.
It's a possibility, but again, I'm not sure this is any better than just owning the buzzers outright. We could invite buzzer manufacturers to hawk their wares at Nationals, but I don't really want to take up time with that and turn the event into a trade show.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:49 pm

Charbroil wrote:Does NAQT own a large portion of the buzzers used at ICT? And, along those lines, would ICT have the same problem as ACF Nationals if NAQT didn't own its own buzzers?
The 2017 ICT had 44 team buzzers for 32 game rooms (so that tournament would have been ok without the addition of the NAQT buzzers).
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Victor Prieto » Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:30 pm

I'm not suggesting this as the only plan of action for solving the buzzer dilemma, but perhaps a section of the site selection process could be devoted to buzzers. Just add a section to the bid form asking "how many house buzzers do you have?" and "are there local high schools with whom you share a good relationship and could borrow buzzers from for the weekend?"
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:32 pm

Yus vs. Jews wrote:I'm not suggesting this as the only plan of action for solving the buzzer dilemma, but perhaps a section of the site selection process could be devoted to buzzers. Just add a section to the bid form asking "how many house buzzers do you have?" and "are there local high schools with whom you share a good relationship and could borrow buzzers from for the weekend?"
Certainly a possibility. In this case, Columbia actually provided us with 3 buzzer sets, so in no way was the host the problem.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Charbroil » Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:22 pm

Important Bird Area wrote:
Charbroil wrote:Does NAQT own a large portion of the buzzers used at ICT? And, along those lines, would ICT have the same problem as ACF Nationals if NAQT didn't own its own buzzers?
The 2017 ICT had 44 team buzzers for 32 game rooms (so that tournament would have been ok without the addition of the NAQT buzzers).
In that case, I think it would make more sense for ACF to just figure out why NAQT doesn't have the same issue with teams not bringing buzzers to nationals. That seems much easier than coming up with complex schemes about buying/storing thousands of dollars' worth of buzzers and then funding those purchases with new fee arrangements that quiz bowl has (as far as I know) never used before.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:37 pm

Charbroil wrote:In that case, I think it would make more sense for ACF to just figure out why NAQT doesn't have the same issue with teams not bringing buzzers to nationals. That seems much easier than coming up with complex schemes about buying/storing thousands of dollars' worth of buzzers and then funding those purchases with new fee arrangements that quiz bowl has (as far as I know) never used before.
ICT has 64 teams, and a slightly more diverse field, reducing the probability that a single team failing to bring buzzers does damage to the tournament. In our case, it was mostly experienced teams that ought to know better who failed to bring buzzers. As I said, I don't believe this scheme is particularly complex, and I'd rathe slightly over-plan than end up in this situation again.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Charbroil » Mon Apr 24, 2017 4:23 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Charbroil wrote:In that case, I think it would make more sense for ACF to just figure out why NAQT doesn't have the same issue with teams not bringing buzzers to nationals. That seems much easier than coming up with complex schemes about buying/storing thousands of dollars' worth of buzzers and then funding those purchases with new fee arrangements that quiz bowl has (as far as I know) never used before.
ICT has 64 teams, and a slightly more diverse field, reducing the probability that a single team failing to bring buzzers does damage to the tournament. In our case, it was mostly experienced teams that ought to know better who failed to bring buzzers. As I said, I don't believe this scheme is particularly complex, and I'd rathe slightly over-plan than end up in this situation again.
The desire to over-plan is understandable. That said, I'm not sure what you mean by ICT having a "more diverse field." I feel that more schools bring more than one team to ICT because of the DII tournament, meaning that fewer schools attend the tournament relative to its field size. For example, this year, there were 49 schools and 64 teams at ICT, meaning 1.31 teams per school, versus 30 schools and 38 teams at ACF Nationals, or 1.27 teams per school.

Obviously, this isn't a huge difference and could simply be noise. However, if it does reflect the team per school ratio being generally higher at ICT, wouldn't that make ICT more vulnerable to a small number of schools not bringing their buzzers? Or am I misunderstanding what you meant by a "more diverse field?" For example, I guess a higher proportion of the field at ACF Nationals might be made up of teams that bring large numbers of buzzers (presumably more experienced teams in general), meaning that you're relying on fewer teams for the majority of your buzzers.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 4:32 pm

I mean that ICT has more schools, total. So if one school fails to bring buzzers, there are still more schools that might do so. And in fact we did end up relying on a smaller proportion of teams to bring a larger number of buzzers, so when those teams didn't bring them we were much more vulnerable. Anyway, I don't feel like debating this point endlessly; ACF will do what we think is necessary to make sure that we don't run into this situation again, and that might include buying our own buzzers.
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Re: The Buzzer Dilemma

Post by Charbroil » Mon Apr 24, 2017 4:58 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I mean that ICT has more schools, total. So if one school fails to bring buzzers, there are still more schools that might do so. And in fact we did end up relying on a smaller proportion of teams to bring a larger number of buzzers, so when those teams didn't bring them we were much more vulnerable. Anyway, I don't feel like debating this point endlessly; ACF will do what we think is necessary to make sure that we don't run into this situation again, and that might include buying our own buzzers.
That's fair. Thanks for clarifying!

I do have just one final point. I think that regardless of what other measures it plans to take, ACF should raise the buzzer discount to the same as NAQT's or even a little more. Specifically, I think it should raise the fee to $25 to offset the standard airline carry-on fee. I strongly advocated bringing as many buzzers as we could this year, but most of my teammates had carry-ons and we weren't willing to lose money for the privilege of supplying ACF with buzzers. In the end, we compromised by bringing 1 of our 3 sets. However, if we'd been able to offset the carry-on fee with a larger discount, we might have brought all of our buzzers as a point of pride in terms of helping the circuit.

Along those lines, if the buzzer discount was enough to offset the additional carry-on fee, I personally, at least, would have our team bring all of our buzzers as carry-ons next year (obviously assuming we're flying to Nationals). I don't think this additional discount would be that hard to implement, since ACF could raise its entry fee for Nationals by $20 (thus keeping things approximately revenue neutral). Similarly, the financial effect of such a change on teams would be fairly neutral. The few schools that bring large numbers of buzzers relative to their number of teams would get a modest reward. Most teams would be unaffected, assuming I'm correct and the average school that goes to ACF Nationals brings one team and can bring one buzzer set. Schools that bring few (or, more likely, no) buzzers relative to their number of teams would get a modest penalty. That doesn't seem like too much of a bad thing.
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