No Rules Westbrook wrote:I don't understand Magin (and Jerry and others too) and their argument that this debate is over nothing. Clearly, there are arguments to be made on both sides here.
My point is that I don't understand what the "other side" (that's you) is supposed to be arguing. Actually, I don't understand completely what the argument is about at all, other than that you think that "regular difficulty" is a somehow deceptive term.
Lots of people keep saying that it's apparent that there are levels of difficulty like novice, harder than novice but easier than nationals, and nationals-level. Well, yeah, that's apparent - but it's not apparent how hard any of those levels is - the definition of those things that you keep saying is not apparent at all, unless you just baldly accept someone else's definition.
Bolding mine. I have no idea what it is that you're arguing here. We've delineated degrees of relative difficulty for you, and you keep asking "but how hard is it, really
?" This is a strange question because there is no absolute difficulty scale for how "hard" things are; as a rule, things are grasped more easily proportional to how much they are repeated, and when you get down to it, the reason a question about Henry II of England is easier than the question about Sigismund II of Poland is that the former tends to be more heavily emphasized in the sorts of situations where one typically learns about those things, such as intro history classes.
By the way, I should like to state here that my position regarding difficulty is firmly linked to what's covered in college classes. Many people have argued that the QB canon shouldn't be referenced to college curricula (e.g. Matt Weiner); I hold that the QB canon is already referenced to the college curricula to various (large) degrees depending on the disciplines, and furthermore that this is actually a desirable thing. I suppose this puts me in some sort of third position at odds with both Ryan and Matt, and I'll be happy to articulate this theory further if anyone cares to hear it.
What standard of difficulty are you using? - the one of today or the one of 2006? Clearly, it makes a big difference - noone denies that nationals and regionals have expereinced quite a shift in difficulty (again, this argument is not about whether that shift is good or bad). But, you have to tell me why you're using the standard that you are - why the one of today instead of the one of yesterday? Just because it's the current one? Why not invent a new one and use that?
Again, there is some serious confusion here. First of all, the difference between ACF Regionals 2006 and 2008 is not nearly as large as some would make it out to be; in fact, Regionals has varied somewhat in difficulty throughout its existence, and as Zeke recently noted, many of those old questions were very good and clue-dense and would be challenging for today's players. Second, I have no idea how I might designate a particular question as falling into Regionals 06 but not Regionals 08 (or vice-versa) difficulty unless those questions actually appeared in those tournaments.
In response to Matt's Platonic Form criticism, yes - I do think that experienced players who have a solid grasp of the canon and a knowledge of how difficult things are to learn and acquire can make reasonable arguments about difficulty. Sure, we're not always going to agree, or even usually going to agree since we have different biases - but there are reasonable arguments to be made. I'm arguing that your system focusing exclusively on conversion is more relativist than mine, and hence more skeptical - so I could turn your metaphysics reference around on you and say that you're the one living in a constantly changing universe without solid foundational principles of how to evaluate difficulty.
Mind status: blown. Furthermore, I think many of those words do not mean the things that you think they mean.
Hey, as long as I'm at it, I'm going to point to one particular example that you, Ryan, used, and I'm going to break it down. I'm referring specifically to the statement you made to the effect that no one could convince you that "brehmstrahlung" is a difficult answer. Now, I feel like I'm pretty well-qualified to speak on this topic, since I'm probably one of fewer than 5 current QB players who has actually derived the brehmstrahlung formula. So: this is not a topic that most physics majors would be exposed to until they covered advanced classical electrodynamics. For most majors at Berkeley, which I'll take to be fairly representative, that would happen in the second semester of one's junior year. So how does it come to be that even though people who ostensibly study the subject would have a high probability of not knowing about brehmstrahlung radiation than noted non-physicist Ryan Westbrook? The answer, of course, is obvious: this happens because of the way that quizbowl is structured and the fact that physics questions need to be written for quizbowl tournaments, so sooner or later named concepts are bound to come up. Since you're a good quizbowl player, you tend to remember the clues for those tossups, and that's how you come to think of brehmstrahlung as an easy answer when in fact it's a relatively advanced topic for upper level physics students.
The point of this analysis is not to justify or castigate the writing of tossups on bremstrahlung at various levels; rather it is to demonstrate that to a large extent, what's considered easy or hard in quizbowl is largely dependent on what's come up before, and those things themselves are eventually pegged back to what people learn about while studying various topics. The larger point is that the entire canon
is, in some sense, demarcated by empirical boundaries of gettability rather than by any abstract notion of what's hard and what's not; in fact, there is no absolute measure of such a thing, as I have been trying to demonstrate.