Paired Tossups and Bonuses

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Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by a named reaction »

Split from Parsing Answerlines thread - Mgmt.

At the risk both of iconoclasm and derailing this thread, surely the simplest significant quality-of-life improvement to be made in quizbowl packets would be to put bonuses between tossups and have the bonuses associated with dead tossups be skipped; this would both prevent readers from having to switch back and forth between sections of the packet (also meaning that for SCT or other tournaments where teams are given physical packets they may not have to re-staple them), make tossup-bonus feng-shui issues be easier to detect (and eliminate issues where bonus N has issues with tossup N+X that are only apparent if X tossups go dead), and prevent the (possibly merely imagined by me) temptation of putting worse bonuses at the end of packets where they are less likely to be heard by teams. I can imagine objections relating to making it easier for people to study just tossups or just bonuses, or that there are other issues regarding packetization or set production that I, never having done those things, am unaware of, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clear argument for why bonuses are not skipped.
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Re: Faster (Human) Parsing of Answer Lines

Post by Mike Bentley »

Milhouse wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:14 pm
At the risk both of iconoclasm and derailing this thread, surely the simplest significant quality-of-life improvement to be made in quizbowl packets would be to put bonuses between tossups and have the bonuses associated with dead tossups be skipped; this would both prevent readers from having to switch back and forth between sections of the packet (also meaning that for SCT or other tournaments where teams are given physical packets they may not have to re-staple them), make tossup-bonus feng-shui issues be easier to detect (and eliminate issues where bonus N has issues with tossup N+X that are only apparent if X tossups go dead), and prevent the (possibly merely imagined by me) temptation of putting worse bonuses at the end of packets where they are less likely to be heard by teams. I can imagine objections relating to making it easier for people to study just tossups or just bonuses, or that there are other issues regarding packetization or set production that I, never having done those things, am unaware of, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clear argument for why bonuses are not skipped.
If you skip bonuses, you can end up with a round where, say, no science bonuses are read because you just happened to miss the tossups with those bonuses. While I would personally see that as a net positive, science players likely wouldn't be very happy. Yes, the same thing could happen if you randomized the packet such that the last 4 bonuses were all science, but in practice no one does that.

Although it is interesting that modern quizbowl has (apart from a few side events) decoupled the tossup subject from the bonus. In quizbowl-adjacent activities such as game shows and bad local high school formats of yesteryear, bonuses were often a reward to see how deep you can go after getting the initial question. Perhaps the pyramidal tossup makes that redundant. But maybe a tournament should experiment with paired tossup/bonuses categories (specific subjects probably being too much of a pain).
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Re: Faster (Human) Parsing of Answer Lines

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh »

Milhouse wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:14 pm
At the risk both of iconoclasm and derailing this thread, surely the simplest significant quality-of-life improvement to be made in quizbowl packets would be to put bonuses between tossups and have the bonuses associated with dead tossups be skipped; this would both prevent readers from having to switch back and forth between sections of the packet (also meaning that for SCT or other tournaments where teams are given physical packets they may not have to re-staple them), make tossup-bonus feng-shui issues be easier to detect (and eliminate issues where bonus N has issues with tossup N+X that are only apparent if X tossups go dead), and prevent the (possibly merely imagined by me) temptation of putting worse bonuses at the end of packets where they are less likely to be heard by teams. I can imagine objections relating to making it easier for people to study just tossups or just bonuses, or that there are other issues regarding packetization or set production that I, never having done those things, am unaware of, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clear argument for why bonuses are not skipped.
The IHSA does this, and for the reason Mike noted and a few others, I wish they didn't.

When tossups & bonuses are paired, the head editor has to make official decisions as to wish bonuses are tied with which tossups; when they aren't paired, the vagaries of randomly missed questions relieve the head editor of that burden, and any perceived faults get chalked up to chance. If bonuses are paired, you invent the feng shui problem of "am I going to give this history tossup a history bonus on purpose?" If you decide that's a problem - and the IHSA did decide that, and forbids category/category matchups - you then have to A: do the work of looking through your randomized question assignment and checking all your pairs, and B: make the judgment call of what questions to swap. Now, instead of worrying about the temptation to bury bad bonuses at the back, it would be burying them on (the hardest tossups/the tossups you like the least/early tossups so it doesn't feel like the bonuses influence the final outcome of the game/whatever bad justification you like instead). If you don't decide that's a problem, you open yourself up to intentionally bad feng shui & claims of bias (hyperbole, but think "we were doomed, they paired all the science with science and gave literature bonuses to all the history tossups, so we had 10 PPB and they had 30"). Either way, I think it's better to leave them unpaired.

Mike noted the experiment of intentionally pairing TU/B categories - USABB does this, and I don't particularly like it; I think it artificially increases bonus conversion. If you want a "normal"-feeling game of quizbowl, you have to increase bonus difficulty, and at the MS level, that's unwise. Obviously, it's a different story in, say, a side event at a summer weekend event.
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Re: Faster (Human) Parsing of Answer Lines

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Yeah, both of those sets of arguments are reasonable. Thanks!
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Re: Faster (Human) Parsing of Answer Lines

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Mike Bentley wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:45 pm
I think it would be an interesting exercise for someone to do a top-down review of the quizbowl packet / scoresheet from a design perspective.
Milhouse wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:14 pm
At the risk both of iconoclasm and derailing this thread, surely the simplest significant quality-of-life improvement to be made in quizbowl packets would be to put bonuses between tossups
When I was writing a packet for a brief side-event-type thing at HSNCT, I divided the layout into two columns with the tossups on the left and bonuses on the right: https://quizbowlpackets.com/2326/Latin-Packet-I.pdf (note that because the bonuses were slightly longer than the tossups, they would have outrun them if I hadn't made some manual adjustments).

I think this format is visually appealing and easy to read, and much more space-efficient than the current standard design.
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Re: Faster (Human) Parsing of Answer Lines

Post by vinteuil »

I personally find this formatting extremely cramped and unnatural to read. (I have a lot of trouble with double-column text in general)
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Re: Faster (Human) Parsing of Answer Lines

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, I'm not sure on the benefit of that, especially if you're following normal conventions of not linking the tossups to the bonuses.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by the return of AHAN »

I've long maintained that pairing TU/bonuses usually has the unintended consequence of having MORE bonuses in categories where the toss-up is missed, since writers strive to ask about something other than the TU category. So, in a 24 TU match, if 4 math TU go dead because both teams are weak at math, math becomes THE most asked about bonus topic.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by btressler »

One of TJ's tournaments (the one that used to be MLK weekend I believe) used to do this. If you answered a tossup on say Alexander the Great, you got a bonus about the lands he conquered. Or perhaps films about Alexander.

I wouldn't want it every week, but I kinda liked it.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Whiter Hydra »

btressler wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:00 am
One of TJ's tournaments (the one that used to be MLK weekend I believe) used to do this. If you answered a tossup on say Alexander the Great, you got a bonus about the lands he conquered. Or perhaps films about Alexander.

I wouldn't want it every week, but I kinda liked it.
The major problem having tossups and bonuses linked that much was that you had to take away potential clues from the bonus. It was a neat idea in theory, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Carlos Be »

Adding to Eric's points, paired bonuses would make tracking conversion data a lot easier. Currently, moderators often skip bonuses (either by mistake or misunderstanding), making it difficult to tell what bonus was read in a given tossup/bonus cycle, therefore making it difficult to read bonus conversion data from a scoresheet. If bonuses are paired, then this is not an issue. For any set that wants to record conversion data, I think this single advantage greatly outweighs all of the minor issues brought up in this thread.
Mike Bentley wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 11:34 am
If you skip bonuses, you can end up with a round where, say, no science bonuses are read because you just happened to miss the tossups with those bonuses. While I would personally see that as a net positive, science players likely wouldn't be very happy.
With reasonable conversion numbers, this would happen in less than 1% of games. Also, it already happens that a team doesn't hear a given category (for example, because the other team got all of that category's bonuses), and it isn't a big deal.
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:29 pm
When tossups & bonuses are paired, the head editor has to make official decisions as to wish bonuses are tied with which tossups; when they aren't paired, the vagaries of randomly missed questions relieve the head editor of that burden, and any perceived faults get chalked up to chance.
The head editor already decides which bonuses are probably tied to which tossups, and they are already blamed when a tossup goes to a bonus of the same category. So shifting part of the blame to chance doesn't help much.
the return of AHAN wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:58 pm
I've long maintained that pairing TU/bonuses usually has the unintended consequence of having MORE bonuses in categories where the toss-up is missed, since writers strive to ask about something other than the TU category. So, in a 24 TU match, if 4 math TU go dead because both teams are weak at math, math becomes THE most asked about bonus topic.
Yes, but not by very much. In this case, math would go from 17% of the bonuses to 20% of the bonuses. This change would only be significant if the math were egregiously bad (e.g. computation), but in that case the real problem is that the math is bad, not that the bonuses are paired.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

Adding to Eric's points, paired bonuses would make tracking conversion data a lot easier. Currently, moderators often skip bonuses (either by mistake or misunderstanding), making it difficult to tell what bonus was read in a given tossup/bonus cycle, therefore making it difficult to read bonus conversion data from a scoresheet. If bonuses are paired, then this is not an issue. For any set that wants to record conversion data, I think this single advantage greatly outweighs all of the minor issues brought up in this thread.
Strong agree.

I also feel like linking bonuses makes the game slightly more fair, since what bonus you are read does not functionally depend on what tossups have been answered. Having the parameters of the entire rest of the game be arbitrarily changed because tossup 1 was hard doesn't seem particularly desirable, if you really think about it that way.
The head editor already decides which bonuses are probably tied to which tossups, and they are already blamed when a tossup goes to a bonus of the same category. So shifting part of the blame to chance doesn't help much.
Also true.

However, deciding that a bonus will never be the same category as the tossup is a rather arbitrary decision that is neither random nor particularly justified (is there any reason one should specifically have to answer a bonus on a topic completely different from the tossup one gets?). If the set is 20% history and 20% science, then on average 20% of bonuses after a history tossup should be history and 20% should be science. Otherwise, teams are hearing substantially different bonus distributions than advertised based on how good they are at various categories and how strictly the editor wants to enforce "no same category bonuses after tossups." Say a team averages 3 history tossups and 6 other tossups a game (something similar to this was definitely true of some of my teams). If there are 0 history bonuses after history tossups, they will hear, instead of 1.8 history bonuses per game, 1.5 history bonuses, which is a 17% decrease in the number of expected history bonuses from random. This strikes me as a highly undesirable change that severely punishes specialism.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Mike Bentley »

I don't have very strong opinions about paired bonuses. I don't necessarily see how they would lead to moderators not making errors anymore unless you make them inline after the tossup. And even then you're still going to have some errors that show up because the moderator accidentally skipped a tossup or a tossup went dead and on the next tossup the scorekeeper forgot to skip a tossup. Maybe these errors would be less common than with unpaired bonuses.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Mike Bentley »

The hotter take is that bonuses end up making a difference in a very small number of games. A large portion of a quizbowl match is devoted to them. As I've argued elsewhere, I'd love to see new approaches to bonuses that preserve the teamwork element but make them more engaging, especially for a team that doesn't answer very many tossups.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by btressler »

Mike Bentley wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 5:45 pm
The hotter take is that bonuses end up making a difference in a very small number of games.
I've often wondered if anyone has analyzed a tossup/bonus tournament to see how the records change if only the tossup points were in play. Does anyone have data to share?
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Arras Agility »

btressler wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 10:58 am
Mike Bentley wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 5:45 pm
The hotter take is that bonuses end up making a difference in a very small number of games.
I've often wondered if anyone has analyzed a tossup/bonus tournament to see how the records change if only the tossup points were in play. Does anyone have data to share?
I just did a quick-and-dirty analysis on CALISTO Online; 66/72 games in the Standard division and 77/80 games in Competitive; 143/152 ~= 94% of games were won by the team with more tossup points; 69/72 in Standard and 72/80 in Competitive = 141/152 ~= 93% by the team that got more tossups. This isn't quite seeing "how the records change", but I think it's pretty clear that bonus points don't matter nearly as much as tossups. (That said, of course bonuses are valuable for other reasons, and I personally enjoy them more than tossups)

On another note, I fully endorse everything Justine's said upthread, and would add a few other points.

1. Pairing tossups and bonuses allows for better editing/proofreading of finished packets (that is, catching feng shui issues - if your American Lit bonus is a couple questions after your tossup, it's easier to catch it when reading over the packets in the same order that the questions will be read to players) - this probably isn't a problem for sets, but it is a small upside.

2. Whenever I mod with paper packets, the first thing I, and I'm sure many, if not most others, invariably do is *pull the packet apart* - if you step back, it's pretty strange a priori to be saying that the printed form of the questions is not how the questions are to be used. Eliminating this would be more logical, and reduce unnecessary paper-shuffling and place-refinding with paper packets, or tab-switching and place-refinding with online packets. This could also have the minor effect of slightly speeding up games - I usually spend a couple minutes over the course of a game juggling paper packets and a scoresheet and refocusing between them.

3. Contra those arguing that the resulting distributional change would be a bad thing - all-subject quizbowl is already strongly biased against extreme specialism by design. Tossup/bonus categories are different precisely because, I'd argue, part of the ethos of the game is to encourage knowing many genres of thing. It seems that matching tossup/bonus categories, which is pretty much the opposite policy to this, has mostly been used in bad formats or to make the game artificially easier, and I don't see nearly as strong philosophical justification for this direction on the bonus-relatedness spectrum.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

To clarify, I don't think tossup/bonus cycles should be intentionally of the same category (that does indeed help extreme specialism too much, as Alistair has said), but I don't think they should be intentionally different categories either. It's very discouraging if you're a team that's relatively better at one category to know that the more you get from that category, the worse your PPB gets.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Carlos Be »

Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:05 pm
To clarify, I don't think tossup/bonus cycles should be intentionally of the same category (that does indeed help extreme specialism too much, as Alistair has said), but I don't think they should be intentionally different categories either. It's very discouraging if you're a team that's relatively better at one category to know that the more you get from that category, the worse your PPB gets.
I think it's desirable not to have specific subcategories go to themselves, like biology --> biology or philosophy --> philosophy. If you mess up on a tossup in a subcategory then you shouldn't forfeit your chance to hear that subcategory's bonus as well. Pairings of broad categories like science --> science or history --> history I think should be allowed for the reasons you said.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by CPiGuy »

Carlos Be wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 1:36 pm
I think it's desirable not to have specific subcategories go to themselves, like biology --> biology or philosophy --> philosophy. If you mess up on a tossup in a subcategory then you shouldn't forfeit your chance to hear that subcategory's bonus as well.
I think this should happen in approximately one out of every 20 bonuses.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by UlyssesInvictus »

CPiGuy wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 5:59 pm
Carlos Be wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 1:36 pm
I think it's desirable not to have specific subcategories go to themselves, like biology --> biology or philosophy --> philosophy. If you mess up on a tossup in a subcategory then you shouldn't forfeit your chance to hear that subcategory's bonus as well.
I think this should happen in approximately one out of every 20 bonuses.
I was actually really curious how this would play out in a sub-distribution, so I simulated it (since I'm crap at probability). Using one of the past HFT distributions (so, standard big 3 stuff), it averaged out to about 3.2 questions matching in overall category per packet, and about 1 question matching in sub-category per packet.

The latter number was probably not surprising to someone good at probability, but the former probably also exceeds some % of people's limits for packet feng shui.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Stained Diviner »

My calculations give 1 subcategory and 3.25 category matches per packet if CE/misc is not considered a match, or 3.3 if it is.

If somebody did go to pairing tossups and bonuses, then they could decide ahead of time how many matched categories they want. If they want 0 subcategory and 3 category matches, they can do that. If they want 0 and 2, they can do that. If you want a science tossup paired with a science bonus in exactly half the rounds, that can be arranged. (Science/science would normally happen in 4/5 of rounds by chance. It probably is happening slightly less often now because many editors avoid having the 1st tossup and 1st bonus be in the same category, and possibly continuing that throughout much or all of the packet.)

For timed matches, I as a moderator would prefer that they are paired. I don't track bonus conversion data myself, so I'll defer to others on that point. Other than that, I don't really have an opinion on this topic. Mike Bentley's first post probably is the strongest argument in either direction, and it is against pairing, but I think in timed matches the shuffling papers argument overrides that one. Overall, I don't think the arguments in either direction are that strong, which is why I don't have a strong opinion.

As to Alistair's point about proofreading, all proofreaders should do their proofing by alternating tossups and bonuses in a packet. It doesn't matter how the packet is arranged.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

My concern with pairing tossups and bonuses based on subjects is that it disincentivizes teams from covering the whole range of the distribution as strongly as having randomized bonuses does. It also means you have to contort your tossup to not reveal what you're asking about in the paired bonus, if you're trying to cover the same material (though perhaps it works if it's just "American Literature" or whatever). Additionally, it doesn't work well if you have less than 1/1 of some categories per round / fractional distributions / etc.

I like bouncebacks and wish they were used more often. They keep teams engaged the whole time. It presumably sucks for a weaker team when a stronger team steals their whole bonus, but on the flip side, they get more chances at those few things they know really deeply (i.e. the person who really likes jazz and gets really excited for that 3/3 jazz per tournament, but the jazz bonus goes to the other team). Bouncebacks also have the effect of helping smooth out variance and decrease the chance of upsets - not sure if people like this or not, I think you can make an argument both ways.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, I don't support pairing tossups/bonuses by subject, but I'm not opposed to just specifically designating a bonus as bonus 1 or bonus 2 (so bonus 2 is always read after tossup 2)--there's some argument to be made that this can actually result in a more balanced distribution of questions in a packet.

I have some thoughts on bouncebacks, but I wonder if another thread is better for that.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by whatamidoinghere »

Cheynem wrote:
Sat May 30, 2020 7:54 pm
Yeah, I don't support pairing tossups/bonuses by subject, but I'm not opposed to just specifically designating a bonus as bonus 1 or bonus 2 (so bonus 2 is always read after tossup 2)--there's some argument to be made that this can actually result in a more balanced distribution of questions in a packet.

I have some thoughts on bouncebacks, but I wonder if another thread is better for that.
I feel like a lot of the time, newer mods will just read bonus 1 for tossup 1, bonus 2 for tossup 2, etc. already, mostly since it seems just in nature (especially for newer mods but also sometimes for experienced mods) to think "hey, we finished tossup 10, I should read bonus 10" even if a tossup went dead. I don't know about the argument for balance, but considering that a lot of mods subconsciously do read bonuses corresponding to tossups, it might make sense to just make bonuses correspond directly to tossups.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by Blackboard Monitor Vimes »

I've attempted to split discussion of bouncebacks and other more general "why we should or should not have bonuses at all" posts into this thread; apologies if I missed any.
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Re: Paired Tossups and Bonuses

Post by alexdz »

Just thought of this... what about designating bonuses by half? So not necessarily matching TU 1 - B1, etc., but saying "These are the first half bonuses, 1-10, and these are the second half bonuses, 11-20." In other words, you read bonuses in order as they come, but once the second half starts, you skip over any remaining first half bonuses and go straight to the second half bonuses. It would allow lower scoring games to hear some of the later bonuses in the packet, without some of the drawbacks of pure pairing. Of course, the paper logistics of this would be much more difficult, too, and that's something to consider.
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