2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

NAQT HSNCT, NAQT IPNCT, NAQT SSNCT, PACE NSC, and NASAT are discussed here.
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2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by lava_lock »

The American Quizbowl League is excited to announce our Online National Championship Tournament (ONCT) on June 26-27th, 2021.

I will be the head tournament director. The question set is the Southeast-Midwest Housewrite. More information about the tournament can be found here and information about the set can be found here.

Registration is now open! Registration for the tournament can be found here.

Teams that have qualified for the ONCT can be found at this page.

Teams that have not qualified for the ONCT via AQBL tournaments may apply for wild card bids. Wild card bids can be submitted here. Teams whose wild card bids are accepted will be notified by email. More information on wild card bids can be found here.

The tentative field cap is 64 teams.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by lava_lock »

Staffing sign-up is now available for the ONCT. Staffers will be paid a stipend of $60 a day for staffing. To sign up, please out the form linked here. For any questions regarding staffing at the ONCT, please email [email protected].
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by nicole. »

Registration is tentatively expected to close for the ONCT on Sunday, June 13th. Get your registrations in.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by lava_lock »

We are looking for a couple more staffers! Staff will be given a stipend of $60 per day of staffing. The link to sign up is linked here.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by nicole. »

Registration for the ONCT is now completely closed
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by nicole. »

Congrats to Scalene Triangle for going 16-0 to win the inaugural ONCT in a final against Detroit Country Day School,

As well, congrats to our ONCT individual scoring all-stars:

1. Aiden Dartley: 122.50 PPG
2. Joel Miles: 105.31 PPG
3. Tasis Gemmill-Nexon: 90.71 PPG

We hope you all enjoyed the ONCT and us at the AQBL are excited to see you for ONCT 2022

Unranked Stats are here, ranked stats will be available sometime tomorrow
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by sethpauluwu »

Heyyy I made a Discord post because someone wanted to see an "Everything Wrong with ONCT" thread or whatever, so here it is-- obviously not exhaustive, but it is exhausting:

Personal grudges first:
-I staffed ONCT both days and the trash side event on Friday. Solo. I expected a partner for Sunday, as I was assigned one, but he was moved to a different room. Having one screen and being expected to read, scorekeep, keep the pace, and look for cheating is :capybara: ing nuts. Sorry. I felt like :capybara: for not being able to really maintain the integrity of quizbowl when being pressured about time in the control room when the real timing mistake was a round miscommunication with the people paying for the tournament.
-Staff problems in general. There was NO vetting, no legit outreach to get more qualified staffers (one of the best Olds in the game didn't even get an offer?) in there, people under the age of 18 staffing (some minors staffing alone, though i know what doubled rooms there were were those with minors), minors expected to handle the heated environment of a nationals tournament (previous point redacted), and technical misconduct from a staffer (resolved), TDs and staff being directed to rooms where there is already an available staffer, no direction for how to handle bikers besides gather evidence discreetly so there ends up being 15 staffers and Admins/TDs in a voicecall with ONE suspected cheater that i think everyone can see if they scroll up? but not join, getting :capybara: on by one important person because apparently us staffers suck sometime, when we've been given NOTHING to work with.

General:
-some people who represent aqbl are great and i want to say i'm friends with at least one. i feel so bad, but some of the hubris, defensiveness, and downright UNPROFESSIONAL behavior from the face of an organization is laughable. i'm unprofessional as :capybara:, but seeing snide comments and whataboutism when faced with genuine, oft constructive criticism isn't a good look. have some tact. other orgs have done this for a long time for a reason, so :capybara: ing on them for trying their best and then having an unfavorable attitude when it's your turn isn't a good look. it alienates people who could help aqbl. we are stronger as a community-- i am tired of the "aqbl against the world" mentality.
-you have good writers. why did you not use them for the nats set? not my concern and also i love the smh people but this was weird.
-the cheating was out of control. this falls back to staff, but yeah. everything that was bad from waiting times to biking allegations to the protest room being undermanned could have been avoided. if you learned from the other organizations instead of roasting them, maybe you would have had the best nationals. who knows?

Insights from others:
-Henry Atkins came through with an excellent post:
"One thing to be aware of is that, contrary to what it may seem, most people in quizbowl are actually willing to cut well-intentioned efforts a lot of slack. People want to see AQBL succeed. The trick is not alienating those who can help by being defensive or combative. If AQBL (or its public face) were to take the attitude to ONCT "yeah our bad, here's how we're going to handle it in the future" from now on, I think they'd see a lot of goodwill and help. There's really no need to self-flagellate or dwell too much beyond that"

i rock with this because I staffed at least 6 AQBL events. i signed up for them and turned down tournaments that paid better throughout the year. legit wanted to see them thrive so badly because quizbowl for more people sounds great! the outreach they've done is great! the retention, i cannot speak for, but that could have been guaranteed without any guesswork if they just kept from burning bridges by being petty against different organizations. i would maybe understand if it was a retaliation, but it was unprovoked. the best thing the public-facing portion of AQBL could have done for months is reflect and remain somewhat professional, maybe even reserved.

-Jack Edmondson came through with a good point as well:
"Did ONCT require chaperones or coaches to be present in calls? I staffed a lot of online events this year and it was always like ten times better when they were there"

maybe it's a different discussion, but THE FINALS WERE LIVESTREAMED ON TWITCH and there was a last-minute ask for parental permission before it happened, which did not need to be confirmed by a parent phone number or email, but the weak honor system of the players typing to confirm. with the cheating problem not curbed by fhd honor code in the discord server, how do we trust this?permission slips for this kind of event in advance is essential, and this disregard is staggering. maybe i'm a loser for getting too hung up over this.

also yeah having guardian/coach supervision is important. i would've felt at ease with an adult in the virtual room to curb players from making comments or posts that aren't sportsmanlike. it's a huge time commitment, but a chaperone puts me in a better mental state.

thanks for bearing with this. sorry for the format :( i-m on mobile uwu
Last edited by sethpauluwu on Wed Jun 30, 2021 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by FillorianCandidate »

I really enjoyed this tournament, thanks to all of the AQBL folks, staff, and SMH writers. One recommendation I have for potential future iterations of this tournament is that the schedule be designed so that one bad round can't knock a team out of contention, especially if you're going to guarantee more games than any other tournament I can think of. That said, you can certainly guarantee less games given that most teams didn't really seem interested in playing all of them.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by GallatinGOAT2020 »

I want to start out this post by saying I have a ton of respect for the AQBL and the people who run it. As many others have said, they have done a great job with outreach and hosting generally good quality regular-season tournaments throughout this year. I do believe that everyone involved with the AQBL has good intentions in mind, even if they can be abrasive or "unprofessional" at times.

That being said, the ONCT has many valid criticisms that we should point out (so, hopefully, they can be improved upon in the future.) Having staffed for this tournament, and without going into any details, I strongly agree that the biking was out of control. I realize that this is not entirely the fault of the AQBL, but with many rooms being solo it was generally impossible for a moderator to read the game, keep score, AND monitor cheating at the same time (especially given how young/inexperienced the majority of moderators were for this tournament, myself included.)

I also thought it was very odd that the Saturday games were increased from 7 to 9, seemingly without informing any of the participating teams. This led to much chagrin among various players/coaches who would not be available to play/chaperone two more games suddenly added onto the schedule. This issue ended up being resolved when the number of Saturday games was decreased back down to 7, and I am sure that future ONCT's won't have this same logistical error.

I might have been lucky, but I didn't have any non-cheating misconduct issues during any of the games I staffed, so I'm not comfortable addressing those concerns about chaperones raised by others. I also agree that parental consent regarding streaming should have been obtained before the tournament.

Congratulations to Scalene Triangle, and I know that if the AQBL takes the criticisms raised by me and others in stride, they can create a first-class experience in the future.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by Kino Noir »

Disclaimer: I edited for SMH, which was used for this tournament. This means that AQBL has indirectly paid me money. All opinions mine, etc.

Seth has summarized many good points made by community members already, so I'll just add a few thoughts I had while staffing this tournament. I generally agree with the sentiment that AQBL bit off more than it could chew in running this tournament, but I also believe this can be a learning experience for an organization that I know is well-intentioned.
Seth wrote:you have good writers. why did you not use them for the nats set? not my concern and also i love the smh people but this was weird.
I don't work for AQBL, but I do know people who wrote for AQBL March and May. From my perspective these sets were pretty time-crunched, and I do not think there are enough writers for AQBL to write a high-quality national tournament entirely in-house. If AQBL wants to do ONCT again, writing it in-house should be their only writing priority and everything else should just be mirroring.
Seth wrote:no direction for how to handle bikers besides gather evidence discreetly so there ends up being 15 staffers and Admins/TDs in a voicecall with ONE suspected cheater
This was extremely bizarre to me and probably the most unprofessional thing done at the tournament. Please just privately message the team's adult contact or coach in the future rather than hosting a live intervention with half the backroom staff.

Other Constructive Criticism:

On Staffing - I think this was the root of the tournament's logistical problems. National tournaments are not comparable to the 4 hour, tossup only events AQBL traditionally runs, and ONCT was pretty short of the manpower one needs to run a tournament like HSNCT and PACE. AQBL should've started at a lower field cap and expanded only as staffers confirmed their availability; a 48 team field with fewer wild cards probably would've certainly had the tournament run much quicker while still leaving AQBL in the black. To me, the uptick cheating issues are an extension of the lack of staffers. There wasn't a hard-and-fast rule at first regarding policy if a player were to put a hand off their screen, and as Seth said you can't expect solo moderators to multitask to this degree with no help. Some dude was literally watching soccer on another tab during a round and I don't think there was enough personnel to stop that from happening.

On Professionalism - This is the root of the tournament's PR problem and for me the single aspect that was most mishandled. Never did I feel like I was staffing a national championship tournament more than a standard Discord tournament, and a lot of that was due to inexperience showing its cards. The Twitch stream seemed very last-minute and devoid of higher authority beyond a shoulder shrug from players. In a similar vein, the general chat was a bit of a dumpster fire, and I would like to see future online tournaments deprioritize unregulated and possibly inappropriate modes of discussion like this.

I think that before ONCT is brought back for another year, some serious reflection should be done as to what the goals of ONCT would be in the post-quarantine world. If it's another tournament like this, I wouldn't bother. I know this post probably sounds like me supporting the big scary olds cabal that is out to get AQBL, but please work with the established community rather than taking potshots.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by Mike Bentley »

Writing a high quality national set is an enormous amount of work. The quizbowl community already produces at least 3 of these a year at the high school level. Mirroring a college set probably makes sense, although you do have the downsides of (a) making sure such a set with enough packets exists, (b) is an appropriate difficulty, (c) is secure enough that earlier mirrors don't get leaked.

Writing your own set has the counter-productive effect of making it harder to staff. The college/open players most likely to be in the staffing pool may not staff because they want to play the set. This is at least something of a problem for NASAT, although the small fields of that tournament somewhat get around the issue.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by Quantity of Books v. Kansas »

The vast majority of issues with ONCT, as far as I can tell, were not new problems brought on by having an online national tournament. The issues were general tournament directing mistakes that have been done before, discussed, and better logistical practices are now standard. I don’t fault the Teen TDs for not necessarily knowing these things inherently and can understand why some of their ideas made sense to them, especially given that tournament directing on a national scale currently functions through unsaid understandings of procedures.

Teen TDs isn’t meant to be derogatory or pedantic at all, I just needed shorthand to distinguish you all from Jacob/Joe, also sorry Arjun I don’t know how old you are but I’m guessing 18 or 19

This brings me to my main point: Where were Jacob O’Rourke and Joe Feldman? Both are established in the community, have tons of experience and connections, and are names attached to this project- what happened?

Before ONCT

When the schedule changed from 7 to 9 rounds on Saturday, where were you to verify that the Teen TDs, aged 16- 19, contacted all teams directly to communicate this change?
  • The Teens are Very Online. Coaches, not so much. It doesn’t surprise me that in their minds, posting on discord was the best way to reach the most people with this crucial change. However, it is at that point that some other verification of communication should have taken place.

When some of the Teen TDs blurred the line between posting personally vs posting on behalf of AQBL on discord, where were you to support them in navigating quizbowl spaces and separating personal from professional communication?
  • Like it or not, the majority of staff for national tournaments right now comes from less-online, experienced quizbowl people who are also involved with other quizbowl organizations.
  • There were some comments made by AQBL personnel that were demeaning towards other quizbowl organizations. While those comments are not on behalf of AQBL, it’s difficult to see that separation when many comments from the AQBL personnel are made using “we/us”. I don’t expect the Teen TDs to pick up on this nuance, but I do expect someone who is an officer of a state quizbowl alliance to understand the damage this can do to existing professional relationships and the reputation of your company, and thus take some responsibility to explain that to them.
  • This isn’t a huge issue as much as other things, but I do think it is important for you, as someone more established to explain why these separations are important- being able to separate your personal self from your work is an important tool for mental health and wellbeing first and foremost, before business considerations. I wouldn’t expect the Teen TDs to be able to do that as many adults can’t either, but from discord discussions it didn’t seem like something that had been brought to their attention.
When minimal information about ONCT was available on the forums, where were you to say that posting information there is probably the best way to get actionable community support and feedback?
  • This point is what disappoints me the most. I’ve seen countless situations in which a more experienced community member asks a less experienced TD their rationale for a tournament formatting/direction choice, given a certain concern. Generally, changes can be made to remedy the concern or at least address it, given that if one person has that concern before the tournament, there’s a high chance a coach or player will express it in the throes of the tournament and this saves you from having to deal with that among other things.
  • I’m thinking of things like Ned’s point with this idea. You don’t need to outline every single detail of the tournament, I understand that it’s important for you to gain some competitive edge within the market to secure the future of your company. On the other hand, I do not think it is unreasonable to announce the format for a brand new national tournament in advance, especially given the wealth of information that can be gleaned from community observations.
When the Teen TDs, based on the field size of the last in a series of 7ish national tournaments on projected staff numbers, where were you to tell them that the staff for these tournaments draws from roughly the same pool, at the end of the season experienced staff are less likely to sign up due to burnout and other commitments, and experienced staff are more likely to choose an established tournament based on existing community connections over a national tournament in its first iteration?

During ONCT

A lot of the discussed issues at ONCT stem from this fundamental staffing issue, in my opinion. Without enough experienced personnel:
  • Staffers were not at the level of experience expected for a national tournament in terms of familiarity with the game, ability to command a game room, and empowerment to deal with difficult players, coaches, and/or parents.
  • Staffers had to manage rooms by themselves for the entire tournament, and thus could not effectively monitor for integrity.
    Gathering information regarding cheating allegations had to be conducted by the staffer in a given room and not by a floating or permanent integrity monitor.
  • Moderation in the general chat was apparently nonexistent, as there are reports of sexually inappropriate content discussed by participants during the course of the tournament.
  • Without steadfast, reliable staff, the tournament directors seem to have gotten flustered and at least one blamed the staff they did have for various problems.
There are other debates on issues that are not unique to ONCT or even online quizbowl, such as having an adult from each team present in a room. However, given the staffing shortage, I am disappointed that the more experienced AQBL staff did not realize the potential nightmare situations that could arise from this scenario. There are legal responsibilities you have as a company and greater responsibilities when dealing with minors.

I do not expect the Teen TDs to be aware of these legal responsibilities and the potential legal risks of certain seemingly good choices. I do expect people who have been coaches and involved in state organizations to be aware of them and take more preventative action.

After ONCT
This brings me to my last series of points. In the quizbowl community, we have a long tradition of critiques. In publicly announcing a tournament, outreach project, quizbowl opinion, or set, you open yourself up to criticism. In publicly announcing a national tournament that is advertised to be a competitor to existing, well established national tournaments, you open yourself up to a large body of criticism.

In publishing promotional information on the AQBL website stating and comments made by AQBL personnel in *multiple* discord servers supporting the idea that your national tournament is better than the existing tournaments, you’re opening yourself up to even more criticism.

Whether your intentions were sincere or not is not the subject of debate. It is clear from the passion and effort that the 16-19 year old TDs have put into ONCT that they really had the intention of having the best online national championship.

Good intentions do not make up for a product not meeting an advertised standard or a general community standard.

At this point, it’s very unclear what Joe Feldman and Jacob O’Rourke’s role was in all of this. Joe Feldman was associated in an advisory role for ONCT after a leave of absence, Jacob O’Rourke was an administrator (whatever that means) and has been an admin of the AQBL tournament servers since December. Jacob O’Rourke was posting in #quizbowl during ONCT, so we know you do go in the discord. Where were you to step up and take responsibility in the post-tournament discussions? Why did you leave the Teen TDs to deal with the fallout of somewhat avoidable situations by themselves?

To the Teen TDs: You worked hard. You put a lot of time and effort into the ONCT. When you produce something, be it art or a podcast or a youtube video or a quizbowl tournament, you open what you produce up to criticism. It is important to filter out ONCT criticism from criticism of your personal actions. It’s okay to be upset.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by Woody »

I think AQBL did some fantastic work this year. ONCT was not up to the standards they had set for themselves earlier in the year, though I don't think it was as catastrophic as some people seem to be treating it both here and on Discord. I've been a supporter of AQBL all year, and DeWitt participated in many (not all) of AQBL's tournaments. I'm very grateful that they existed to provide some consistency during a chaotic year.

Reiterating some of the legitimate criticisms in this thread already: Going forward, if AQBL is going to be a sustainable part of the quiz bowl infrastructure, they need to do the following

1) Have an adult be the public face of AQBL.

Nicole and Aalok have done a ton of incredible and admirable amount of work, and should be commended for it. They've gone above and beyond what any other high schoolers in the country have done for helping provide online tournaments during a pandemic. I think it's in their own best interest, for the sake of their own sanity, if they aren't treated by the community as the public face of AQBL, but just as employees of AQBL.

In order for that to happen, however, there needs to be an adult who can exist as the public-facing persona of AQBL. I don't know if this person is Jacob O'Rourke, or who it should be, but it will need to be a person who can take criticism well and have a definitive view of what the future of AQBL as an organization will be. Additionally this person needs to be someone who can be head TD for all future online AQBL events.

2) Significantly increase the degree of professionalism amongst their staffers

I didn't mind during in-season AQBL events were pretty loose and informal, and that staffers were often HSers. For ONCT, however, I think AQBL needed to hold themselves to a higher standard and it didn't seem like there was any effort to do so. I had multiple staffers who were criticizing the length of the tournament during matches -- while I don't think the free speech of independent contractors should be stifled, it's still astonishing to me that ONCT was hiring people who were openly critical of the tournament to staff.

Additionally, for a national tournament, no room should have been solo-staffed. If that meant that only 32 teams could have participated instead of 64, that would have been the right decision, but given the cost of the tournament I'm quite confident that AQBL could have afforded to hire an additional 64 people within the quiz bowl community to be scorekeepers or dedicated cheating-watchers.

3) Set expectations for the future of AQBL

Right now, to my knowledge, no statement has been made regarding whether AQBL will host any online tournaments for the 2021-2022 season. For an organization whose entire business model has been online tournaments, this is very concerning. People involved with AQBL have been asked about this, and have given no definitive responses. (This is also related to point #1; right now there is no adult who has taken charge of being the public face of AQBL, and it is legitimately unreasonable to expect a graduating high school senior to be more focused on defining the future of AQBL than they are on their college education)

Unfortunately, given the vagueness of the discussion around the future direction of the AQBL, I'm sincerely concerned that ONCT may turn out to have been a last-gasp attempt to get some additional cash inflow before the organization either completely restructures or goes belly-up. I hope that's not the case. But if it does happen, people will be able to point to all of the warning signs.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

Quantity of Books v. Kansas wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 11:50 am At this point, it’s very unclear what Joe Feldman and Jacob O’Rourke’s role was in all of this. Joe Feldman was associated in an advisory role for ONCT after a leave of absence, Jacob O’Rourke was an administrator (whatever that means) and has been an admin of the AQBL tournament servers since December. Jacob O’Rourke was posting in #quizbowl during ONCT, so we know you do go in the discord. Where were you to step up and take responsibility in the post-tournament discussions? Why did you leave the Teen TDs to deal with the fallout of somewhat avoidable situations by themselves?
I've been working overtime this week (which has been working a 10 hour day in a hot factory without air conditioning), so I didn't check #quizbowl until Wednesday night because I kind of wanted to avoid screens that weren't essential to me doing my job.
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Re: 2021 AQBL ONCT - June 26-27

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

I wanted to take some time to respond to the ONCT criticism, now that I've had some time to gather my thoughts.

I think a lot of our issues came down to us having some communication issues, since most of the TD team was in-person, while I was at home in Missouri.

I fully agree, we dropped the ball on making sure we had enough staff to run ONCT effectively. I agree with what Aalok said before that it would have been a better idea (in hindsight) for me to have been the primary director of this tournament. I was brought on as an Administrator in December, and I believe Aalok had been decided as the TD of ONCT before I was brought on board. In hindsight, I should have been a bit more insistent with making sure to be more involved in the staff recruitment process and seeing how many people we had. What I want us to do for next ONCT is make sure to set the initial field cap lower and then expand if we have the staffing numbers.

What I was doing for most of the tournament was doing what I could to help us speed up. After a while, the other TDs were handling investigating the cheating accusations, I took over getting the packets out to the staff and answering questions as best as I could when they came up. (I also watched a few players who had been reported as not following the code of conduct, and warned at least one of them in their team chat) I didn't do the absolute best I could do, since I was not the Head TD who could make final decisions, so I sometimes had to wait to hear from Aalok or one of the others to answer a question. I know at least one staffer said their question and a roster change didn't get taken care of, and I just wanted to apologize for us missing that.

I want to address two things Seth said in his post. 1. The 15 staffers and the TD team joining the voice chat for one of the players accused of cheating was a mistake; we absolutely should have told the staff not to join this chat beforehand, and we made sure to explicitly tell them the rest of the tournament not to join any other chats that were made for talking to players accused of cheating. It doesn't excuse us not stopping the staff from joining the first time.

2. I already posted this in the quizbowl Discord, but I'd like to post this here, as well.

(what happened with the tiebreaker round Seth was referring to)

We were at dinner break on Sunday, and had some half-packet tiebreakers to play. I assumed all of the other staffers were getting or eating food (don't make assumptions, it doesn't end well). I saw two teams were waiting in room 3 and were ready to play their tiebreaker, and since we were waiting on a different team to start another tiebreaker round, I went ahead and got that tiebreaker going and read.

What I really should have done, in hindsight, was asked if Seth was still eating dinner and then let him read that tiebreaker. I completely understand why he was upset that that lack of communication, I would have been to if the roles were reversed.

I'm also going to agree with everyone who says a general chat for Discord tournaments isn't a good idea: my recommendation for the future would be to have an opening meeting Discord voice chat, an awards/finals announcement voice chat, and a text chat for questions people have as the day goes on. I don't really think there's a lot of good for having a general chat in Discord servers for tournaments.

Now, as for why I wasn't around for the after-tournament discussions, the answer is what I posted before: I didn't even check to see what was going on on the main quizbowl server until Wednesday night, when I probably should have been in bed. I don't know about anyone else, but I honestly just didn't want to look at a bunch of screens for a few days after looking at them all weekend.
Jacob O'Rourke
Washington (MO) HS Assistant Coach (2014-Present); MOQBA Secretary (2015-Present), AQBL Administrator (2020-Present)
Formerly: HSAPQ Host Contact; NASAT Outreach Coordinator (2016 and 2017); Kirksville HS Assistant Coach (2012-2014); Truman State '14; and Pacific High (MO) '10


"And here we are as on a darkling plain, Swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night."
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach.
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