2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:36 pm

GBRodgers12 wrote:In short, no, this makes absolutely no sense at all. How does it not uniquely describe a different answer? The current Secretary of Health and Human Services, which is what was buzzed on, clearly leads to Kansas. Because the reader got another word out after the buzz should not change this. Even if in some convoluted way the stated rule does not apply (which I think it does anyways), I would think sense would prevail. The clue very clearly did not apply to the answer line and obviously led to the buzz and subsequent miss of the question. I don't see how anyone can try to justify this being the right decision.

It is absurd that a factually incorrect question can be stamped as "only misleading" and not thrown out once protested.
"The current Secretary of Health and Human Services" is not a phrase that leads back to the answer; it does not refer to anything other than (incorrectly) "Tommy Thompson." Because of this, there is no phrase in the question that references anything other than "Wisconsin." Therefore, neither section of the rule applies to this question.
An equivalent situation would be if it were a geography question on Oregon and it contained a clue saying "The site of Yosemite National Park (*) is this state's neighbor, California." Who wouldn't buzz after Yosemite and say California if they knew where Yosemite was? The fact that he heard "Tommy" is irrelevant because he had also already heard the clue describing a different answer. By any reasonable interpretation of the rules, the question should've been thrown out and replaced.
Your equivalent situation would also not be grounds for a successful protest. There is nothing in the PACE rules covering this situation. We have to apply the rules as written; even if a question is misleading or suboptimal, it cannot be protested unless it fits the categories of the rules.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:02 pm

I think Andrew is correct in terms of explaining how the rules as written do not allow for the question to be thrown out. It is correct that the sentence did not uniquely describe a different answer, but it is very logical how a different answer could be inferred due to the inaccurate clue. However, we should probably think about why such a rule was so strictly written in the first place.

I would not want the possibility of all questions with inaccurate clues being thrown out as this could lead to disaster. Typos or obvious errors could conceivably be challenged to throw out offending questions. There is a distinction between "uniquely describing a different answer" (i.e., a clue that asks for something which the other clues do not) and a "poorly worded mistake" (i.e., if I made a typo in a Pearl Harbor tossup and said "Name this 1940 event," I do not believe the question should be thrown out)).

William's hypothetical is a different sort of question--the inelegantly worded, in this case, misleading hose. While good quizbowl writers and editors do not want poorly worded or hose type questions in their tournaments, the fact remains that it is very dangerous to protest and throw out questions for being confusing or misleading. Certainly, William presents a very clear cut example of how something is a hose, but I think we have all encountered questions in which confounding wording may have caused us to give a wrong answer. Should all of these questions be protested and thrown out?

I present these scenarios not to denigrate Joe and the protest. I sympathize and think he got shafted. The mistake in the question was egregious. I do not want anyone to imply that I am accusing Joe or anyone else in the thread of offering petty nitpicking or whining. My point is rather to examine why such a rule exists.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by AlphaQuizBowler » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:03 pm

But the rule does apply to the question, because the clue in context is "The current Secretary of Health and Human Services [is from this state]." That bracketed part is necessarily implied by the phrase's placement in the question; the fact that at least one person buzzed off of it only further supports the idea that the phrase "The current Secretary of Health and Human Services" in a question about a state is a clue in itself. Thus there is "one clue [that] definitely does not refer to the same answer as the other clues" and the question should be thrown out and replaced.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by jonpin » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:07 pm

Either of your proposed examples would have you laughed out of a legitimate quiz bowl tournament for being blatant hoses, which is why they are bad examples. I can't find it at present, but one of the rule sets out there has the example of something like "Albert Einstein won the 1910 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on this--" as an example of contradictory information within a question that merits it being thrown out (as Einstein didn't win that year's Nobel Prize for anything). Referring to Tommy Thompson as the current Secretary of HHS is a factual error that inhibits any player's ability to answer the question correctly.
theMoMA wrote:If the question had said "The current secretary of HHS, Kate Sebelius, once lived in this state before moving to Kansas," with the player buzzing after "Kate" with "Kansas," the issue would be essentially the same, and the protest would also be denied (assuming for this example that Sebelius actually did live in Wisconsin at one point)
Horse- :party: . If that's the way you read the rules, than the rules are :capybara:ing terrible and need to be changed.

While on the subject of varying rulesets out there: Matt Weiner had mentioned in chat about the dubious use of contingency questions in case a protest caused a tie. No clause preventing the use of such exists in the 2011 PACE rules, and after some research, no such rule existed in the 2010 PACE rules either (earlier rule sets don't appear to exist online anymore). Such a clause does exist in ACF rules, however.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:13 pm

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:But the rule does apply to the question, because the clue in context is "The current Secretary of Health and Human Services [is from this state]." That bracketed part is necessarily implied by the phrase's placement in the question; the fact that at least one person buzzed off of it only further supports the idea that the phrase "The current Secretary of Health and Human Services" in a question about a state is a clue in itself. Thus there is "one clue [that] definitely does not refer to the same answer as the other clues" and the question should be thrown out and replaced.
We do not agree with this interpretation. Our job was to apply the rules fairly to the situations, and reasonable minds can disagree on how to do this. Your argument makes an assumption that I am not willing to make, and that's why I believe that we correctly resolved the protest. I don't believe that I can add any more to the discussion at this point, but anyone with questions is free to email me.
If that's the way you read the rules, than the rules are :capybara:ing terrible and need to be changed.
I endorse this statement. There are several loose areas in the protest rules that gave us pause when we were considering things. I agree with both Mike and Jon (and alerted PACE when this issue first cropped up in the discussion) that changing the wording of the rule to close such areas is completely necessary.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Deviant Insider » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:11 pm

William is absolutely correct here. The current rule was misapplied, and it also needs to be changed to handle more cases.

The only reason somebody would not buzz in at that point in the question is that they did not know where the current Secretary of Health and Human Services was from. Anybody with knowledge of that fact would buzz in at that point and answer Kansas, because that clue referred to Kansas with complete clarity. Anybody who got the question correct either buzzed in before that clue or does not know about Sebelius.

If a Pearl Harbor question says it is about an event that happened in 1940, and that causes a team not to buzz in, to guess some event that happened in 1940, or to buzz in and just look perplexed, then that question should be thrown out, though that situation, unlike the Wisconsin question, requires a rewrite of the rules. If we're running competitions that reward knowledge, then we should have rules that cause questions which punish knowledge to get thrown out. This isn't the same thing as a grammatical error which makes it more difficult to find out what the question is talking about--it's bad information that punishes knowledgeable teams and gives an advantage to teams that don't know when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Any question that refers to Tommy Thompson as a current Cabinet member should be thrown out, since it is unreasonable to expect students to figure out which clues are true and which are false while the question is being read. Tournaments have small numbers of such questions, so this isn't something that will lead to mass chaos unless the question set is so bad that mass chaos is better than playing the questions. This would have impacted maybe 1% of the NSC set at most.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Khanate » Tue Jun 07, 2011 6:36 pm

Given my high expectations from reading last years set, I was thoroughly disappointed with the science from this set. That's not to say it was bad, just that it was not nearly as good as I thought it would be. Here were some of the issues I saw:

1) Where was the astronomy???? All I remember hearing was a pseudoscientific constellation. I would be interested in seeing how the "Misc. Science" was distributed between Earth Science, Astronomy, Noncomp Math, and Comp. Sci.
2)
every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:- There were a few early clues that have been used trillions of times from good questions that could have been deleted or moved down in otherwise excellent tossups. I'm thinking of the antibodies questions which mentioned "VDJ recombination" right away. This isn't me complaining that something was too easy for power at all, it's me noting that all of the good teams probably buzzed on that clue because they've heard of this thing several times through packets, and adjusting the question so that people who read about antibodies from packets don't beat people who know things about antibodies to the question.
I strongly agree with this, I would have like to see more new original clues over things like "seesaw mechanism" or "Alport Syndrome". After reading last years set, I remember that, although there were similar "stock" clues in power, there were more original clues prior to it.

3) This will sound strange, but I thought it was a bit TOO canonical for a national set. I can't remember much more than "planarian" and "symmetric matrix" that I could learn from (in other words new).

Unrelated to science, I thought there could have been more actual operas tossed up than just operatic composers.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Tanay » Tue Jun 07, 2011 6:56 pm

I might just be unfamiliar with the intended sub-distributions, but I think there was one round with two world history tossups: Indonesia and Turkey. I thought it was usually split to be 1 American, 2 European, and 1 World.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:05 pm

NoWayItsTanay wrote:I might just be unfamiliar with the intended sub-distributions, but I think there was one round with two world history tossups: Indonesia and Turkey. I thought it was usually split to be 1 American, 2 European, and 1 World.
We made the decision to classify Turkey and the Ancient Near East as European History. Certainly that Turkey tossup in particular was very much focussed on that country's interactions with Europe.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:09 pm

Khanate wrote:1) Where was the astronomy???? All I remember hearing was a pseudoscientific constellation. I would be interested in seeing how the "Misc. Science" was distributed between Earth Science, Astronomy, Noncomp Math, and Comp. Sci.
There was 2/2 astronomy in all; there was similarly little computer science. Math was the majority of the misc science. I made this decision mostly because I believe at this difficulty level there is a low upper limit to how much astro and CS, and to a lesser extent earth science, you include before it gets somewhat fakey. (The Sagittarius tossup was almost exclusively focused on important deep space objects, as I recall; while I don't generally like constellation tossups, I hoped that that one had the most real, important clues possible without sacrificing reasonable conversion.)
I strongly agree with this, I would have like to see more new original clues over things like "seesaw mechanism" or "Alport Syndrome". After reading last years set, I remember that, although there were similar "stock" clues in power, there were more original clues prior to it.
Some new clues are good; too many are excessive--you were one of the better science players in the field, easily, seeing how you played; if you aren't buzzing on the first few clues then no one is. I strongly believe that the alternative criticism--that much of the science was unbuzzable for too long--would have been levied had I included additional clues before those. Perhaps I should have exchanged some of those clues for newer clues with equal claims to "knowability"--indeed, I did in many cases, but not in those. I appreciate the degree to which those might be frustrating to play for a player of your caliber, though.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:20 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:The Sagittarius tossup was almost exclusively focused on important deep space objects, as I recall; while I don't generally like constellation tossups, I hoped that that one had the most real, important clues possible without sacrificing reasonable conversion.
This tossup actually annoyed me, because I know stuff about a lot of the objects it was talking about, but I've never bothered memorizing what constellation they're in and don't really understand why that's important.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:29 pm

Joe N wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:The Sagittarius tossup was almost exclusively focused on important deep space objects, as I recall; while I don't generally like constellation tossups, I hoped that that one had the most real, important clues possible without sacrificing reasonable conversion.
This tossup actually annoyed me, because I know stuff about a lot of the objects it was talking about, but I've never bothered memorizing what constellation they're in and don't really understand why that's important.
That's a fair criticism. Hypothetically, you could equally know a lot of stuff about a lot of books by Swiss authors, but not know they were all written by Swiss people (as opposed to Germans, or perhaps the French). The difference, I think, is that you much more frequently read a book or many books in the context of who wrote them and their background than DSOs in the context of the constellation they're (pretty incidentally) located in. It's not ideal in general and definitely not at difficulty levels where more people know more things about astronomy; if your experience is too common then it was definitely a failed experiment.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:56 pm

Joe N wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:The Sagittarius tossup was almost exclusively focused on important deep space objects, as I recall; while I don't generally like constellation tossups, I hoped that that one had the most real, important clues possible without sacrificing reasonable conversion.
This tossup actually annoyed me, because I know stuff about a lot of the objects it was talking about, but I've never bothered memorizing what constellation they're in and don't really understand why that's important.
I don't know the text of the question, but if the objects are question are notable for being near the center of the Milky Way, then it would be important to know that they're in Sagittarius.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:51 am

A Barehanded Telethon Mirth Gun wrote:
Joe N wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:The Sagittarius tossup was almost exclusively focused on important deep space objects, as I recall; while I don't generally like constellation tossups, I hoped that that one had the most real, important clues possible without sacrificing reasonable conversion.
This tossup actually annoyed me, because I know stuff about a lot of the objects it was talking about, but I've never bothered memorizing what constellation they're in and don't really understand why that's important.
I don't know the text of the question, but if the objects are question are notable for being near the center of the Milky Way, then it would be important to know that they're in Sagittarius.
Yeah; X-1 is but the Trifid Nebula, if I remember correctly, isn't--it certainly isn't notable for that specifically. So the late clues were more obviously justified.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Great Bustard » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:20 am

Ok, I know nothing about the Trifid Nebula, so I can't contribute anything there, but here are two thoughts that occurred to me while reading the set (primarily to teams in the bottom bracket). First, it seems that PACE's acting definition of trash includes anything not only from sports, but also anything from television, cinema, or non-classical music from the last fifty or so years. It seems a little odd to me that something like Schindler's List, Meet the Press, the Beatles, etc. doesn't make the cut. I know this stuff might not be taught frequently in high school, but not only is it in all likelihood more worth knowing about than 9/10 of what was in the set, but it certainly isn't trash and among the more enlightened high schools, this stuff is in fact taught. How does one teach the 60's for example, without mentioning Woodstock/the British Invasion/etc.? Likewise, cinema only seemed like it got included if it was old, foreign, or preferably, both. I know this stuff on a wider scope has probably been debated ad nauseam elsewhere, but I think there's a happy medium between "life-skills bowl" and the minor works of Italo Calvino.
Secondly, I know PACE prides itself on long, meticulously-researched questions, but there comes a point (basically after the seventh line) where eyes roll. Especially on Sunday in the bottom bracket. Another thing to keep in mind: all those extra words add hours to the time of the tournament. That time would be useful to either build into the schedule for contingency planning, or alternatively, to give teams more games. I should also note that the teams I was reading to in the bottom bracket were in fact good teams, and certainly deserved almost without exception to be at a national tournament. Perhaps PACE sees itself primarily as catering to the top 25 teams in the country, but it needs the extra teams I would imagine in order to be viable and should take their opinions into account. I suggest that someone involved in the running of PACE next year reach out to those teams and get their feedback on what sort of questions they'd like to play, especially after they're no longer in contention for the national title.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Kouign Amann » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:25 am

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:I know this stuff might not be taught frequently in high school, but not only is it in all likelihood more worth knowing about than 9/10 of what was in the set
What basis do you have for such a preposterous assertion? Which one-tenth of NSC questions do you deem "worth knowing?"
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:56 am

I accept that there is probably a role for some kind of "important trash" at some level of quizbowl and in some contexts; I was comfortable letting the NSC lack it and letting HSNCT bear that burden instead. Certainly, items of pop culture of genuine importance to social history could comfortably fit into social history tossups; the prototypical example is George M. Cohan's songs. The only reason one might not comfortably put the Beatles into social history is because they're so much more often encountered through a pop culture context: similarly, I'd avoid writing chemistry questions you could answer from knowledge gleaned from Breaking Bad or something.

Last year's questions were mostly six to eight lines, as were these. I wrote some of the shorter questions in the set, as well as some of the long ones, and I'm certainly sympathetic to the notion that longer questions do turn less experienced teams off, to a certain extent. But there weren't terribly many less experienced teams at this tournament, as they'd all qualified in some way or another: that effect, though doubtless present, should be limited. As to the question of extending the tournament, that's empirically not the case: a good fraction of the length of a round is the beginning and end and the time spent quieting teams down; while "line number eight" might make a question eight-sevenths longer and make a twenty-eight minute round instead thirty-two, that's at most forty additional minutes added on to Saturday. I certainly didn't look for excuses to make submitted or subject-edited lines longer, and I looked to compress verbiage where it was reasonable--but if a particularly good leadin was going to make a tossup eight lines and one word, I did tend to include it. I hope that didn't lead to too many frustrated teams in your rooms.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Great Bustard » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:10 am

Prof.Whoopie wrote:
nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:I know this stuff might not be taught frequently in high school, but not only is it in all likelihood more worth knowing about than 9/10 of what was in the set
What basis do you have for such a preposterous assertion? Which one-tenth of NSC questions do you deem "worth knowing?"
Whaaaaa? You completely misconstrued my argument. I never said that only 1/10 of NSC is worth knowing, I said more worth knowing. I wish I knew every single fact that was mentioned at the tournament - all of it is certainly significant at some level. Granted, this is my opinion, but I expect that at least 9/10 of Americans (including many qb people) would agree with me that having some knowledge of the Beatles, some of the better films of the last half century, and yes, even that vast wasteland of television is just maybe more important than knowing about The Path to the Spiders' Nest. There's not only the value of cultural literacy and practical knowledge, but there's also lasting historical and intellectual significance here. Consigning this all to the label of "trash" is not only elitist, but inaccurate. And this is coming from someone who himself never once played a trash tournament, nor ever enjoyed it when real trash came up.
Note that I'm not advocating for sports or questions on Lady Gaga or stuff that is perhaps less significant. By all means, keep the real trash out. And I certainly recognize that my opinion at some level should count less than those who would play NSC next year, so if my views are not echoed by the majority of the teams looking to come to NSC 2012, then by all means discount what I say. But I certainly did not say anything preposterous and I certainly did not say that 9/10 of NSC was not worth knowing. I vehemently object to your putting words into my mouth that I did not say.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Great Bustard » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:19 am

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I accept that there is probably a role for some kind of "important trash" at some level of quizbowl and in some contexts; I was comfortable letting the NSC lack it and letting HSNCT bear that burden instead. Certainly, items of pop culture of genuine importance to social history could comfortably fit into social history tossups; the prototypical example is George M. Cohan's songs. The only reason one might not comfortably put the Beatles into social history is because they're so much more often encountered through a pop culture context: similarly, I'd avoid writing chemistry questions you could answer from knowledge gleaned from Breaking Bad or something.

Last year's questions were mostly six to eight lines, as were these. I wrote some of the shorter questions in the set, as well as some of the long ones, and I'm certainly sympathetic to the notion that longer questions do turn less experienced teams off, to a certain extent. But there weren't terribly many less experienced teams at this tournament, as they'd all qualified in some way or another: that effect, though doubtless present, should be limited. As to the question of extending the tournament, that's empirically not the case: a good fraction of the length of a round is the beginning and end and the time spent quieting teams down; while "line number eight" might make a question eight-sevenths longer and make a twenty-eight minute round instead thirty-two, that's at most forty additional minutes added on to Saturday. I certainly didn't look for excuses to make submitted or subject-edited lines longer, and I looked to compress verbiage where it was reasonable--but if a particularly good leadin was going to make a tossup eight lines and one word, I did tend to include it. I hope that didn't lead to too many frustrated teams in your rooms.
I think if there was a cap on all questions at 7 lines, and if for the bottom bracket, this was limited to 6 it would simply make for happier teams. Particularly with the harder questions on Sunday, too many answer lines went unclaimed at all, let alone anywhere in the top part of the questions. Also, I think 40 minutes is a significant chunk of time even if the teams don't have to go anywhere other than back to their hotels on Saturday. I know that all teams did qualify and most, if not all, knew they were getting harder questions, but (and this may have been compounded by the other delays) it looked like many teams were kind of dragging an anchor by Sunday. The lack of air conditioning wasn't helpful either.
Still, this is just my impression - it may be not entirely accurate, and I'll be the first to grant that. I would again reiterate though that it's important for PACE to get feedback on the style and length of questions from all teams, and then take that into consideration, bearing in mind the usual issues of nonresponse, selection bias, etc. that often is the hallmark of surveys on things of this sort.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:33 am

I would imagine that if the editors are producing a set that's approximately 25 rounds where they have to be exquisitely concerned about making sure it is eminently appropriate to crown a national champion on, they would have better things to spend their time doing other than writing a separate, easier version of the set to appeal to worse teams. The easier tournaments to appeal to worse teams have a name, they are called everything that is not nationals.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Kouign Amann » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:47 am

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:
Prof.Whoopie wrote:
nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:I know this stuff might not be taught frequently in high school, but not only is it in all likelihood more worth knowing about than 9/10 of what was in the set
What basis do you have for such a preposterous assertion? Which one-tenth of NSC questions do you deem "worth knowing?"
Whaaaaa? You completely misconstrued my argument. I never said that only 1/10 of NSC is worth knowing, I said more worth knowing. I wish I knew every single fact that was mentioned at the tournament - all of it is certainly significant at some level. Granted, this is my opinion, but I expect that at least 9/10 of Americans (including many qb people) would agree with me that having some knowledge of the Beatles, some of the better films of the last half century, and yes, even that vast wasteland of television is just maybe more important than knowing about The Path to the Spiders' Nest. There's not only the value of cultural literacy and practical knowledge, but there's also lasting historical and intellectual significance here. Consigning this all to the label of "trash" is not only elitist, but inaccurate. And this is coming from someone who himself never once played a trash tournament, nor ever enjoyed it when real trash came up.
Note that I'm not advocating for sports or questions on Lady Gaga or stuff that is perhaps less significant. By all means, keep the real trash out. And I certainly recognize that my opinion at some level should count less than those who would play NSC next year, so if my views are not echoed by the majority of the teams looking to come to NSC 2012, then by all means discount what I say. But I certainly did not say anything preposterous and I certainly did not say that 9/10 of NSC was not worth knowing. I vehemently object to your putting words into my mouth that I did not say.
I apologize for misreading your original post, but the idea that the last 50 years of pop culture is more worth knowing than 9/10 of all of mankind's achievements in literature, science, the arts, history, philosophy, and everything else quizbowl asks about still strikes me as utterly ridiculous. "Cultural literacy" necessitates knowledge of material from far beyond 50 years ago, right? I fail to see how an increased trash distribution at NSC will help kids become more culturally literate. Furthermore, quizbowl isn't a game about furnishing high schoolers with "practical knowledge;" quizbowl is a game about testing knowledge of important stuff, regardless of its practicality.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Great Bustard » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:05 am

Prof.Whoopie wrote:
nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:
Prof.Whoopie wrote:
nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:I know this stuff might not be taught frequently in high school, but not only is it in all likelihood more worth knowing about than 9/10 of what was in the set
What basis do you have for such a preposterous assertion? Which one-tenth of NSC questions do you deem "worth knowing?"
Whaaaaa? You completely misconstrued my argument. I never said that only 1/10 of NSC is worth knowing, I said more worth knowing. I wish I knew every single fact that was mentioned at the tournament - all of it is certainly significant at some level. Granted, this is my opinion, but I expect that at least 9/10 of Americans (including many qb people) would agree with me that having some knowledge of the Beatles, some of the better films of the last half century, and yes, even that vast wasteland of television is just maybe more important than knowing about The Path to the Spiders' Nest. There's not only the value of cultural literacy and practical knowledge, but there's also lasting historical and intellectual significance here. Consigning this all to the label of "trash" is not only elitist, but inaccurate. And this is coming from someone who himself never once played a trash tournament, nor ever enjoyed it when real trash came up.
Note that I'm not advocating for sports or questions on Lady Gaga or stuff that is perhaps less significant. By all means, keep the real trash out. And I certainly recognize that my opinion at some level should count less than those who would play NSC next year, so if my views are not echoed by the majority of the teams looking to come to NSC 2012, then by all means discount what I say. But I certainly did not say anything preposterous and I certainly did not say that 9/10 of NSC was not worth knowing. I vehemently object to your putting words into my mouth that I did not say.
I apologize for misreading your original post, but the idea that the last 50 years of pop culture is more worth knowing than 9/10 of all of mankind's achievements in literature, science, the arts, history, philosophy, and everything else quizbowl asks about still strikes me as utterly ridiculous. "Cultural literacy" necessitates knowledge of material from far beyond 50 years ago, right? I fail to see how an increased trash distribution at NSC will help kids become more culturally literate. Furthermore, quizbowl isn't a game about furnishing high schoolers with "practical knowledge;" quizbowl is a game about testing knowledge of important stuff, regardless of its practicality.
The 9/10 comment is one more of practicality, though if you're excluding that as a criterion for what should be asked about in quiz bowl, then sure, that argument is largely nullified. Arguing about what should be in qb is something that I'm sure if you asked 100 different people, you get 100 different variants on; my objection was more to the wholesale avoidance of these media post roughly 1960, which I think goes too far, especially in the sense of what "trash" constitutes. Just because something was popular doesn't make it non-intellectual and non-academic. Eventually pop culture becomes cultural history; perhaps my dividing line is just more recent than that of many other people. Anyway, my own personal preference, fwiw, would be somewhere halfway in between NAQT and PACE when it comes to both definitions of trash and how much of it should be included in a national tournament. I don't think I'm really advocating anything radical here; just making the point that the definition of trash at NSC struck me as a little excessive.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Great Bustard » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:13 am

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:I would imagine that if the editors are producing a set that's approximately 25 rounds where they have to be exquisitely concerned about making sure it is eminently appropriate to crown a national champion on, they would have better things to spend their time doing other than writing a separate, easier version of the set to appeal to worse teams. The easier tournaments to appeal to worse teams have a name, they are called everything that is not nationals.
I think the more important point is just striking a bit of the length for some of the teams on Sunday which wouldn't take more than ten minutes to do. I agree that if the top teams like the harder difficulty of the playoff rounds, and time is short, then, sure, coming up with a bunch of new questions for teams in the bottom half on Sunday shouldn't at all be a priority. But especially for next year, PACE is going to need to work hard to appeal to teams that aren't ranked in, say the top 40, and I hope that those teams' opinions are taken into account. I for one would be interested to hear all teams' takes on these issues, which, granted, weren't the major things that were problematic last weekend.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:30 am

Look, you clearly have no idea just how much effort it takes to produce a set this large where you have so much riding on the line if you honestly think it's a worthwhile diversion of time to have the editors go through and rejigger the later packets to appeal to the bottom 10 teams. The later packets need to have as much effort as possible put into making sure they are eminently ideal for crowning a national champion, and I don't think there is a reputable editor in the land who would willing volunteer to cut out the time when they are responsible for making sure the massive amount of packets required just to run the NSC are as perfect as possible. I frankly am amazed you are posting about this here, in the NSC thread, when the HSNCT has vastly more teams who have huge problems with the difficulty of their event. I have talked to multiple teams in the bottom 10 (including coaching one), who believe it was worthwhile to play sets written the way they were. PACE's problem attracting teams should be because of logistics (and making sure the questions in the superplayoffs are flawless and don't lead to the controversial protests. I seriously can't believe we're having this discussion when some problems with the superplayoff editing led to such drama in the first place!), not because of the style of questions, because making an alternate easy version of the set is simply not something that would be an option for an event like this. Nationals isn't for everybody, and I don't think teams that don't want to play the kind of set PACE offers should go if they don't want to, and I don't think that is something PACE should be concerned with when there are so many teams who do want to play this set.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:57 am

nationalhistorybeeandbowl wrote:
Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:I would imagine that if the editors are producing a set that's approximately 25 rounds where they have to be exquisitely concerned about making sure it is eminently appropriate to crown a national champion on, they would have better things to spend their time doing other than writing a separate, easier version of the set to appeal to worse teams. The easier tournaments to appeal to worse teams have a name, they are called everything that is not nationals.
I think the more important point is just striking a bit of the length for some of the teams on Sunday which wouldn't take more than ten minutes to do. I agree that if the top teams like the harder difficulty of the playoff rounds, and time is short, then, sure, coming up with a bunch of new questions for teams in the bottom half on Sunday shouldn't at all be a priority. But especially for next year, PACE is going to need to work hard to appeal to teams that aren't ranked in, say the top 40, and I hope that those teams' opinions are taken into account. I for one would be interested to hear all teams' takes on these issues, which, granted, weren't the major things that were problematic last weekend.
I'm gonna have to agree with Charlie on this one. Your argument is to strike the length of the questions in order to make the matches shorter, however the matches are already being made shorter by the fact that a good percentage of the questions are going dead and so the bonus questions aren't being heard. Given the recent snafus, though, it may be in PACE's best interests to find some way to appeal to more teams to make sure they have a larger field - how they do that is up to them, although having slightly shorter questions may be an option that may draw a few teams. Quizbowl is supposed to be fun for the teams - that's why they play in the first place, and if you're going to a national tournament and you know that your team is weaker, you should expect something like this is going to happen. So what if the matches in the bottom brackets are lower scoring, they can still be fun, and hey, the kids are given the opportunity to play matches against similarly skilled opponents on high-quality questions, and more importantly, the opportunity to learn something. There have been a lot of matches in my career that were low-scoring but still fun. Also, there are always kids that don't like listening to the long questions, it's because they're not doing so well - there are teams like that at all kinds of tournaments. It would shock me if there exist high school tournaments anywhere where at least one team isn't frustrated. It's called losing. The only solution I can think of off hand is not having these teams play the questions at all, but that's not good for anybody.

Although you may not have about it before posting, your idea of shortening questions is basically the same as this one, so there should be no surprise if some people don't like the suggestion of editing them as you have suggested: viewtopic.php?f=21&t=11279

EDIT: grammar, oops.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by jgalea84 » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:54 am

I don't think it's logisitically feasible, nor is it particularly advisable, to change the packets to suit lower-ranked teams on Sunday. Were I playing for or coaching one of those teams, I'd feel a bit patronized--there were some really good schools that finished 40 or lower. As an overall observation, I do think the questions could stand to be slightly shorter, maybe a line or so on average. I think all of the core goals of PACE could be achieved if question length were 6 to 7 lines on average as opposed to 7 or 8, and it would streamline things a bit. But that's just a personal observation--some of our players have said repeatedly that they prefer the tossups at NSC to those at HSNCT, so certainly my opinion is not universally shared.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by djones » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:26 am

I don't believe that the packets were too hard for the lower level teams for the most part. My JV team, who finished 44th and had 90% of its scoring come from an 8th grader (albeit a very good one), saw very few toss-ups go dead on Sunday. Their bonus conversion wasn't very high, but that is not unexpected for a national tournament. My varsity team had a horrible bonus conversion rate the first time we attended four years back, but that made them work harder to improve.

We knew what we were getting into bringing a second team this year, the same way we knew what we were getting into 4 years ago when we showed up when we weren't very good. The questions are going to be hard because it is a national tournament. The lower tier teams should probably know this.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Great Bustard » Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:15 am

Okay, again, as I said, my comments were based just on what things seemed to me - if the general consensus is that all teams want to play on the same questions including on Sunday, even if the number of early buzzes and bonus conversions are very low, then obviously that's all that counts. Anyway, getting players' and coaches' opinions on this wouldn't be difficult. I'll stand by my comments on the need for air conditioned rooms in Chicago in June though. Thankfully my room on Saturday had air conditioning and Sunday cooled off considerably, so the lack of it then wasn't an issue for me, but this is a critical detail that shouldn't be overlooked if PACE looks to do NSC next year at a college campus.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:38 pm

As an overall observation, I do think the questions could stand to be slightly shorter, maybe a line or so on average. I think all of the core goals of PACE could be achieved if question length were 6 to 7 lines on average as opposed to 7 or 8, and it would streamline things a bit.
I actually do agree. ACF has often adopted a hard 6 line cap on their questions, and I feel the sets that did that were some of the best I got to play on. I think hard 6 line caps would be a good idea for the NSC as well - however, bear in mind that this is before bolding for powers, which can make the tossups look artificially longer.

Also, I think there are some misunderstandings about what PACE's role is. I don't think it is PACE's role to run a tournament that is supposed to have a broad appeal to lots of teams and expose a hundred new teams to nationals. I think having one national tournament with incredibly broad appeal is enough to fill that niche, because I don't think that the bottom 150 teams at the HSNCT necessarily need to be reached out to for another national title. Instead, I think PACE's goal should be to remain a much more densely competitive event where teams get the chance to play for a title in a way that is infinitely more satisfying than a double elimination bracket, with more games being very tight. I felt like almost all of the teams at this NSC could have gone 6-4 at the HSNCT, and frankly I really dug that about the event, it made it a lot more fun and gave teams a lot more experience playing tough games, while also providing a chance for all the top teams to play against each other, and I think having one national offer that as an alternative to the HSNCT is a great thing for quizbowl. I certainly hope the NSC in the future doesn't try to expand beyond 64 teams.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Coach K » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:51 pm

As a coach of a team from a lower bracket team, I also don't think the questions were too difficult. We fully expected the question set to be difficult and that level of difficulty was not a deterrent for us. It's nationals - the questions should be challenging.

I also agree with what Charlie said regarding the field of NSC being small relative to HSNCT. One of the things that brought us to NSC for the first time last year and brought us back this year was the opportunity to compete against the very best teams in the country and see where we stacked up.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:04 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:
As an overall observation, I do think the questions could stand to be slightly shorter, maybe a line or so on average. I think all of the core goals of PACE could be achieved if question length were 6 to 7 lines on average as opposed to 7 or 8, and it would streamline things a bit.
I actually do agree. ACF has often adopted a hard 6 line cap on their questions, and I feel the sets that did that were some of the best I got to play on. I think hard 6 line caps would be a good idea for the NSC as well - however, bear in mind that this is before bolding for powers, which can make the tossups look artificially longer.
Another thing to note is that this tournament was written in 12 point Times New Roman rather than 10 point Times New Roman like a standard ACF tournament. Thus, the maximum length of questions was probably around 7.25 lines in 10 point Times New Roman. I can see the argument for reducing the length a little bit, but at the same time I saw lots of impressive buzzes on the first clues by top teams and I'd rather err on the side of differentiating between these teams, especially in the playoff rounds, than making the questions one or two clues shorter.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by jgalea84 » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:37 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:
As an overall observation, I do think the questions could stand to be slightly shorter, maybe a line or so on average. I think all of the core goals of PACE could be achieved if question length were 6 to 7 lines on average as opposed to 7 or 8, and it would streamline things a bit.
I actually do agree. ACF has often adopted a hard 6 line cap on their questions, and I feel the sets that did that were some of the best I got to play on. I think hard 6 line caps would be a good idea for the NSC as well - however, bear in mind that this is before bolding for powers, which can make the tossups look artificially longer.
As an example, here's a tossup from the 2010 NSC:
This state promulgated a compulsory labor policy, which women could evade by getting married, and three battleships controlled by this polity were destroyed at the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir. This state adopted the “wait and see” policy and was supported by Charles Maurras's royalist newspaper. Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle assassinated its admiral Jean Darlan, who had been promised a free hand in implementing its internal policies in North (*) Africa. It changed the national motto to “work, family, fatherland” after supplanting the Third Republic and was led by men such as Pierre Laval, who served as minister to its president, Philippe Pétain. For 10 points, name this collaborationist regime that ruled France as a Nazi puppet state.
This question is about 8.25 lines at 12 point Times New Roman with bolding and 1" margins. I think you could remove the compulsory labor policy and "wait and see" clues and still have a very good pyramidal tossup that would differentiate two high-level PACE field teams. To me, it's just a matter of editing--do those clues really add to the question? Do they really have much to do with the other clues in the question? It's a good question as written, I just think it could be streamlined. I don't intend this as a criticism of PACE; most writing done by anyone (including this post, and anything I've ever written for school or professionally) could shed some verbiage.
Also, I think there are some misunderstandings about what PACE's role is. I don't think it is PACE's role to run a tournament that is supposed to have a broad appeal to lots of teams and expose a hundred new teams to nationals. I think having one national tournament with incredibly broad appeal is enough to fill that niche, because I don't think that the bottom 150 teams at the HSNCT necessarily need to be reached out to for another national title. Instead, I think PACE's goal should be to remain a much more densely competitive event where teams get the chance to play for a title in a way that is infinitely more satisfying than a double elimination bracket, with more games being very tight. I felt like almost all of the teams at this NSC could have gone 6-4 at the HSNCT, and frankly I really dug that about the event, it made it a lot more fun and gave teams a lot more experience playing tough games, while also providing a chance for all the top teams to play against each other, and I think having one national offer that as an alternative to the HSNCT is a great thing for quizbowl. I certainly hope the NSC in the future doesn't try to expand beyond 64 teams.
Agreed. I think the best thing about PACE, besides question quality, is the concentration of top teams in one field. The level of competition at this year's NSC was fantastic.
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Re: 2011 NSC Question Set Discussion

Post by BRizzle » Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:51 pm

Coach K wrote:As a coach of a team from a lower bracket team, I also don't think the questions were too difficult. We fully expected the question set to be difficult and that level of difficulty was not a deterrent for us. It's nationals - the questions should be challenging.

I also agree with what Charlie said regarding the field of NSC being small relative to HSNCT. One of the things that brought us to NSC for the first time last year and brought us back this year was the opportunity to compete against the very best teams in the country and see where we stacked up.
I think this post brings up some great points.

I don't think the questions at the NSC were any more difficult than those at the HSNCT. In fact, I would argue some of the answer lines at the NSC were easier than those at the HSNCT (nothing like Aalto). As a member of a lowest tier team both my freshman and sophomore year, I can say that I never minded the length of the questions. Here is why: The NSC gave us the opportunity to play against teams of all levels. We got to play a top 5 national contender, other top 25 teams, mid-level teams, and teams that were at our level. We got our brains beat in, but frankly it was far more motivating than any game at the HSNCT. I wasn't focused on how long the questions were, I was focused on how good State College or TJ A was. And then when we were put with teams of a similar skill level, I was focused on winning those games, not on question length. The NSC gave us more games against teams that were our level than the HSNCT did, and it gave us games against the top teams nationally that showed us how incredible the best were. At the HSNCT, many teams don't even have the opportunity to play a single top 25 team or even a top 50 team. And mid-level teams often don't get to play the best either. In short, even if low tier teams dislike the longer questions, the NSC is still a great tournament for them to attend.

As for this year:
jgalea84 wrote: I think the best thing about PACE, besides question quality, is the concentration of top teams in one field. The level of competition at this year's NSC was fantastic.
Despite all the logistics issues, despite the mass amounts of frustration, despite the bracketing leading to problems in the top 24, for me the question set and the level of competition won out, barely. The question set is not what needs to be changed- it was great, just like the past year and the year before that. But the problems that arose last weekend cannot happen again, because if the NSC loses its legitimacy, teams of all skill levels can no longer experience the good quiz bowl and competition that PACE brings to the table.
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