General Discussion

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gyre and gimble
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General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

HFT VIII General Discussion. Sorry I don't have more to say here, but I'll jump into the conversation when finals are done.
Stephen Liu
Torrey Pines '10
Harvard '14
Stanford '17

adamsil
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Re: General Discussion

Post by adamsil »

I guess I'll be the first one here, since I did have some pretty strong feelings about this set after WIT yesterday. These are some general criticisms that you probably won't be able to act upon now, but perhaps they could be helpful next year.

The set was obviously way too hard. The tossup answerlines skewed very, very difficult, often unnecessarily, in my opinion. I don't think that you need to write a tossup on Pontiac's Rebellion or The House of the Spirits or variable stars. I wrote a 14-round HS tournament set this year; I don't believe any excuses that "it's so hard to fill 14/14 worth of material without venturing into difficult areas", because you can do it, with some creativity and careful planning. You can write a hard tournament on gettable answerlines, too. Rather than asking about vapor pressure, you can ask about vaporization. And so on. The fact that most of the best teams in Georgia struggled to break 15 PPB is pretty sad; backwards we may be, but Georgia is a pretty active circuit. I didn't see/hear the finals, but was told that these questions were even harder?

Luckily, we had a very solid crew of committed readers yesterday, so the fact that nearly every tossup was at least 7 lines wasn't an issue--but it's really not necessary to write questions that long.

In general, I don't really have a problem with tossups that have hard early clues, as long as they don't detract from solid middle/late clues, but this set missed that. I think an illustrative example is the Ibsen tossup, where you have two lines on John Gabriel Borkman, two lines on When We Dead Awaken, two lines on The Master Builder, and a squeezed-in-giveaway that barely mentions A Doll's House. This tossup doesn't reward HSers who have studied Ibsen in an academic context, because the odds that any of them have read the early plays in the tossup are next-to-zero. You can construct a much better tossup for this difficulty level by, for instance, writing an entire tossup on his most famous works, and dropping hard plot clues, symbols, or quotes instead. It will reward people who have read Ibsen over people who have Googled the basic plots and titles of his obscurest plays, which is sadly how many high schoolers think you should learn literature for QB purposes.

On a corresponding note, the third part of literature bonuses were very disappointing. Nearly all of the time, they were along the lines of, "Do you know this random author who comes up in college quizbowl?" or "Have you heard of this third-tier work by this author?" I Am A Cat should not be coming up in HS. Durrenmatt should not be coming up in HS. These bonus parts are easy to write for college literature specialists because they can just pick-and-choose an author, and then try to construct a bonus with easy and middle parts to make it fit in. That's a terrible idea. You can write bonuses on canonical works that people actually read in HS, with real E/M/H parts, and without sacrificing the intangible "interest factor."

In general, the hardest subcategories in my mind were the math and the physics. The math was completely insane. There's something to be said for intellectual curiosity, particularly with math since so many people in HS participate in math team or whatever, but that doesn't mean that you need to write questions that are half about analysis, or ask people to know what PCA is (really?) for a third part of a bonus. The physics tossup on Ohm's Law never actually mentioned what the law was, and just squeezed into the giveaway something about V, I, and R. It went dead in my room, among the best teams in Georgia, because the early clues sounded so hard and they figured it was some other law relating those variables. The physics, to me, felt awfully heavy on electromagnetism. Some of the geography was pretty crazy too. Asking people to name the third-largest city in the UAE for 30 points? Or asking about the Tonle Sap, which was the hard part in an ACF Regs bonus last year?

I'm glad that you stayed away from asking about organic chemistry; it's not a subject that HSers know at all, and I don't remember a single tossup on functional groups or the like.

In general, I wouldn't say this tournament approached PACE/NASAT on some questions; I'd say it was roughly the same difficulty as those tournaments, or even beyond, occasionally. The attitude behind this set was one of, "Have you heard of this?" HS quizbowl should definitely look something more like, "Have you studied/encountered this in the classroom or through your intellectual curiosity, so that you can answer a deeper question about something canonical". There were a few bonuses like this: the one that comes to mind is the Gauss' Law bonus that asks for the linear radial field distribution. This is a great example of the right attitude for HS quizbowl (I wrote a very similar bonus for NASAT last year)--unfortunately, HSers really do not learn anything about Gauss' Law and this bonus part will come down to guesswork in 99% of rooms, since no one has time to set up the problem and figure out the power dependence in 5 seconds.

Now, after I'm done bashing everything that you guys put together, I'd like to say one more thing: I really did enjoy the set. It's the kind of set that I'd have enjoyed playing in high school. There were lots of interesting clues, and I learned some stuff even reading. Compared to last year, at WIT, when I complained that the set was boring, unoriginal, and often childish, this tournament seemed much more "enjoyable" to me. The interest factor, to me, is one of the main criteria by which I judge a set, and you definitely accomplished it. The important point is: you can keep the interest factor while still keeping the set even close to accessible. I hope you try that better next year.
Adam Silverman
Georgia Tech 2012-2016
Northwestern 2016-

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The Stately Rhododendron
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Re: General Discussion

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

I think Adam's right that, though this set was definitely way too hard in some parts, it had some interesting stuff going on it it. I was really pleased to see some things getting mentioned in TUs that I had heard of previously only in non-quizbowl environments, like that mention of Ern Malley in the Australian lit TU. Still, the answerlines were ridiculous in some parts. I know the finals are supposed to be harder, but a TU on Wlliam Walker? Robert Walpole?
IKD
Yale 18
Oakland Mills 14
"I am the NAQT beast I worship."

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Panayot Hitov
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Panayot Hitov »

In general, this set could be formatted a lot better. Tossups were split between pages, and bonuses started on the same page that had the last of the tossups. Also, there was a lot of poor grammar and that kind of thing. This is obviously a minor detail, but it was kind of annoying to have to flip from one page to another while reading.

I thought that the set was good besides that, though of course a little bit on the hard side.
Paul Kirk-Davidoff
Oakland Mills High School '14
Carleton College '18

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