AlphaQuizBowler wrote:I agree, Mr. Barry, that the questions were overall of a good quality, but some things stuck out as problems. One such problem that bugged me was non-unique lead-ins. These included "One of the first American writers to make a living from writing", "One of Shakespeare's first comedies to be performed", "Galileo invented one of these objects", and the one that really tripped me up: "This process ends with the production of glyceradehyde-three-phosphate".
Allow me to add: "She published most of her works anonymously..."
I did not attend the JV State tournament, so I did not hear the questions; however, based on your quotes I really do not see how those are bad questions. Your definition of "non-unique" seems to imply that a question must begin with a clue that sets specific parameters that only one answer can fulfill. If this is the case, then you are asking way too much. No tournament set has questions only like that. Part of the skill of a quizbowl player is to interpret, infer, think, and basically guess the answer since if you always wait for that 100% certainly, you'll lose a lot of toss ups. Every question can't be powered immediately, and you should not expect it to. If that was the case, then imagine all the Lit questions starting with "He wrote *insert obscure work here*". At that point, you stop using induction and you are a only a mindless drone regurgitating meaningless facts.
In my humble opinion, "One of the first American writers to make a living from writing" is not "non-unique" at all. The words "first", "American", and "to make a living from writing" already key you into a very specific time frame and culture to choose from. Furthermore, you now know that the question is Lit, so at that point you are scrolling through your list of 1800's-ish American male writers. Meanwhile, the less skilled player on the other team might be going through their list of the hundreds of American writers and be at a disadvantage.
The Shakespeare question is also unique since you know they are asking for an Elizabethan Shakespearean comedic play. That's about 7-8 plays, while someone unaware of which plays were comedies or Jacobean might have to choose from 20+ plays. Immediately the more knowledgeable player has the advantage. The Galileo one, well if it's a telescope then it's really easy for a lead-in, but that's not what you're discussing. If it's not the telescope, then there's only so many things that Galileo invented and it also sets you on that track. I have no idea how the biology question is non-unique. How processes end with the production of that? It's hard, but I bet someone could buzz after that. And finally that last one narrows the question down to female, probably in the last 200 years, not famous during her time, and it's Lit. For JV, I'd bet the answer was Dickinson. If not, well there's not that many more choices.
In all, those lead-ins sounds fine to me, especially for JV. I don't think calling them "non-unique" would be very fair considering you are not suppose to power every question right away. That'd just be boring. Using induction, buzzing when you are 60%, infering the answer based on that one thing you learned from your 2nd grade teacher's wall poster behind the finger paints, well that on the other hand is some damn fun quizbowl.