Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

1. Is it ever ok to use the title of a minor work as a leadin clue, or should we assume that most teams will have at least one player who has memorized the listed works of all canonically-tossupable answers? (I would suggest that while the example above might be a mediocre question, it's not a bad question. A bad question is "This author of ~The World as Will and Idea~...")
Not to me, since the ease of memorizing minor works compared to learning about major works will prove very attractive to more than a few players. Can't you just give a clue or two about the book before you give the title?
Is it possible to entirely eliminate the buzzer race? My belief has always been: no, sometimes two teams will happen to know the same clue at the same time.
Mabye not, but editors and writers can certainly take pains to avoid them(and they should be far rarer than they are on NAQT questions) by avoiding transparency, stock clues, misplaced clues, and the like.
A tendency I've seen in recent question criticism (this is also true of the "high school bonus difficulty and team sorting" thread) is to focus in on the flaws of individual questions as perfect sorting mechanisms, and I think at some point this misses the forest for the trees.

Well, part of this is because the sets critiqued are overall of such quality that people feel that only a few questions need dissection. In addition, the overall quality of the set makes the few clunkers stand out even more.
Observationally, I think the underlying tension here is that it is more difficult to write uniquely identifying clues based on the substantive contents of works (here: of the various other people who have opposed German metaphysics over the years, how many of them hated Hegel?).
So use a clue on "X called this guy's theory of Y in book Z" or "he argued for X in work Y'. Or just write questions on works.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by yoda4554 »

Ike wrote:Even though I used the word outbuzzed, my intention is more about the fact of knowledge in itself.
I'm no Schopenhauer fanatic, but I'm willing to wager "four objects of knowledge" is more obscure than On the Basis of Morality.

And on another note as illustrated earlier:
this is a question that is a perfect example of consisting mostly of buzz-phrases:

Phrases You Can Buzz
"On The Basis of Morality"
"4 Objects of Knowledge"
"On The Fourfold Root of the Principal of Sufficient Reason"
"Parerga and Paralipomena"
"thing in itself"
"World as Will and Representation"

Clues that near substantive knowledge:
"denounced fichte"
"praises ascetism as the denial..."
I'm really not sure what you're talking about. Let's get this absolutely clear: no quiz bowl question can ever contain "substantive knowledge" about any philosophical concept, because quiz bowl questions are a paragraph long, and there has never been an important philosophical work of that length. It takes a long, long amount of argument to actually make anything resembling a cogent philosophical point, so particularly if you're doing an author tossup, there's no way to actually get into even the most basic nuances of any serious idea The best we can do for the purposes of quiz bowl in philosophy--and in most fields--is to use important key phrases which signify said ideas in a very general way. I'm also not at all sure as to what your criteria for "substantive knowledge" is--why is "denounced fichte" in that category (hey, tons of people have denounced Fichte) but "four objects of knowledge" (which seems to be a peculiar and important concept for Schopenhauer) not?

I'm also not sure why everyone here is assuming that all descriptive knowledge is more legitimate than all title knowledge. As was discussed in the Philosophy of Quiz Bowl thread (indeed, introduced contra my own arguments, though I agree with this point), there are lots of times when using titles is the very best way to find substantial knowledge. Particularly dealing with very prolific writers who are best-known at a certain stage of the game for one work (as Schopenhauer is wrt HS), these hypothetical list-memorizers can't retain every single little title of every major writer every to pick up a pen, particularly if that knowledge is not being reinforced by appearances in packets and if that title is as vague-sounding as "On the Basis of Morality." To adapt a comment Ryan Westbrook once made about Anthony Trollope--if you can name the seventh-best-known work of Arthur Schopenhauer in high school, you can have the tossup. (To pick a more general case, you'd put "the short story 'Shingles for the Lord'" before "has sex with his sister Caddy" in a Faulkner tossup, wouldn't you, because basic knowledge of a canonical work is easier to come by than even the title of a minor work.) I mean, these are all tricky judgment calls, but this is why we have editors who presumably know the balance between canonicity/importance etc. I notice that this case has been argued from the abstract, not from, "Hey, in my room, that tossup taken immediately on the first title because we know our Schopenhauer titles cold," and in fact there has been a general cession of any actual knowledge on Schopenhauer, whether generally or in quiz bowl. Given that that tossup was certainly edited, and probably written, by Andrew Yaphe, who I bet knows a great deal about Schopenhauer's works and concepts in the abstract and in their relative quiz bowl canonicity, I don't think these hypotheticals really hold much water; that is, I think his judgment that the title "On the Basis of Morality" is more obscure than the concept of "four objects of knowledge" has as much authority as anyone's, and has nothing to do with NAQT character limits. If there are multiple examples of people who completely frauded that tossup, I'd be interested to hear that, but I doubt there are, and otherwise the argument that this is a poor tossup goes contrary to general question-writing philosophy. The suggestion that this question would be better if it had a brief description of the content of On the Basis of Morality first seems weak to me too, since I doubt anyone playing HSNCT has read it; if you know it, it can only be in attempt to familiarize yourself with the Schopenhauer canon.

This is not to say that I don't know what you're talking about generally--the Oscar Wilde tossup at HSNCT that started with "A Woman of No Importance" is a better example of your point, precisely because Wilde was not terribly prolific, the title is memorable, the author is more qb-canonical in high school, and because that work's often included in the play collections which many high-schoolers buy so they can read Earnest (I somehow doubt there are that many HSers who have World As Will and Representation, in its massive two-volume glory, on their shelves, and if they do it still doesn't help them get Basis of Morality)--but for the most part, that's a matter of bad writing that didn't get flagged more than anything else.
Last edited by yoda4554 on Fri Oct 31, 2008 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by cvdwightw »

Let's assume that instead of two great players you have one player who list memorizes but can't find that first work on any list, and a player who has in-depth knowledge about World as Will... and Parerga... but doesn't have good knowledge about Schopenhauer's other works. I think you'd say that Player #2 has deeper knowledge, but Player #1 can win by recognizing Fourfold Root...so then, we should move that title back.

Extending this (maybe it's a slippery slope argument, but I argue that all we are doing is recursively looking at two hypothetically worse and worse players from the list-memorization and deep-knowledge camps) all the way through the question, we get:

"This author argued there were four kinds of "objects of knowledge" in one work, and denounced Fichte in another work. He is best known for a work based on Kant's idea of the "thing-in-itself" that praises asceticism as the denial of one of its title concepts. (*) For 10 points--name this author of ~On the Basis of Morality~ and the aforementioned ~On the Fourfold Root of Sufficient Reason~, ~Parerga and Paralipomena~, and ~The World as Will and Idea~."

This is a phenomenon known as title-loading, in which excessive fear of list players prompts any kind of title to be moved to the giveaway, regardless of its obscurity. Various people have argued against title-loading; my main argument against title-loading relies on the idea that a player gets one or two clues, max, about an early work; if he has knowledge of that work, he will buzz, at the latest, at the title of the work, regardless of how clueless he is during the clues about the work. If the player does not recognize the clues (due to being vague, unhelpful, or just not exciting the right neurons), then that player is then penalized with multiple chances for less-knowledgeable players to buzz (or at best, a buzzer race) before it gets to the title of the work he has knowledge about. So we actually have a similar case, where if a player does not recognize the one or two clues about a work, less-knowledgeable players can "steal" the tossup off one or two clues about a more famous work, only this time, we're comparing two people in the "real knowledge" camp. I'd actually claim that this type of "tossup theft" is far more common in title-loaded tossups than the other kind is in "regular" tossups. Obviously, if you give a description of the work, you want it to show up before the actual title, but in this case there's no description of the first work. There's a tradeoff between allowing list players to steal tossups from players with real knowledge and allowing players who have deeper knowledge to buzz early even if they don't immediately recognize they have that knowledge.

Also, as Dave said, I'm not sure you could write even an eight-to-ten line, "buzz word-less" question on Schopenhauer's philosophy without both (1) using lots of descriptive words that kind of flit around the basics of what's being talked about (this is analogous the whole "vibrant colors" in art thing - sure, it's important, but there are too many possible buzzes and it's hard to guess the question author's mind), thus being useless to the 10% that specialize in philosophy, and (2) sounding completely uninteresting to the other 90% of us.

Plus, then we get into that whole "real" versus "fraudulent" knowledge dichotomy - Ryan Westbrook, for instance, is not ashamed to admit that he gets all sorts of questions on things that he's never heard of outside of quizbowl by simply reading old packets and associating clues with answers. Most of the good players buzz on clues we've heard before. If I buzz on "On the Fourfold Root of Sufficient Reason" because I used it as a clue in a Schopenhauer bonus, does that make my buzz more legitimate than that of someone who buzzes on "On the Fourfold Root of Sufficient Reason" because he's memorized a list of works? Is my buzz less legitimate than that of someone who buzzes there because he's read the book but either misheard "objects of knowledge" or was waiting to make sure it was really a clue or maybe had a burden of knowledge and someone else used "objects of knowledge"?

Quizbowl is an exercise in applied knowledge. We endeavor to make our questions pyramidal such that the person with the greatest amount of knowledge about the topic, gained through whatever knowledge-gaining means, is the most likely to answer the question first. This DOES NOT MEAN that the player with the greatest amount of knowledge WILL answer the question first, or that the player with the greatest amount of REAL knowledge is GUARANTEED to answer the question first. I think some of the high school people are confusing these concepts.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Sir Thopas »

bt_green_warbler wrote:This on the other hand misrepresents what I'm trying to say. This is only a bad question with a critical flaw, if in fact many high school players have memorized a lengthy list of Schopenhauer's works. If (as I suspect) the overwhelming majority of players will not reflex buzz on this clue, it will work just fine.

This discussion leads me on to two larger questions. Not directed at any particular poster here, but intended to gauge community standards of good quizbowl.

1. Is it ever ok to use the title of a minor work as a leadin clue, or should we assume that most teams will have at least one player who has memorized the listed works of all canonically-tossupable answers? (I would suggest that while the example above might be a mediocre question, it's not a bad question. A bad question is "This author of ~The World as Will and Idea~...")

2. Is it possible to entirely eliminate the buzzer race? My belief has always been: no, sometimes two teams will happen to know the same clue at the same time.
OK, I'll back up a bit on saying that it's a critically flawed question in favor of answering the question you asked, which is something that I'd gladly address. I would argue that, no, buzzer races can't be avoided, because of course it will happen that two teams will have roughly equal amounts of knowledge on a given topic. That, to me, is part of the use of having descriptions of works before titles, even if these descriptions are a bit vague and not necessarily all that helpful on their own (although still buzzable). If I and another player both know the title of On the Fourfold Root..., but he just knows that and I'm cursorily familiar with Schopenhauer's philosophy, I'll probably already have him in mind and will buzz earlier in the title than he will (a point I touched on earlier). This helps alleviate the issue of buzzer races somewhat, although they can never be eliminated.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Captain Sinico »

IT'S OVER 9000!

Yeah, like, I think Ike might have meant that the one class of clues requires substantive knowledge to buzz off of, not that they communicate substantive knowledge of the concepts per se. I don't entirely agree with his premise there, but let's not muddy the waters. Also, it's not so obvious to me that one can't communicate some substantive information in a quizbowl question.
Anyway, I'd also like to bring things back to the important point here. People are calling for non-title clues. However, to echo a point I see in Dave and Dwight's posts, it's very, very hard to write a question with clues that that deal in, for example, concepts from a philosopher's work and not the titles of their books, yet not be so vague as to require guessing. For example, I'd challenge anyone in high school to find me three uniquely identifying, lead-in difficulty clues for Schopenhauer that aren't the titles of his works or irrelevant biography.
Jeff brought this up earlier and was dead-on. I'll take up the point more forcefully. To my eyes, the purportedly better Schopenhauer tossup from HSNCT 2002 is actually the worst of the lot. If one knows anything about Schopenhauer, one will know that leadin clue - I certainly knew Schopenhauer as "That dude who hated Hagel" long before I'd read anything by either man. Yet, if one know anything else about any number of other people, one knows equally well that that clue applies to them, too (e.g. it applies perhaps as strongly to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.) So anyone who knows much of anything is left thinking "This is probably Schopenhauer, but it could be a lot of other people, too..." To me, that's the very worst kind of question.
So, I claim that having a minor work as a leadin is not only sometimes acceptable, it is infinitely preferable to having the kind of lead-in the 2002 HSNCT Schopenhauer question has, which is precisely the type of leadin that you can expect, even from the very best writers, if you demand that all questions have non-work leadin clues. Jeff is dead-on there, as well.
I'd also challenge everyone claiming that list-memorizing machines are mowing these questions down at high rates to show me some data. My experience dictates that such claims are frequently overblown. Jeff is right a third time when he says, essentially, that one can logic up a player or body of players who will make any question a bad one (it's as simple as claiming "Everyone knows this leadin!" actually.) Therefore, the only meaningful data are how many players, in fact, fit that claim.

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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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Auroni, I think it's very important that you separate question quality from the "if I know it, it shouldn't be power" fallacy. A sets are supposedly designed for players who are getting their first taste of quizbowl.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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GARBAGE DAY 183 wrote: yeah? there are a bunch of other examples from cleared sets in the past year that do (the martin luther king tossup mentioning the garbage workers' strike right away, to name just one). The most egregious example was the first thing that stuck. Also, by having tossups on Stendhal in A-sets where the main character of The Charterhouse of Parma is bizarrely not in power just proves that the answer selection and intended difficulty aren't much easier than those of IS sets.
The following, from IS 75#A, is the only MLK tossup in any of the 2007-2008 A-series sets:

"In 1989 this man's doctoral thesis for Boston University from 1955 was said to have been plagiarized. He led the Chicago Freedom Movement, but it was his attempt to aid a garbage collectors' strike in (*) 1968 that led to his death in Memphis. For 10 points--name this civil rights leader."

That's two other substantive clues, then the garbage strike, then the power mark and some dramatically easier stuff.

There were two tossups on Stendhal in the 2007-2008 A-series (that's probably one too many, but we'll leave that aside):

IS #75A:

"This man compared Racine and Shakespeare in an 1823 essay and created Fabrizio del Dongo in his 1839 novel ~The Charterhouse of Parma~. He wrote about a man who chooses between the army and the Church in ~The (*) Red and the Black~. For 10 points--name this French author born Marie Henri Beyle."

IS #69A:

"He never finished his novel ~Lucien Leuwen~. In another of his novels, Fabrizio del Dongo visits the battlefield at Waterloo before dying in the title Carthusian (*) monastery. For 10 points--name this French author of ~The Charterhouse of Parma~ who also wrote ~The Red and the Black~."

Sounds like your moderator failed to award you five points you deserved.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Matt Weiner »

If there aren't a bunch of players who know more about Schopenauer than the giveaway, then why are you writing a question about Schopenauer? Shouldn't you expect a certain percentage of the field to get the question early if it's difficulty-appropriate?
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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bt_green_warbler wrote:"This man compared Racine and Shakespeare in an 1823 essay and created Fabrizio del Dongo in his 1839 novel ~The Charterhouse of Parma~. He wrote about a man who chooses between the army and the Church in ~The (*) Red and the Black~. For 10 points--name this French author born Marie Henri Beyle."
bt_green_warbler wrote:"He never finished his novel ~Lucien Leuwen~. In another of his novels, Fabrizio del Dongo visits the battlefield at Waterloo before dying in the title Carthusian (*) monastery. For 10 points--name this French author of ~The Charterhouse of Parma~ who also wrote ~The Red and the Black~."
So I knew Stendhal in high school because my sophomore year French teacher mentioned "Le Rouge et le Noir" as an aside in class, so I'd always buzz on that title. Eventually I learned about that novel, and now that I think of it I can remember Charterhouse coming up as a clue for him. But it wasn't until I wrote a tossup on Stendhal last year that I internalized that he'd written Charterhouse.

Now, I'm no great lit player; I don't deny this. But a lot of the A-set policies in this thread hinge upon the idea that these sets are played by entire tournaments of new players, or at least that's the audience for which they are written. In effect, you've written two five word tossups for that audience. What are the tossup conversion statistics on those tossups? Are they above 85%? If so, I've misjudged aspiring high school lit players who've never touched a buzzer.

Those issues aside, assuming that this tossup is meant to make A-sets palatable to players who have heard of Stendhal, why do we have one clue--between the two tossups--about his most famous work? And why does it just establish that he wrote something about a man who "chooses between the army and the Chuch?" If that's uniquely identifying, I'll eat Arnolfini Wedding.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by ClemsonQB »

bt_green_warbler wrote:In 1989 this man's doctoral thesis for Boston University from 1955 was said to have been plagiarized

This man compared Racine and Shakespeare in an 1823 essay

He never finished his novel
The above are absolutely useless clues, why are they being written? Sure, "absolutely useless" is an overstatement, but when you have such ridiculous character restrictions, you can't waste a fourth of the tossup on something less than 1% of the field would buzz on.

Also, why in hell did Stendhal come up twice as much as MLK in that year of A series sets?
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

While the plagiarism thing is probably unacademic, strictly, it's not useless: my impression was that it's pretty well known. (It is certainly a bad clue, but it will generate buzzes, which is certainly one measure of utility.)
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Important Bird Area »

ClemsonQB wrote:Also, why in hell did Stendhal come up twice as much as MLK in that year of A series sets?
I said I didn't think this was a good idea; and at least one of these should surely have mentioned Julien Sorel. But honestly: "two tossups on Stendhal were eight months apart in our sequence when they should have been separated by a whole year" is not on the list of the top 100 things wrong with NAQT's questions.
ClemsonQB wrote: Sure, "absolutely useless" is an overstatement, but when you have such ridiculous character restrictions, you can't waste a fourth of the tossup on something less than 1% of the field would buzz on.
One reason we write harder leadin clues is because the better teams start threads like this one claiming A-series questions are rife with leadin buzzer races.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

bt_green_warbler wrote:One reason we write harder leadin clues is because the better teams start threads like this one claiming A-series questions are rife with leadin buzzer races.
But that'll just result in second clue buzzer races unless the first clue is known to a reasonable fraction of players. You just need more clues! That's the problem. If you have four buzzable points in a tossup, then you'll have a whole lot of buzzer races.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Matt Weiner »

bt_green_warbler wrote:One reason we write harder leadin clues is because the better teams start threads like this one claiming A-series questions are rife with leadin buzzer races.
What exactly is this post? People don't like questions that produce buzzer races on leadins; people also don't like impossible clues that are either inappropriate for high school sets or an unbuzzable waste of precious character space. Claiming that one of those problems is caused by the sort of feedback that NAQT claims to want seems like an attempt to avoid the responsibility of writing questions in the middle zone that are appropriately structured. Meanwhile, we have eye-popping statements such as:
If you're an elite player (or play for an elite team) and you simply cannot abide A-level questions because they are too easy, NAQT doesn't need your $12.50 so badly that I would tell you to go play on them. Those sets are explicitly billed as introductory sets for teams with less experience. Let your lower-level players enjoy them.
Are we to conclude that NAQT is writing weak leadins in order to placate people who it is telling, in so many words, that they should not be playing the sets that the questions are being written for? That seems like a poor strategy for any number of reasons.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Matt Weiner wrote:
If you're an elite player (or play for an elite team) and you simply cannot abide A-level questions because they are too easy, NAQT doesn't need your $12.50 so badly that I would tell you to go play on them. Those sets are explicitly billed as introductory sets for teams with less experience. Let your lower-level players enjoy them.
Are we to conclude that NAQT is writing weak leadins in order to placate people who it is telling, in so many words, that they should not be playing the sets that the questions are being written for? That seems like a poor strategy for any number of reasons.
Exactly. As I said above, I want conversion numbers on those Stendhal tossups that were devoid of real information about his best-known work. The existence of those tossups, and the fact that they were mostly about harder stuff rather than his best known work, indicates that the tossup caters to an audience that is not supposed to be playing these sets, as R asserts.

Then again, A-sets are sold to college tournaments, so really I have no idea how anyone stands on this issue or any other.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Important Bird Area »

Matt Weiner wrote:What exactly is this post?
What I was trying to convey is this:

As an NAQT editor, I tried to respond to previous criticisms about first-clue buzzer races by writing harder leadins for A-series questions. Apparently I erred on the side of excessive difficulty, and created a new and different form of bad quizbowl. If you played an A-series packet in the last year that was riddled with difficulty cliffs in the history questions, my apologies. I will try to do better for IS #84A.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Important Bird Area »

everyday847 wrote:I want conversion numbers on those Stendhal tossups...
I don't have stats for either of the ones mentioned, but the one Stendhal tossup in our archive that does have conversion numbers was answered in 6 out of 31 rooms. That's 25 rooms where it went dead after "name this guy who wrote ~The Red and the Black~", so I suspect we won't be writing about him at this level again anytime soon.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

The problem is not just the leadin, it's that you go from 1-2 hard leading clues to 2 or so clues that should be pretty common knowlege. Let's look at the stendhal tossup:
This man compared Racine and Shakespeare in an 1823 essay and created Fabrizio del Dongo in his 1839 novel ~The Charterhouse of Parma~. He wrote about a man who chooses between the army and the Church in ~The (*) Red and the Black~. For 10 points--name this French author born Marie Henri Beyle."
Here the problem is not just that the leading is inappropriatly hard, it's also that you go straight from it to a relativly simple clue(the protagonist of one of his two most famous works) and that work. If there were clues on,say less-well known events in The Charterhouse of Parma or a better-known minor work, then the leadin, although still inappropriate, would be less problematic. In other words,the question needs more useful clues. The question clocks in(according to MS word) at 294 characters, so there's plenty of room for more useful clues.
I don't have stats for either of the ones mentioned, but the one Stendhal tossup in our archive that does have conversion numbers was answered in 6 out of 31 rooms. That's 25 rooms where it went dead after "name this guy who wrote ~The Red and the Black~", so I suspect we won't be writing about him at this level again anytime soon.
Out of curiosty, what event(s) do those numbers come from, and when was(were) the event(s)?
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Important Bird Area »

Anti-Climacus wrote:The question clocks in(according to MS word) at 294 characters, so there's plenty of room for more useful clues.
It's from an A-series set, so it's actually maxed-out the way it is.
Anti-Climacus wrote: Out of curiosty, what event(s) do those numbers come from, and when was(were) the event(s)?
2008 TOMCAT at Macalester.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

I didn't realize that A-sets had a shorter character limit, but I suppose you could still cut out the clue on his birth name(which to me is not as useful as The Red and The Black), the year 1839) and the clue on " forced to choose between army and church", if that clue is as non-uniquely identifying as Andrew suggests it is. That frees up 107 characters for more substantial clues.
2008 TOMCAT at Macalester
So this tossup is overly hard for novices and unplalable for non-novices.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I won't disagree with other things, but I'm very used to hearing things on The Red and the Black that describe it as Julian Sorel's conflict between the church and the army (hence the title The Red and the Black), so I'm not actually convinced that's such a terrible clue seeing as everything else is uniquely identifying.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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GARBAGE DAY 425 wrote:I won't disagree with other things, but I'm very used to hearing things on The Red and the Black that describe it as Julian Sorel's conflict between the church and the army (hence the title The Red and the Black), so I'm not actually convinced that's such a terrible clue seeing as everything else is uniquely identifying.
That's probably fair. It's just never the sort of thing I'd buzz on, because while it gives me some positive knowledge (there is such a conflict in TRatB) it doesn't give me any negative knowledge (as a specific clue would give) because I can't confidently say that that's not something that happens elsewhere. The best I can say is that that's a common description by quizbowl writers of TRatB, and not really anything else, and clues that encourage you to think that way aren't the greatest.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

I won't disagree with other things, but I'm very used to hearing things on The Red and the Black that describe it as Julian Sorel's conflict between the church and the army (hence the title The Red and the Black), so I'm not actually convinced that's such a terrible clue seeing as everything else is uniquely identifying.
You're quite probably right, but the the issue could be circumvented entirely with a clue on a specific event.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Well, maybe, but that is in fact the entire crux of the novel from my understanding of its plot.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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GARBAGE DAY 425 wrote:Well, maybe, but that is in fact the entire crux of the novel from my understanding of its plot.
Right, but the ideal tossup on Sartre doesn't summarize Huis Clos as "he also wrote a play about a few characters recalling the choices they made while alive, but now they're dead, and hell is other people." And even that's more buzzable. If the entire crux of a novel is vague, then it shouldn't be the clue for that novel. Like, Midsummer is certainly "various hijinks involving love triangles and fairies," but that's not a clue.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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GARBAGE DAY 425 wrote:Well, maybe, but that is in fact the entire crux of the novel from my understanding of its plot.
No it's not, really, so let's let this whole thing end with us not writing Stendhal tossups for ninth-graders touching the buzzer for the first time and, if we do write on Stendhal for high-schoolers, having better clues about The Red and the Black, which some of them might conceivably have read.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by ClemsonQB »

bt_green_warbler wrote:
ClemsonQB wrote:Also, why in hell did Stendhal come up twice as much as MLK in that year of A series sets?
I said I didn't think this was a good idea; and at least one of these should surely have mentioned Julien Sorel. But honestly: "two tossups on Stendhal were eight months apart in our sequence when they should have been separated by a whole year" is not on the list of the top 100 things wrong with NAQT's questions.
The problem with NAQT is precisely that; it would be possible to come up with a "list of the top 100 things wrong with NAQT's questions", and thats being generous to the organization.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

The problem is that A-sets assume that the entire field is composed of novice teams, which is rare at best in reality for high school tournaments.This means that higer level teams still beat novices 500-10, only this time on mediocre-or worse-questions.
Also, could someone look into the idea(discussed before somewhere on these boards) creating a password-protected fourm for the dissection of sets that are used in mutiple places at different times? It would certainly be easier to examine flawed questions if said questions were fresh in one's mind, as opposed to having to wait a year to discuss a certain poorly-written tossup in a set played in september, by which time the details of the tossup have quite possibly been forgotten.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by howlin »

I don't think that NAQT needs to write all of it's questions, particularly A series questions, based on what the top four (or eight or ten) teams in the country would do. These is a whole lot of quiz bowl out there that is having a good time and learning a lot and will never win NAQT. That is what A series questions are for.

I hate long questions. I think the NAQT length is good. If they are too short for you, then just go on and answer them and leave it for the rest to puzzle out. And please don't mock them in the effort. There are very few teams of the quality of Dorman, Brookwood, TJ, James Island, Walton, et al out there. Let the rest have some fun and some success.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

-5.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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howlin wrote:I don't think that NAQT needs to write all of it's questions, particularly A series questions, based on what the top four (or eight or ten) teams in the country would do. These is a whole lot of quiz bowl out there that is having a good time and learning a lot and will never win NAQT. That is what A series questions are for.
If NAQT is giving up on the idea of pyramidal tossups and on a competition where we keep score and name winners and losers, or if you wish them to do that, then they or you should come out and say so. If not, then neither they nor you can take an attitude that discounts the competitive purpose of the game by dismissing all complaints about question quality as being "elitist" or "only of concern to the top teams."
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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If I may present my obejctions to the "We're a bunch of elitsts" argument:
A) It presumes that lower-scoring teams do not enjoy or benefits from learning new stuff.
B) It presumes that lower-scoring teams do not care about fairer outcomes
C) It presumes that lower scoring teams are only fit to play decidedly inferior quesitons
D) It presumes that the best thing for a lower scoring team to do is play infieror questions and not improve its ability to answer better questions correctly.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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I'm glad the students I've met from MLK generally have a better attitude than this.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Tennessee Chicken Farmer »

Also, could someone look into the idea(discussed before somewhere on these boards) creating a password-protected fourm for the dissection of sets that are used in mutiple places at different times? It would certainly be easier to examine flawed questions if said questions were fresh in one's mind, as opposed to having to wait a year to discuss a certain poorly-written tossup in a set played in september, by which time the details of the tossup have quite possibly been forgotten.
This would also help the question writers, who presumably want to write better questions, if people say, I think this lead-in is bad, or whatever, as well as for the reasons already discussed. Is there anyone strongly opposed to this?
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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howlin wrote:I don't think that NAQT needs to write all of it's questions, particularly A series questions, based on what the top four (or eight or ten) teams in the country would do. These is a whole lot of quiz bowl out there that is having a good time and learning a lot and will never win NAQT. That is what A series questions are for.
If NAQT marketed its A-series questions exclusively to an introductory audience, then this would be a fine line of reasoning. I don't think that anyone believes that all questions should be really hard: in fact, that's precisely what we're arguing when we say that Stendhal is way too hard for an A-series answer. But NAQT has repeatedly indicated that they try to make them appeal to many different skill levels while staying short, which is impossible. They've even marketed these questions to college tournaments.

Moreover, the differences between NAQT A-series and HSAPQ are categorically not differences in difficulty: they are differences in length, and length alone.

I think it's indisputable that you learn a lot more from longer questions, since there is more content from which to learn. I can see your perspective in arguing that long questions might conflict with "having a good time," but I assure you that that's mostly a question of experience: over time, longer, higher quality questions become a great deal more fun. (And that brings up another point: the shorter the question, the more frustrating buzzer races, and therefore the more random the result. it isn't fun when you know that you should be winning a game and you lose it for bad reasons. I'm not arguing this from an elite perspective--what if you're 0-fer going into the last round, and you're about to finally win a game, and then the packet screws you? I contend that a format with more potential for length causing unfair results is less fun for everyone, even the teams that would stand to win more games.
howlin wrote:I hate long questions. I think the NAQT length is good. If they are too short for you, then just go on and answer them and leave it for the rest to puzzle out. And please don't mock them in the effort. There are very few teams of the quality of Dorman, Brookwood, TJ, James Island, Walton, et al out there. Let the rest have some fun and some success.
You can have fun and succeed independent of question length. I don't know if your "if they are too short for you" argument works, because such a construction is hardly unique to your side. What if I claim that I think 9-10 lines is a good length? if that's too long for you, then catch up on some homework while the question's being read and leave it for the rest to answer. You're essentially telling teams that have gotten good two things:
1) quizbowl should always be held on formats that are less fun for them, like A-series
2) they should just tough it out.

Look, I'm sympathetic to your position. It's just that these are not new arguments. Making questions shorter doesn't make them easier or any more fun, contrary to what my perspective four years ago would have told me.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by evilmonkey »

howlin wrote:Stuff about A-sets, liking NAQT length, and elitism
0) I have a couple of assumptions in play here:
A) IS sets are intended for Middle of Nowhere B, TJ/Dorman A, and everyone in between.
B) As you said, A sets should be intended for newer teams as an intro to quizbowl. However, they are still appropriate for older teams that aren't overly good.
C) Better teams should, in general, get the questions at earlier parts of the questions.
D) I was a fairly decent high school player, but nowhere near the level of the elites. My team never made playoffs at Nationals. Therefore, you cannot construe this as an elitist post.

1a) I think that general consensus that the top players/teams are coming to is that since the A series are, in fact, designed for newer teams, they shouldn't play them. Obviously, this sucks for them, since it means that they are penalized for their skill by the ability to play certain tournaments, but it is what it is. If an elite team plays an A-set, and it is too easy for them, they have no right to complain.

1b) However, there is still anger about the A-levels because the answer selection is weird, and in some cases way too difficult. To paraphrase Matt from earlier, if no one in the intended field will get the tossup before the giveaway, it is too hard, and shouldn't be in that set. Those who care about quizbowl want every set to be good and difficulty-appropriate (which is impossible, but a dream), and you shouldn't despise their criticisms.

1c) Also, it wasn't entirely clear that A-sets had a shorter character limit, but since new teams aren't expected to get early clues as often, this shouldn't be anger-inducing.

1d) NAQT, don't market A-sets to colleges. Also, don't market them to elite teams. It shouldn't happen.

2a) IS sets are a different ball game. Obviously, when you have a game featuring Cornfield B and TJ A, or Cornfield B and Cornfield A, then the early clues won't affect the game as much. But, since TJ A might play Charter A on this set, and in fact NAQT intends for such things to happen, then you have to keep those teams in mind. Since both teams have gotten to the point where they consistently buzz on one of the first few clues, and since collegiate questions are typically 2 to 3 lines longer, it makes sense that perhaps another clue or two could be added to the beginning of the question to further differentiate them, without making them so long that the lower teams eyes glaze over.

2b) Also, since HSNCT is, in fact, targeting the more elite teams, it is perfectly acceptable to expect that those questions are longer than IS questions.

3) No one is mocking the not-so-good teams. People just forget what it is like to not know stuff.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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everyday847 wrote:Moreover, the differences between NAQT A-series and HSAPQ are categorically not differences in difficulty: they are differences in length, and length alone.
There are other differences. The distribution and sub-distributions are not the same. Also, HSAPQ adheres to a similar canon to what can be found in novice college questions (minus, for example, some philosophy and organic chem), whereas NAQT questions have an answer space that is more open to the whims of the writers. HSAPQ are less interdisciplinary as well--if a question starts off with literature clues, then it probably will end with literature clues.

My sense is that if you are a below average but not horrible team, then you may play HSAPQ questions all day long and never buzz in during the first sentence or two of a question. I don't get that sense as much with NAQT.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Matt Weiner »

evilmonkey wrote:1b) However, there is still anger about the A-levels because the answer selection is weird, and in some cases way too difficult. To paraphrase Matt from earlier, if no one in the intended field will get the tossup before the giveaway, it is too hard, and shouldn't be in that set. Those who care about quizbowl want every set to be good and difficulty-appropriate (which is impossible, but a dream), and you shouldn't despise their criticisms.
Well, if people find a question bad (whether for being overly difficult, or any other reason) they're going to complain about it, and rightly so. That's an issue with the individual question, though; the systematic problems with A-sets are different. I think the issue is largely that these sets are being put out there as substitutes for what used to be and/or should be general-interest high school tournaments, because NAQT has sunk such a large percentage of its writing and editing resources into the A-sets that it is the only product they have to offer when the five or six regular IS sets produced per year have already been sold to a particular region. Rather than produce more IS sets or encourage people to write their own questions or go to another vendor, NAQT has chosen to market these low-level questions for use by everyone. If they are going to host tournaments that are not designated as JV events on these questions, then they need to be questions that everyone can play meaningful games on.

NAQT has also laid down the gauntlet to anyone who thinks these questions are not appropriate for top teams, earlier in this thread:
rhentzel wrote:That said, NAQT is committed to the idea that it wants the nation's top teams to compete on--and enjoy competing on--our questions. In spite of some suggestions, we collectively cringe when it is suggested that we don't care about top teams or consider them to be more trouble than they are worth. We work very hard to ensure that our questions are appropriate for our most sophisticated customers, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

If we became convinced that conditions on the circuit had changed so much that our packets, as currently produced, no longer differentiated among elite teams, we would make whatever changes--however drastic--were necessary to correct that problem. And we would definitely see it as a problem.

But, honestly, we aren't convinced that our sets are not properly distinguishing among teams.


So, despite what anyone not affiliated with NAQT may say, it appears that NAQT's stated belief is that these questions should and do "differentiate among elite teams" (at least until the teams point out that they do not and Hentzel tells you go take your money and go home if you don't like it a couple posts later, but whatever). I don't see NAQT's aggressive pushing of the A-sets going away anytime soon, nor do I see the most dedicated high school quizbowl players deciding that they don't actually like playing at all and just staying home for every other tournament because the questions are too easy. Given those two realities, the simplest, most reasonable solution is to start writing actual pyramidal tossups that everyone can play on. (you know, good quizbowl) rather than hiding behind a lot of avoision about "the top teams" and how FUNN it is to get FIFTEEEEN even if you don't actually know anything.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by cvdwightw »

The elitist argument is relevant because it is the elite teams who are complaining. The elitist argument does not presume any of those things. It merely presumes that non-elite teams are having a good time as is and while they may not support/endorse everything about NAQT they are either satisfied enough or lazy enough not to pester NAQT about changing things. Responding to Douglas and Andy:

A) Lower-scoring teams benefit little from learning Steinbeck wrote Cup of Gold if they don't know he wrote Of Mice of Men. They're interested in learning new things, just those new things are often clues that elite teams memorized three years ago.

B) As sad as it is, this presumption is sometimes correct - see, e.g., Matt's assessment of several Missouri coaches who like terrible rules because it makes it easier for them to win with little effort. If they do care about fairer outcomes, then they likely don't care whether the best team or third-best team gives them a 500-30 beatdown or 190-60 closer match, or who wins in a game between those two teams - they care about whether games between teams near their ability level are decided fairly, and for the most part this boils down to "Is the part after FTP written such that if I know the answer I will get the tossup?"

C) There's confusion between "pyramidal questions that start off too easy for elite teams" and "inferior questions." Again, if I start a Steinbeck question with a clue title-dropping Cup of Gold, then most elite teams will buzzer race on that clue and most lower-level teams will wait for an easier clue. If I then spend a sentence of Of Mice and Men and a sentence on Grapes of Wrath, that's a pyramidal question. If I started out "This author of The Grapes of Wrath..." then it would be anti-pyramidal assuming that one could not find enough clues better-known than Grapes of Wrath. Yes, the latter type does show up, but less frequently than the former type.

A-level questions are designed for teams that can't stand long questions - that's why they're used for TV shows, low-level high school tournaments, and College IMs. Ask the UCLA people about their FBLA or whatever "quiz bowl" event - the UCLA club people had to fight to get two-sentence questions accepted.

D) If lower-level teams can't get Steinbeck off Of Mice and Men, then it doesn't matter whether there is five lines of filler or two lines of filler before that title; they're not going to get that clue. The best thing for lower-level teams is to learn the lower-level clues that they don't know, and it doesn't matter if those clues are in "excellent" six-line tossups or "inferior" three-line ones. Given the choice between five lines of material they don't know and two lines of material they don't know, almost every team interested in going from bad to decent is going to choose the latter.

1) This is not the argument. The argument is that every team has its length preference - and the elite teams' imposition that all tossups should be six lines is just as bad on teams that like three-line questions as lower-level teams' imposition that all tossups should be three lines is on teams that like six-line questions. The standard rebuttals to teams who prefer three-line questions are along the lines of (a) "Six-line questions differentiate between teams of all levels, while three-line questions do not differentiate between elite teams, so we should just disregard your preferences as irrelevant and you should just tough it out", (b)"What are you, anti-quizbowl or retarded?", (c) "If you were better you could buzz earlier and you'd like these questions better", or (d) "If you don't like these questions, go play Trivial Pursuit in your parents' basement instead and stop posting about how you like inferior questions".

2) Again, this is what the elite players are telling teams who don't like three-line questions. What gives elite teams (other than the status of being elite) the right to mandate that non-elite teams can't make the same argument?

Let me make something clear: I am not defending bad quizbowl in any way, shape, or form. I am defending the point of view from which non-elite teams can see elite teams as hypocrites, not in touch with the quizbowl masses, not willing to respond to their preferences/concerns, etc. I don't think that having elite players hammer the YOUR ARE WRONG argument over the heads of non-elite players is any way to expand good quizbowl, and that's what I find a lot of this portion of the thread about.

Jeff and Dave and I and other NAQT writers are trying to work within the system to fix whatever flaws we can. Matt and I and other HSAPQ writers are working outside the system and offering an alternative to NAQT that elite teams will likely enjoy more and non-elite teams may or may not enjoy more. Hopefully (for me at least), both approaches will work. Telling non-elite teams that your complaints are more valid than their complaints is not the way to convince non-elite teams that good questions are better than inferior questions. Telling teams that they should try longer questions, see if they like them, and at least consider showing up to these tournaments even if they don't like them (since you show up to NAQT tournaments but don't necessarily like them), is better.

Finally, critique this question, I'm not submitting it to NAQT or anything, so flame away:
The inheritor of his estate mostly voted with college classmate John Marshall during his thirty-one years on the Supreme Court. He himself signed into law Oliver Ellsworth's Judiciary Act and appointed the first Supreme Court. For 10 points--name this first president of the United States.

It is 292 characters. It is pyramidal. It does contain a difficulty cliff, I will admit that. There's one clue designed to separate top teams that show up to A-level tournaments, a couple of clues to separate mid-level from bottom teams (and again, if A-level sets were being used for what they should be used for, mid-level teams should really be the top of the pack), and a brain-dead giveaway. I will not accept the argument that adding more clues and making this a six-line tossup is better, because I already know that to be the case. I am asking whether this question meets the minimum standards for pyramidality, relevance, and accessibility in a high school question; and if not, is this because you have higher minimum standards or because there is something inherent in the question that makes it automatically bad quizbowl?
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

Well, this dosen't really adress your point, but I would be inclined to make my first clue somthing to do with an event in the presidency of George Washington aside from appointing Bushrod-mabye Citizen Genet or the Jay treaty if Citzen Genet is too hard.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by cvdwightw »

Anti-Climacus wrote:Well, this dosen't really adress your point, but I would be inclined to make my first clue somthing to do with an event in the presidency of George Washington aside from appointing Bushrod-mabye Citizen Genet or the Jay treaty if Citzen Genet is too hard.
Aside from Adams appointing Bushrod, this would be a valid criticism. My followup question would be whether having Citizen Genet/Jay's Treaty (topics that 90% of elite teams would likely buzz on, whereas I would expect far fewer elite teams to buzz in off a description of Bushrod) in the lead-in would trigger howls of anger from the best players whose needs are, presumably, not met with these questions.
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"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Matt Weiner »

Dwight, the "the questions aren't for good players" argument fails for two reasons:

1) Top players are in fact playing them and deserve a good question set just as much as anyone else. Much like the "we need to run collegiate tournaments on high school questions so that new players can enjoy them" argument that falls apart when Mike Sorice wins every single one of those events, pretending that A-sets are just being used by "lower-level" teams is simply denying reality.

2) NAQT has officially said that the questions are not just for non-good players:
rhentzel wrote:That said, NAQT is committed to the idea that it wants the nation's top teams to compete on--and enjoy competing on--our questions. In spite of some suggestions, we collectively cringe when it is suggested that we don't care about top teams or consider them to be more trouble than they are worth. We work very hard to ensure that our questions are appropriate for our most sophisticated customers, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

If we became convinced that conditions on the circuit had changed so much that our packets, as currently produced, no longer differentiated among elite teams, we would make whatever changes--however drastic--were necessary to correct that problem. And we would definitely see it as a problem.

But, honestly, we aren't convinced that our sets are not properly distinguishing among teams.


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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by evilmonkey »

Matt:
From the same post you quote (bolding mine):
rhentzel wrote: NAQT's official stance--which I happen to share personally--is that the four-line tossups in our regular Invitational Series suffice to distinguish high school teams at all levels of play.
I don't see where he says that A-sets do differentiate. Because of the line I quote, I'm inclined to believe that the passage you quote refers to IS sets (which is a different debate).

This is not a defense of NAQT - just trying to clarify their intentions.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

GARBAGE DAY 216 wrote:
everyday847 wrote:Moreover, the differences between NAQT A-series and HSAPQ are categorically not differences in difficulty: they are differences in length, and length alone.
There are other differences. The distribution and sub-distributions are not the same. Also, HSAPQ adheres to a similar canon to what can be found in novice college questions (minus, for example, some philosophy and organic chem), whereas NAQT questions have an answer space that is more open to the whims of the writers. HSAPQ are less interdisciplinary as well--if a question starts off with literature clues, then it probably will end with literature clues.

My sense is that if you are a below average but not horrible team, then you may play HSAPQ questions all day long and never buzz in during the first sentence or two of a question. I don't get that sense as much with NAQT.
I was thinking about differences re: individual questions, so sure, you're right about distribution. But the principle that you ought to write literature tossups and history tossups rather than interdisciplinary, distribution subverting tossups is more than a stylistic difference.

As to your scenario--that sounds just about right, actually. Though that assumes that said team has 45% circuit average knowledge on every subject and subsubject of the canon, whereas really most teams, below average and otherwise, will have some 10% knowledge (watch me play history, folks!) and some 85% knowledge.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by at your pleasure »

I would think that it's prefectly reasonable to write tossups that only teams with elite knowleged of the subject would get within 1-2 sentences. After all, is that not the part of the tossup that should be hardest to get?
The big problem, for me, is that NAQT is writing sets on the presumption that only novice teams will play them. This is nearly always untrue, as there are few high school events specifcally intended for novice players. The fact is that all sets will be played by elite-or at least above-average-teams, so NAQT should be careful to keep elite teams in mind. Indeed, it might not be a bad idea to drop the A-sets and concentrate on writing the best IS sets possible.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Important Bird Area »

everyday847 wrote:you ought to write literature tossups and history tossups rather than interdisciplinary, distribution subverting tossups is more than a stylistic difference.
What's "distribution-subverting" about interdisciplinary tossups? (Assume a limit on the number of them present at any one time.)
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Well, sometimes what I would refer to as an interdisciplinary tossup is coded as GK, and that's not terrible (though I guess an interdisciplinary tossup that's half lit and half history will skew the distribution towards history and lit--unless your GK tossups are very carefully distributed) but sometimes what I would call interdisciplinary is not coded as GK (I recall reading threads about this), and that skews things.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

Are you talking about those tossups that cruise along for like 3 lines with clues generally on literature or history or whatever and then devolve into "name this European country, home of Rammstein and Kraftwerk"? Or are you talking about common link-y tossups that incorporate just about every single subject into one tossup?

The second of those is vastly preferable to the first, becuase, as I see it, assuming that all clues are academic, it rewards the more knowledgeable player, or at least, the player with the most widespread knowledge, whereas the former merely rewards the player who can rhyme better or who knows weird trash better.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

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Both suck roughly equally.
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Re: Non-question-specific criticisms of IS-80A

Post by cvdwightw »

everyday847 wrote:Both suck roughly equally.
Rationale?

I personally find the second kind enjoyable and would not be averse to 1 such question per packet in an mACF tournament, or multiple such questions in an NAQT packet (especially in the second case if it diminishes the number of "terrible general knowledge answer choice" questions).
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"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

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