High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:51 pm

Recently, there has been some discussion in various media as to why people aren’t writing for NAQT. As a current high schooler, and target of recruitment for NAQT, I would like to put out my issues with the organization. I feel that many of my competitors are in the same boat as I am; I of course invite them to chime in on anything that I left out or that they disagree with.

First off, I feel that it is important for me to state where I’m coming from. I did not spring fully fledged from Matt Weiner’s head; I was not suckled on vitriol for NAQT. I found quizbowl more or less on my own, first NAQT, and then other versions through HSQB. There was no team at my school before I started one. As such, it would be disingenuous for anyone to dismiss my issues a priori as me having a vendetta against NAQT. Much like everyone else, I think, I would like for them to be an organization I would gladly write for. I just don’t see that as possible right now.

I think that NAQT is definitely a good groundbreaker for regions with a history of Chip Beall and local formats and stuff along those lines. The questions are, of course, much better than any of that stuff. With that being said, though, I am disappointed by the low quality of questions, as well as NAQT’s attitudes towards people like me. I may not be NAQT’s target audience, but I am worried by the fact that I seem to be completely ignored in NAQT’s business model. When R. Hentzel said a while ago, for example, that he thought A-level sets were appropriate for all levels of play: (1) I felt this was a complete lie, as the questions are all but devoid of academic content (more on this later); and (2) if it wasn’t, it’s a slightly delusional thought to have, as the questions have been demonstrably incapable of separating between top teams. I’m not saying that every tossup in an IS set should be on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, but I feel that NAQT should stop marketing A-sets to regions like the DC metro area, make a late-season set that is fun for upper-level teams to play on (in preparation for the HSNCT or something), and—perhaps most importantly—have HSNCT be a tournament marketed specifically with the top teams in mind, in distribution, content, and so on. Computational math, for example, could easily be much reduced in HSNCT, if not in NAQT entirely. Instead, the message sent out by HSNCT is worrisome. Given all the complaints about it in previous years, and the seeming lack of willingness to address these points, NAQT is sending out the message that they actually don’t care about the top teams at all. Furthermore, this attitude will only lead to the top teams no longer attending—so NAQT is then sending out the message that they don’t care about prestige, or crowning a true national champion. I am a quizbowl altruist; I would much rather work for a company that cares more about helping out players of all levels, including the uppermost, than lining its coffers with gold doubloons.

Similarly, I feel that the distribution is being skewed away from good quizbowl. I have already aired my gripes about computational math; I’m not going to do so again. However, it seems unreasonable to me that the entire nation has to suffer through one out of every 8 tossups being math because otherwise the players in Belize will keep playing Chip. NAQT is in a great position to spread good quizbowl to regions with poor formats; instead, their modus operandi has been to endear their format to said regions by making it more like the terrible formats that they are giving up for NAQT, rather than trying to explain why the bad parts of the format are bad, as HSAPQ has made a marked effort of doing. It is certainly possible to convince players that don’t know any better why their formats are bad; this has happened many times over on HSQB. As such, I am given the impression that NAQT cares foremost with furthering itself, instead of using the furthering of itself to further good quizbowl with it.

Now, to the questions themselves. I have already admitted that I probably should not have been playing an A-level tournament, but I did, and I would like to reiterate: those questions were awful. Absolutely abysmal. I believe I put up a higher bonus conversion on HSAPQ set ACF1, intended to be approximately IS-level in difficulty, than on 81-A. The only explanation for this is pure caprice on the bonuses, and subject matter that is entirely irrelevant to the rest of quizbowl. I know I can’t reveal answers, but when I see a bonus that puts at a huge disadvantage Jews living on the eastern seaboard, I am disgusted. The tossups were very short and often devoid of academic content, and with entirely misplaced clues. Given NAQT’s repeated assertion that it is using competent writers, and knowing some people who write for NAQT and can write good questions, I am puzzled. Either good writers are having their work edited to be worse, or the good writers’ work isn’t being used at all. I’m not sure which it is, but my feeling is that the good work is stretched thin.

That brings me to perhaps the most relevant point. NAQT says that the way to effect change in the overall question quality is to sign up and write good questions. From what I gather, this is simply untrue. NAQT is completely overstretched in its writing capacity. I remember one TD freaking out last year because it was the day before the tournament and he had not received the questions yet. This is not because of the invitational sets NAQT writes. In addition to this, it writes tons of speed sets and TV sets. If I were to sign up, I could not be at all assured that the average quality of questions would go up. What would actually happen, and has been happening, is that my work would bump out some of the worse parts of IS sets. But that bad work would still be used in the tons upon tons of sets in bad formats that are written. Instead of my work replacing bad work, NAQT would just commit itself to writing more and more sets. For why this is bad, see, for example, two paragraphs ago. I could not, in good conscience, write for NAQT with the express purpose of spreading good quizbowl and making mediocre quizbowl better, if I knew, for a fact, that what would actually happen is that the mediocre quizbowl would get better, and would be replacing perhaps slightly worse quizbowl. The only net benefitter in this situation is NAQT, and there is absolutely no reason for me to write for NAQT so that they can make a bigger profit, instead of writing for HSAPQ, or writing my own set and mirroring it across the country (as I am currently attempting to do). It may be somewhat less lucrative for me personally, but good quizbowl would gain so much more for my work. And that is what really matters to me, and many other people with whom I have come into contact. I just can’t say the same of NAQT.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:26 pm

A year ago i probably would have disagreed with a lot of what you said, but after moderating 82-A this past weekend and seeing quite a few terrible questions, i'm much more inclined to agree with many of your points.

I will say this though: you said...
Sir Thopas wrote:but I feel that NAQT should stop marketing A-sets to regions like the DC metro area
...but that's not really true. I mean they're not specifically marketing sets for certain regions of the country, they're just leaving them out there for everyone. If we (is Delaware part of said area? likely not, okay then... if "they") don't want to use those sets, then don't. As has been said many times, many ways... there are tons of other good sets out there being written right now by colleges, HSAPQ, and high schoolers just like you, Guy. "A" sets really should be used for freshmen and sophomores (maybe just freshmen), honestly, as it really is a good introduction to play... then they can be discarded as they will learn what "good quizbowl" is all about and reach for higher levels.

Also, this...
Sir Thopas wrote:Furthermore, this attitude will only lead to the top teams no longer attending—so NAQT is then sending out the message that they don’t care about prestige, or crowning a true national champion.
...you truly believe this to be accurate? Until a top team actually chooses not to attend the national championship (for any other reasons than travel or expenses or etc.), i don't really think i'd believe it.

Still, don't want to discount your points... many of them are good and valid and i do also agree with your point about writing questions for NAQT. It would be a mistake and a waste of time, for you.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Ondes Martenot » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:50 pm

I think the big problem, as has been stated before, is the length limit on NAQT's questions. I've been doing a lot of writing for BATE and none of my questions would meet the length limit, yet I feel all do a good job at differentiating between teams of all levels. If NAQT could increase their question length by 100-150 characters, you could add a couple of more clues, perhaps in the beginning of the question, that would greatly help to differentiate between teams. I think what's happening is that writers who ordinarily write good questions write subpar NAQT questions because of NAQT's character limit.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:54 pm

aarcoh wrote:I think the big problem, as has been stated before, is the length limit on NAQT's questions. I've been doing a lot of writing for BATE and none of my questions would meet the length limit, yet I feel all do a good job at differentiating between teams of all levels. If NAQT could increase their question length by 100-150 characters, you could add a couple of more clues, perhaps in the beginning of the question, that would greatly help to differentiate between teams. I think what's happening is that writers who ordinarily write good questions write subpar NAQT questions because of NAQT's character limit.
I will agree with you whole-heartedly on that one. Even in their "regular" sets, the length really needs to be increased in order to have a decent amount of clues to reward those with knowledge depth. We try to practice with longer questions (community college, etc.) as much as possible and months ago my kids weren't big fans of it, but they've slowly gotten used to it and started enjoying the long ones.

Are these character limits set in place because they expect more tournaments to be timed? We had this discussion/argument in another thread, already, i don't want to rehash it.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:03 pm

aarcoh wrote:I think the big problem, as has been stated before, is the length limit on NAQT's questions. I've been doing a lot of writing for BATE and none of my questions would meet the length limit, yet I feel all do a good job at differentiating between teams of all levels. If NAQT could increase their question length by 100-150 characters, you could add a couple of more clues, perhaps in the beginning of the question, that would greatly help to differentiate between teams. I think what's happening is that writers who ordinarily write good questions write subpar NAQT questions because of NAQT's character limit.
I think you're massively oversimplifying the issue. Sure, that's a problem for good writers who want to write, but I've tried to explain why even good writers' good questions wouldn't make nearly the impact that they would in an ideal organization. Handcuffing good writers only makes the situation that much worse.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by OctagonJoe » Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:16 pm

I think a big problem with A sets, IS sets, and NAQT's question writing philosophy in general is that NAQT does not heed any sort of quizbowl canon that is actually becoming pretty well defined, at least at the HS level. If I were in high school and playing good quizbowl, I would know that reading Great Expectations would probably net me points at some time in the year. If I were playing NAQT's questions, reading Great Expectations might not get me points when an opponent buzzes off of a leadin about Futurama referencing the book (note: this is hopefully a made up situation) before even mentioning a character or plot element. I might as well read some alternative-history version of Harry Potter, because HP seems to be the only part of NAQT's 'canon'. If the majority of NAQT's writers could be made to understand what it is that high school quizbowl's canon consists of, I think a vast improvement could be made for NAQT's questions instead of having perfectly pyramidal tossups on Lluis Barba just because some writer loves to see Kate Moss in Hieronymous Bosch paintings (also made up, I hope).
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by millionwaves » Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:36 pm

All the stuff about the suitability of A-sets for new high school teams has been split from this thread and may be discussed here.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Dec 24, 2008 8:32 pm

This is a topic that I want to be able to sit down with and do a proper write up regarding my feelings on it, but I unfortunately don't have the time right now. I do want to respond to one part of this:
Caesar Rodney HS wrote:Also, this...
Sir Thopas wrote:Furthermore, this attitude will only lead to the top teams no longer attending—so NAQT is then sending out the message that they don’t care about prestige, or crowning a true national champion.
...you truly believe this to be accurate? Until a top team actually chooses not to attend the national championship (for any other reasons than travel or expenses or etc.), i don't really think i'd believe it.
This happened with CBI, it happened with ASCN, it happened with Chip Beall. If NAQT continues to fall behind the quality curve, they too will fall victim to the curse of the bad tournament.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 24, 2008 8:33 pm

At least one top HS team this year is very seriously considering not attending, from what I've heard.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:45 pm

I was weaned on NAQT and, up until last year, I had no idea that there was anything else. In fact, I dismissed PACE as illegitimate. As of right now, I am truly distressed by the direction that NAQT has taken. I am willing to excuse the short questions, merely because that is a battle for another day. I am, however, not willing to excuse the wacked out distribution or the often atrocious writing.

First, the distribution. Certain fields are wildly overrepresented, specifically trash, geography, math, current events, and that mysterious catagory that I cannot call anything other than "NAQT vanity". My grapes are not sour, as, to be honest, I am fantastic at trash and "NAQT vanity". I will not question the import of geography, current events, and math, but said catagories are not nearly as valuable as the NAQT powers that be have deemed them, and, as has been stated many time, comp math is not good quiz bowl, and thus should be excised from things that aspire to be good quiz bowl. The wild overabundance of those catagories turns many games into farces. "NAQT vanity" is characterized by insane cross distributional questions, NACuties, and other such stupidity. As has been stated ad nauseum in the past, if a mindless trash, cross distributional, or otherwise unrelated giveaway is necessary, then the answer is too hard. What drugs are required to make Harry Potter literature on par with Tolstoy? "Questionable" question catagorization is endemic to NAQT. It has gotten to such a point that I am considering borrowing my sister's copies of Gossip Girl and Twilight because those two books should be good for an additional 5 or 6 tossups and 3 or 4 bonuses at HSNCT. In addition to trash lit being held on par with real lit, there is a dearth of good history and very little philosophy, art, and social science.

Secondly, the question writing is poor. I have played in 2 NAQT IS set tournaments this year, and, probably once a round, I have found a tossup to be so poorly written as to inhibit conversion. Bizarre word choice and syntax are matched with questionable clue choice. I do not pretend to be a good writer, but I have been around long enough to know when things are not done well. First line giveaways appear with an alarming frequency. I distinctly remember an A series question from last year about Kepler which mentioned his laws of planetary motion in the first line. This is not okay! Answer choice is also a problem. At the last NAQT tournament I played (11/22 at Pitt), there were 2 answers that I distinctly remember as being harder than ACF Fall level. NAQT: do not try and throw top players bones by sticking in some crazy stuff in every tournament. It just makes everyone angry.

That's all I can think of for now. If I can get my hands on the questions we played this year, I will probably go through them for specific examples of what I felt was bad. NAQT: you have the potential for great good. Please do not squander your opportunity.

EDIT: two things I forgot. One, I would be more willing to spend my time working to better NAQT if it was clear that my efforts would actually do something. I have gotten the distinct impression that there is a program, and it is not to be deviated from. From talking to an NAQT member, I have also gotten the impression that NAQT is currently what this NAQT member wants. I refuse to buy the excuse of "rogue member", because, if he were, someone should've done something about it. In short, NAQT seems far too complacent with its current state and that, to me, does not seem like an organization worth saving or worth my time. As said earlier, I am not a very good writer, but I am working to get better, and once I get better, I highly doubt that I will even consider writing for NAQT, because I get the distinct feeling that my time would not be used in a wise manner and that it would not be fully appreciated. Two, it is a pointless statement to say "If you don't like our questions, work for us and write awesome questions that fit with your sense of quiz bowl aesthetics", because many of the people who made the questions as poor as they are today will still be working for NAQT and will have the power to exert thier will upon any and all writers.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:55 pm

la2pgh wrote:I will not question the import of geography, current events, and math, but said catagories [sic] are not nearly as valuable as the NAQT powers that be have deemed them...
Basically no quarrels with anything else you said, but what is it specifically that makes questions about geography bad for quizbowl? I've never had this one explained to me before, and being a big fan of geography (and all legitimate social studies content in general), i'm curious as to what makes it not appropriate... or, less appropriate.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Tower Monarch » Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:30 pm

Caesar Rodney HS wrote: Basically no quarrels with anything else you said, but what is it specifically that makes questions about geography bad for quizbowl? I've never had this one explained to me before, and being a big fan of geography (and all legitimate social studies content in general), i'm curious as to what makes it not appropriate... or, less appropriate.
In general, when I question NAQT's emphasis on Geography, I am worried about two things: if you are going to stick to the atlas, you have to have a canon (a notably lacking concept in NAQT) to determine a clue ordering that makes it a decent question: this is admittedly hard, so if NAQT has not come up with a solution (which I have found it has not), why should they continue to write in the category prolifically. Second, if you do not wish to stick to atlas (an approach quite a large portion of players support) and instead introduce some social history, geology, etc to expand the clue options, you risk no longer having a geography question and fall prey to lack of measurement (is the person who gets the question a geography expert, or just good at history or science?)
Getting back on topic, I would not write a geography question for NAQT until they posit a formal position on the above issues, basically until they define a geography question and a good approach to write one.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:38 pm

Tower Monarch wrote: Second, if you do not wish to stick to atlas (an approach quite a large portion of players support) and instead introduce some social history, geology, etc to expand the clue options, you risk no longer having a geography question and fall prey to lack of measurement (is the person who gets the question a geography expert, or just good at history or science?)
I mean, a phenomenon similar to that led to this.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:23 am

Also, nobody's claiming that geography has no place in good quizbowl. We're just questioning whether geography merits such a large distribution, paticularly when several important academic categories are lacking.
NAQT's problem seems to be that it writes for teams that want to do well without effort, which possibly explains why the questions produce such bizarre results. This is contrary to most unambiguously good quizbowl, which assumes that most players are statasfied with a quanta of sucess proportionate to their effort. For instance, a team that puts in a deep effort is statasfied with its strong showings, wherehas a team that does not want to put in any siginficant effort is statasfied with weak showings.
This happened with CBI, it happened with ASCN, it happened with Chip Beall. If NAQT continues to fall behind the quality curve, they too will fall victim to the curse of the bad tournament
Has anyone noticed that the organizations that have avoided this the longest(PACE and ACF) are the ones that do the least organizational question writing? I would like to propose the postulate that the lifespan of a quizbowl organization's legitimacy is inversly proportional to the quantity of questions they write.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by The Atom Strikes! » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:26 am

I think that the reason that PACE and ACF have maintained better quality for so long is that their writers, rather than being out-of-touch career people who played in college ten years ago, are current students and players who are in touch with the current standards of good quizbowl. They also lack the hidebound question regulation which has hurt NAQT.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:32 am

A.B.C.D E.F. Godthaab wrote:I think that the reason that PACE and ACF have maintained better quality for so long is that their writers, rather than being out-of-touch career people who played in college ten years ago, are current students and players who are in touch with the current standards of good quizbowl. They also lack the hidebound question regulation which has hurt NAQT.
Heh, you clearly don't know enough about PACE. I guess you're right, though, the out-of-touch people don't write anymore...
Last edited by Sir Thopas on Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by The Atom Strikes! » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:37 am

Sir Thopas wrote:
A.B.C.D E.F. Godthaab wrote:I think that the reason that PACE and ACF have maintained better quality for so long is that their writers, rather than being out-of-touch career people who played in college ten years ago, are current students and players who are in touch with the current standards of good quizbowl. They also lack the hidebound question regulation which has hurt NAQT.
Heh, you clearly don't know enough about PACE. I guess you're write, though, the out-of-touch people don't write anymore...
I'm focusing on the question aspect here... I am aware of some of the issues at PACE. The important thing is that PACE is edited by people like Matt Weiner and Andrew Hart, rather than people like :kenj:
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by BobGHHS » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:40 am

I think that the reason that PACE and ACF have maintained better quality for so long is that their writers, rather than being out-of-touch career people who played in college ten years ago, are current students and players who are in touch with the current standards of good quizbowl. They also lack the hidebound question regulation which has hurt NAQT.
Amen.

I think you just hit the nail on the head Henry, because this is exactly what I was thinking the whole time Guy and I were discussing this.

And it goes back to the younger crowd of current players not really wanting to write for NAQT for various reasons. If they can't attract any of the "good" writers of the current pool of players, they're never going to come up to the standards that everyone talks about in this thread and others.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:43 am

A.B.C.D E.F. Godthaab wrote:I think that the reason that PACE and ACF have maintained better quality for so long is that their writers, rather than being out-of-touch career people who played in college ten years ago, are current students and players who are in touch with the current standards of good quizbowl. They also lack the hidebound question regulation which has hurt NAQT.
And if this hypothesis is correct, graduating high schoolers and college players being reluctant to write for NAQT is truly an issue of very, very great concern for NAQT, since then their perceived problems with quality, disconnect from the individual circuit, et cetera cannot be resolved unless NAQT takes steps so that it doesn't inspire Guy's very justified mindset.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:44 am

I think that the reason that PACE and ACF have maintained better quality for so long is that their writers, rather than being out-of-touch career people who played in college ten years ago, are current students and players who are in touch with the current standards of good quizbowl. They also lack the hidebound question regulation which has hurt NAQT.
I think this is more true for ACF than PACE. The other reason for the possible inverse correlation is probably that the more qestions that are produce, the less effort is expended per question, presuming that the amount of effort is constant. Hence, PACE(which only writes 1 tournament) can put the same amount of effort into writing one set that NAQT must put into 4-5 sets(assuming half of PACE's effort is logistics). Of course, having fewer centrally-produced questions can mean that more of the questions are written by people invovled in the game.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:23 am

(A couple of quick points; I've brought this thread to R.'s attention, so we may get a more official response some time in the next couple of days.)
everyday847 wrote:if this hypothesis is correct, graduating high schoolers and college players being reluctant to write for NAQT is truly an issue of very, very great concern for NAQT, since then their perceived problems with quality, disconnect from the individual circuit, et cetera cannot be resolved unless NAQT takes steps so that it doesn't inspire Guy's very justified mindset.
This is exactly right. I think it would be a tremendous net negative for the circuit if these criticisms were to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (ie, NAQT is unable to recruit new writers with circuit experience, imposing an increasing burden on writers who are older and/or less experienced, increasing criticism, etc.)
Sir Thopas wrote:when I see a bonus that puts at a huge disadvantage Jews living on the eastern seaboard, I am disgusted.
Guy, would you mind emailing me with details? 1. It's possible to imagine perfectly good forms of quizbowl that might do this (eg, geography of California, lives of Christian saints). and 2. I can't actually find a question like this in our database.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:32 am

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:when I see a bonus that puts at a huge disadvantage Jews living on the eastern seaboard, I am disgusted.
Guy, would you mind emailing me with details? 1. It's possible to imagine perfectly good forms of quizbowl that might do this (eg, geography of California, lives of Christian saints). and 2. I can't actually find a question like this in our database.
I've brought this up before; this is what I'm referring to in this post: viewtopic.php?p=102373#p102373
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:40 am

bt_green_warbler wrote:
everyday847 wrote:if this hypothesis is correct, graduating high schoolers and college players being reluctant to write for NAQT is truly an issue of very, very great concern for NAQT, since then their perceived problems with quality, disconnect from the individual circuit, et cetera cannot be resolved unless NAQT takes steps so that it doesn't inspire Guy's very justified mindset.
This is exactly right. I think it would be a tremendous net negative for the circuit if these criticisms were to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (ie, NAQT is unable to recruit new writers with circuit experience, imposing an increasing burden on writers who are older and/or less experienced, increasing criticism, etc.)
Haven't they already? Unless a small army of college undergraduates writing for NAQT has escaped my notice, this is exactly what has happened. Guy's post itemizes some of the problems that probably need to change before that army develops.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:49 am

Sir Thopas wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:when I see a bonus that puts at a huge disadvantage Jews living on the eastern seaboard, I am disgusted.
Guy, would you mind emailing me with details? 1. It's possible to imagine perfectly good forms of quizbowl that might do this (eg, geography of California, lives of Christian saints). and 2. I can't actually find a question like this in our database.
I've brought this up before; this is what I'm referring to in this post: viewtopic.php?p=102373#p102373
Isn't that like saying that Muslims have an unfair advantage whenever the Five Pillars of Islam come up? Or any Jewish person when random Jewish holidays are answers? Or me when a question about Caesar Rodney arises? I mean, there really isn't anything that can be done about those kinds of "biases" since they're not biases at all.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:55 am

Caesar Rodney HS wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:when I see a bonus that puts at a huge disadvantage Jews living on the eastern seaboard, I am disgusted.
Guy, would you mind emailing me with details? 1. It's possible to imagine perfectly good forms of quizbowl that might do this (eg, geography of California, lives of Christian saints). and 2. I can't actually find a question like this in our database.
I've brought this up before; this is what I'm referring to in this post: viewtopic.php?p=102373#p102373
Isn't that like saying that Muslims have an unfair advantage whenever the Five Pillars of Islam come up? Or any Jewish person when random Jewish holidays are answers? Or me when a question about Caesar Rodney arises? I mean, there really isn't anything that can be done about those kinds of "biases" since they're not biases at all.
No, those advantages aren't unfair ones because those are canon and anyone could study them as legitimate academic topics. The subject that I am referring to was not canon ("current events"), and there was no reason for me to have even heard of them (as indeed I hadn't) unless I was looking them up to rail against them. Someone with different religious and political views, however, would have them integrated as a part of their lives. It's not that someone had an advantage; it's that there was no realistic way for this advantage to be eliminated, and that the topic was entirely unnecessary within the context of an ostensibly academic game.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:59 am

everyday847 wrote:Unless a small army of college undergraduates writing for NAQT has escaped my notice, this is exactly what has happened. Guy's post itemizes some of the problems that probably need to change before that army develops.
Sample size of two, but neither Seth Teitler nor I wrote for NAQT while we were undergrads. I think a lot of people wait until grad school to sign up for NAQT (and NAQT as far as I know has always had very substantial grad student participation), so if this argument works, it works as "NAQT will suffer five years from now, when today's undergrads refuse to write or edit."
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Dec 25, 2008 2:06 am

bt_green_warbler wrote:
everyday847 wrote:Unless a small army of college undergraduates writing for NAQT has escaped my notice, this is exactly what has happened. Guy's post itemizes some of the problems that probably need to change before that army develops.
Sample size of two, but neither Seth Teitler nor I wrote for NAQT while we were undergrads. I think a lot of people wait until grad school to sign up for NAQT (and NAQT as far as I know has always had very substantial grad student participation), so if this argument works, it works as "NAQT will suffer five years from now, when today's undergrads refuse to write or edit."
I mean, this only exacerbates the problem of NAQT's writers being far removed from the circuit in many respects. There's no reason undergrads couldn't be writing for NAQT; the success of HSAPQ in gathering many undergrads has shown this. In fact, that's part of my whole point. NAQT is already suffering, for the reasons I stated in my initial post. Many undergrads and high school students I have talked to, as well as myself, seem totally turned off from NAQT. The effects are already being seen; the problem won't suddenly get worse five years in the future.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Dec 25, 2008 2:16 am

Sir Thopas wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote:
everyday847 wrote:Unless a small army of college undergraduates writing for NAQT has escaped my notice, this is exactly what has happened. Guy's post itemizes some of the problems that probably need to change before that army develops.
Sample size of two, but neither Seth Teitler nor I wrote for NAQT while we were undergrads. I think a lot of people wait until grad school to sign up for NAQT (and NAQT as far as I know has always had very substantial grad student participation), so if this argument works, it works as "NAQT will suffer five years from now, when today's undergrads refuse to write or edit."
I mean, this only exacerbates the problem of NAQT's writers being far removed from the circuit in many respects. There's no reason undergrads couldn't be writing for NAQT; the success of HSAPQ in gathering many undergrads has shown this. In fact, that's part of my whole point. NAQT is already suffering, for the reasons I stated in my initial post. Many undergrads and high school students I have talked to, as well as myself, seem totally turned off from NAQT. The effects are already being seen; the problem won't suddenly get worse five years in the future.
I agree. In this situation, it seems that undergrads are choosing to write for the high school circuit, but they're not choosing NAQT as the vehicle through which they do so--independent events like HFT further confirm this; nearly everyone on Harvard's team has written a question a high school student has played this past year, but my only known connection from Harvard's team to writing for NAQT is that Dennis Sun might have written a music tossup for last year's ICT. But Jeff is right to say that five years from now, NAQT will feel additional pain, since no one will replace the graduate students that it loses (since, in contrast to you and Seth Teitler, undergrads are choosing to do some writing for the high school circuit but are actively choosing to spurn NAQT).
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Dec 25, 2008 2:36 am

Sir Thopas wrote:I've brought this up before; this is what I'm referring to in this post: viewtopic.php?p=102373#p102373
Guy, I've sent you an email discussing this question. There's nothing useful that can be accomplished on the board without mentioning answers.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Dec 25, 2008 2:47 am

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:I've brought this up before; this is what I'm referring to in this post: viewtopic.php?p=102373#p102373
Guy, I've sent you an email discussing this question. There's nothing useful that can be accomplished on the board without mentioning answers.
OK, thanks for contacting me about it. I'll respond tomorrow when it's not 2 AM and I can make cogent thoughts.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Dec 25, 2008 11:52 am

Jeff is right to say that five years from now, NAQT will feel additional pain, since no one will replace the graduate students that it loses (since, in contrast to you and Seth Teitler, undergrads are choosing to do some writing for the high school circuit but are actively choosing to spurn NAQT).
I'm going to guess that this has something to do with the question length limits, which have been discussed extensively.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Dec 25, 2008 12:26 pm

Anti-Climacus wrote:
Jeff is right to say that five years from now, NAQT will feel additional pain, since no one will replace the graduate students that it loses (since, in contrast to you and Seth Teitler, undergrads are choosing to do some writing for the high school circuit but are actively choosing to spurn NAQT).
I'm going to guess that this has something to do with the question length limits, which have been discussed extensively.
I mean, it has to do with everything I talked about in my first post in addition to length limits generally, I think.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:07 am

I suppose this is going to be the site where I plant my essay on NAQT and its state in quizbowl in the past and present, along with an attempt to guess what the future holds.

Some background: I played high school quizbowl from 1999 to 2002 in West Virginia. If we were to have a sliding scale of just how "good" high school quizbowl is, going from 1.0 for modern day elite DC area to 0.1 for 1970s Wyoming or something, WV would rank around a 0.4. About half of the tournaments would run on KMO questions or equivalents, math questions were considered a necessity and most West Virginia teams suck(ed). However, the other half of tournaments in the state ran on NAQT sets. These were, undeniably, the best questions played on at the time. They were actually pyramidal, required - comparably - heavy amounts of real academic knowledge and never mentions auks. Life was good.

Continuing after my graduation, NAQT continued to grow. More teams went to their tournaments on the college and high school levels, and NAQT had definitely cemented their place as the best question provider nationwide in terms of quality as a vendor able to provide a diverse number of sets each year. In the early days of this forum (which is, basically, the first effective national discussion forum for quizbowl on the high school level), threads criticizing NAQT on the high school level were few and far between, and never particularly harsh.

Contrast this with NAQT's present position in the high school market. It is heavily criticized by players from the top teams for its question content, and we're starting to see what I call "tier two" players - teams that, while not as good as your annual national title contenders and the likes of Charlie Dees & Co., are capable of winning games against very good teams on a very regular basis - join in the chorus of annoyance. The obvious question is when did the wheels fall off, and why.

In my opinion, this trend started in public shortly after the 2007 HSNCT. The set used wasn't really reacted to warmly by people I talked with, plus some rules (such as small school qualification) were also called into question. Even now, multiple people I respect and talk with regard NAQT packets as little more than a crap shoot in terms of determining the better team. Add to this A-sets and claims that NAQT leadership is resistant to change, and we have the present situation.

Why are we here, though? I would point towards the following as the reasons:

The creation of the A-set. The theory is very nice - produce good questions on easier subjects that make new high school teams more comfortable in playing what is commonly referred to as "good" quizbowl.

What was delivered, though, was notably different. Questions are much shorter than normal NAQT questions - which are somewhat short for good quizbowl questions in the first place. Answer selection is all over the place, with niche subjects getting too much play and the current events category practically becoming "Even More Pop Culture". The presence of numerous issues with clues also hurts A-sets - academic clues getting bumped by trash content, along with so-called "NAQTies"; buzzer races due to the inability to differentiate between two players' depth of knowledge; questionable power placement and more.

The reason this is a problem should be pretty clear - NAQT is putting forth an inferior product and has behaved in a manner that leads me to believe that they expected their customer base to quietly accept it rather than point out that, hey, this product is not good. It appears to be a blatant money grab - rather than attempting to persuade coaches that pyramidal questions are better than reflexive buzz-offs, NAQT starts producing questions that are essentially reflexive buzz-offs. NAQT has basically handed out the quizbowl equivalent of New Coke. The reaction to this should be pretty obvious as to what it would be and why.

The reason NAQT would make a blatant money grab, if appearances are correct (or, at least, my manner of interpreting them is correct), is painfully clear. They're a business in a capitalist society, meaning their primary objective is to make money. When given the choice of working with existing tournaments that prefer non-pyramidal questions on those tournaments' terms or working with those teams or fighting against those viewpoints in an attempt to get them to accept the view that "good quizbowl" is better, there is no reason to take the path of more resistance from a pure financial view. This isn't NAQT trying to destroy the circuit; it's an attempt to be profitable. As someone who is in the "real world" (a phrase I hate, but one I must employ here), businesses must make money to survive. Profits must be turned.

Unfortunately, there is cause for concern with NAQT's actions with regards to this. By pushing the A-set product as acceptable quizbowl, NAQT is playing a role in weakening the standards of quizbowl by undermining certain views of "good quizbowl" - the values of pyramidality, answer selection and clue selection. NAQT is the largest provider of quiz bowl questions in the nation. As a result, they hold a large portion of power in setting the agenda of quiz bowl quality. By introducing a quiz bowl product with lowered standards, NAQT is in turn lowering the standards of quiz bowl across the nation.

Lowered standards of quality means that the improvement of game quality across the nation is slowed. If areas of the country that are new to quiz bowl are weened on NAQT A-sets, it makes more likely that the introduction of "good quizbowl" will face a fight against these lowered standards. Additionally, it will create an inequity in quiz bowl talent between current power areas such as the Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia belt and teams that are created in a less established area such as, say, Montana or Maine. Top teams like Thomas Jefferson are exposed to more pyramidal questions on a regular basis, which helps them improve. Failing to be exposed to better quizbowl questions will slow the growth of team talent.

Additionally, I'd just like to take a moment and ask this: Under what circumstances is it a good idea to use A-sets for college tournaments? A-sets are identified on NAQT's page about purchasing high school questions as "The A-level series have easier and shorter questions and are targeted at early-year tournaments, tournaments for less experienced players, or tournaments with many teams that are new to the NAQT format", yet one is listed as the set employed at Tartan Tussle III at Macalester College with the TD's name listed as R. Robert Hentzel. You know, the guy in charge of NAQT. I'm not terribly involved with the college game, so I'm not going to go into depth on this subject, but it seems illogical to run a tournament for college students on questions intended for what amounts to junior varsity high school teams.

A-sets are alienating top high school players, which causes a problem when NAQT also hosts what is currently considered one of the two major high school quizbowl national championships. At some point, regularly annoying these top teams will lead to said top teams no longer going to HSNCT. Without the majority of top high school teams, HSNCT will lose legitimacy as a national championship. NAQT's reputation as a high school question provider is tied to the reaction to their flagship high school event; as negative feedback increases for this flagship event, the popularity of the event will wane, leading to less purchases. While some teams do look at national tournaments as little more than an extended vacation, many teams do evaluate nationals by the field. This is part of why NAC lost popularity; top teams stopped going to it, leading to teams who want to play the top teams to stop going to it, and so forth. I truly believe that NAQT, if it continues, will hurt its long-term business at the HSNCT through the A-set. While this one tournament is not what fills the NAQT coffers - the sale of question sets is - one would hope that NAQT also values its prestige within quiz bowl and tries to establish that it does value good quizbowl questions. Additionally, NAQT's prestige does play a role in why so many of their sets are ordered. Diminished prestige could lead to less tournaments held on NAQT questions, leading to a lessened cash flow.

To summarize, A-sets are the epitome of NAQT's problems - they seem aloof to concerns of their customers and, rather than respond to them, continue on their path. While businesses are under no obligation to actually respond to their customers in public fora, in quizbowl a vocal group that carry a noticeable amount of non-NAQT power, failure to work with that group leads to further issues. A-sets make NAQT appear to be out of touch with quiz bowl at large, which also alienates customers. A-sets are also a questionable long term business model (if my hypotheses laid out above regarding the effects of lost prestige are correct), which calls into question the long term stability of the company.

There are other issues with NAQT as an organization that I would like to delve into, but don't presently have the time (my right thumb is currently cramping up after pounding this out in one sitting). These include its interaction with the circuit at large and its response (or lack thereof) to questions and criticism, along with questions as to the quality of their offerings outside of A-sets. These will have to wait until another time.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure » Fri Dec 26, 2008 1:07 am

Summary: NAQT should stop producing A-sets and speed checks and use the resources freed up by this decison to improve the HSNCT and IS sets.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by mlaird » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:18 am

Let's get back to the issue at hand here, for a moment. Before I type this, I don't know if it will end up actually contributing to the discussion or if it will simply be a pertinent anecdote. Regardless, I feel sharing my experiences isn't a bad thing.

As a Director of a somewhat floundering question writing enterprise myself, I am seeing that our majority undergrad writers are not exactly putting out a desirable amount of questions. We produce, what I believe to be, quality quiz bowl questions for Illinois competition (with the exception of Comp Math, which we begrudgingly add in, since, really, we need to get question quality up before we can focus on doing away with Comp in IL).

We've targeted the cream of the crop players from Illinois, and quite a few of them sign on to write for us after they graduate. Most of them, however, submit an application (4/4 sample questions), and then write maybe 2/2 more before getting bored. One writer notably actually managed to write -1/0, by deleting one of his submitted samples and never writing anything else. I believe I wrote him a check for something like $1.50 when all was said and done (which is also noteworthy, I suppose; we pay far less than NAQT does, but I figure most people aren't doing this for the money anyways).

One thing we've tried to do is keep our writers connected to the company with regular emails and blog entries, but in reality, what goes on behind the scenes is less than enthralling. I figured that if writers knew what was going on, and weren't just submitting questions into a mechanical database, then they might have more of a stake in writing, but I was wrong. We only have one other writer this year who is rivaling the directors on sheer contributions, and that's actually a college teammate of Nick and Carlo's.

The bottom line is that me, Carlo and Nick end up doing something like 2/3 of all the writing ourselves, which kind of sucks. I think that last year the other 1/3 was split among twenty-something other writers. I don't know if NAQT has the same sort of problem, but certainly they offer more incentive to keep writing than we do ($$$). NAQT also draws from a much larger, national base of quiz bowlers, while Aegis is really only known about in IL. As a result, I doubt that we are going to exist next year, and if we do, it will be in a very different form from what we are now.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:31 am

Sir Thopas wrote:
Caesar Rodney HS wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:when I see a bonus that puts at a huge disadvantage Jews living on the eastern seaboard, I am disgusted.
Guy, would you mind emailing me with details? 1. It's possible to imagine perfectly good forms of quizbowl that might do this (eg, geography of California, lives of Christian saints). and 2. I can't actually find a question like this in our database.
I've brought this up before; this is what I'm referring to in this post: viewtopic.php?p=102373#p102373
Isn't that like saying that Muslims have an unfair advantage whenever the Five Pillars of Islam come up? Or any Jewish person when random Jewish holidays are answers? Or me when a question about Caesar Rodney arises? I mean, there really isn't anything that can be done about those kinds of "biases" since they're not biases at all.
No, those advantages aren't unfair ones because those are canon and anyone could study them as legitimate academic topics. The subject that I am referring to was not canon ("current events"), and there was no reason for me to have even heard of them (as indeed I hadn't) unless I was looking them up to rail against them. Someone with different religious and political views, however, would have them integrated as a part of their lives. It's not that someone had an advantage; it's that there was no realistic way for this advantage to be eliminated, and that the topic was entirely unnecessary within the context of an ostensibly academic game.
CHRZ, there is a distinct difference between that bonus and asking about religious doctrine or dogma. Those things are (usually) concrete subjects studied by scholars and adherents and are "common knowledge" within those circles. That bonus is clearly not of that orientation.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by setht » Fri Dec 26, 2008 3:51 am

Here are four overly-simplified possible positions on whether people should help NAQT (by signing up to write and/or edit):

a) I think NAQT is evil. I would never consider helping NAQT in any way, just as I would never consider helping CBI or Chip Beall in any way. People shouldn't go to any NAQT tournament.

b) I think NAQT has a bunch of problems (structural or otherwise); so many, in fact, that I don't a sufficient fraction of the current crop of qualified writers and editors can afford to sign up to help them out.

c) I think NAQT has a bunch of problems (structural or otherwise); so many, in fact, that I don't think it's worth anyone's while to try to help them out. It would be easier to just start a new organization to replace NAQT.

d) I think NAQT has a bunch of problems (structural or otherwise); however, I think the time and effort it would take to clear up those problems is a good bit less than the amount of time and effort it would take to set up a new, problem-free organization that could take NAQT's place in terms of running legitimate high school and collegiate national tournaments and large numbers of decent (or better than decent) local tournaments with the kind of widespread coverage NAQT has attained.

I'll ignore position (a) because my impression is that no one really has taken it to heart, and I think anyone who has adopted position (a) will not listen to any attempt I make to dissuade them from their opinion.

I think position (b) is untenable when faced with the explosion of vanity tournaments, large crop of incoming collegiate players with decent (or better than decent) writing track records, etc. Obviously all these promising young writers could dedicate themselves to writing yet more vanity tournaments, but at some point the market for side events will saturate. Also, I think everyone will agree that while the nth vanity tournament still has some charm, there is much more utility to the circuit in producing another high-quality collegiate or high school (regular) tournament set--especially when that set is played at many sites around the country, in large part by teams whose tournament calendars aren't filled with high-quality events.

I think position (c) is tenable but mistaken. I don't know how hard it is to start up a question-writing group, get enough good people committed to it so that the group can produce a large number of sets (comparable to the number of sets NAQT produces), build up large national championship events on the high school and collegiate levels, build up a sufficient reputation so that those championships draw good fields, build up a sufficient reputation and a network of local connections so that teams all over the country that are otherwise almost entirely disconnected from anything most of us recognize as quizbowl will show up to local events on the group's sets, etc. This doesn't even get into setting up the group as a legal business, setting up a hierarchy to deal with writing and editing duties, setting up software to handle a large volume of questions (if you think you can produce that many sets each year by emailing Word documents from person to person, think again), etc. I am pretty sure it would take a rifrickulous amount of man-hours to replicate what NAQT has done on those fronts. I am also pretty sure that even if some group managed to get up to speed on all those fronts very quickly, it would take years just to build up the group's reputation and network of contacts in order to attract comparable fields to local and national tournaments.

In contrast, I don't think it would take a rifrickulous number of man-hours (let alone years) to effect changes in NAQT's policies from within the organization. I hope what I'm about to say is okay to say publicly: I've seen a bit of the behind-the-scenes workings of NAQT and ACF when it comes time to decide on policy changes. Some weeks ago NAQT decided to make changes to its distribution and tossup (and match) lengths for DI SCT and ICT. Some longer time ago ACF decided to make some changes to its editors structure. I don't think I caught all of the debates in the case of NAQT's policy changes, but my impression is that the amount of man-hours spent by various people on arguing for the distribution and tossup/match length changes was not all that large. The NAQT debates took longer than the ACF debate took, but they weren't unbearably long debates.

I'm not all that clear on the details of what happened with ACF in the past, so if I get something terribly wrong please correct me. From looking at the wiki, my impression is that when ACF switched from being the Academic Competition Foundation to the Academic Competition Federation, the circuit was faced with the question of whether ACF was worth salvaging. Andrew (and other people, but my impression is that it was primarily Andrew) decided it was worthwhile; my impression is that the majority of the circuit was unconvinced, at the time. I think pretty much everyone on the collegiate circuit agrees, 11 years later, that this was a very good decision for the health of good quizbowl. I also think pretty much everyone can agree that despite the best efforts of Andrew and co., ACF never would have survived to the present day (let alone expanded to 4 tournaments per year) without a fairly large amount of support from the circuit at large--by writing most of the questions for each tournament, supplying new editors, etc. I think the situation with NAQT right now is similar in many respects. I don't know how much effort it would take to bring NAQT to a point where almost everyone is satisfied with it, or how that compares with how much effort it took to get the Academic Competition Federation off the ground and keep it going through the dark ages and into the present day of (in my view) "good quizbowl writing largesse." I think it is very telling that Andrew, having made the decision in 1997 to put in so much time and effort with ACF, has more recently decided to put in large amounts of time working with NAQT. Once again, much or most of the collegiate circuit doesn't seem to agree with him, and once again, any effort to work with NAQT is doomed to failure unless there's a decent level of circuit participation in the effort. I think the parallels extend to the point of saying that participation in this effort will be well worth the circuit's while--perhaps the benefits won't be apparent in one or two years (although I personally think the benefits could easily be seen that fast), but I think working with NAQT has great potential for the future health of good quizbowl on the high school and collegiate circuits.

Thoughts?

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Deviant Insider » Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:06 am

Though Fred got a lot right, I have a few disagreements with him.

One is that complaints about NAQT on this board started before the 2007 HSNCT. They are largely an extension of the complaints that have come from college students since about the time this board started. It's not that high schoolers are merely copying the college students, but it is a matter of the growth/improvement of NCT and good house-written tournaments providing solid alternatives to NAQT, which started happening about ten years ago and has become more significant in the past three to five years. This has been accelerated by the increase in the number of high school students who are exposed to good collegiate questions. Even now, almost all complaints about NAQT come from the same area of the country because it is the only place to have a lot of tournaments that are significantly better.

Another is the significance of A-Sets in all of this. If NAQT improved its IS sets (by which primarily I mean giving them a more academic focus and giving more quality control in particular to tossup lead-ins), then I don't think this thread would exist. In that case, I believe that most people on this board would stop caring about the existence of A-Sets. I also think that, while in some cases tournaments are deciding between A-Sets and better alternatives, there are some tournaments that are deciding between A-Sets and worse alternatives. Trust me, worse alternatives exist. Much worse alternatives exist.

I'll also add that Fred probably understates the historic significance of NAQT. To many areas of the country, including WV and IL, they were for a time the only writers trying to be pyramidal. At some points in time, and this probably is still true in some areas of the country, NAQT has been synonymous with pyramidal questions (as in, a tournament is either NAQT or is Patrick's/QG/Auk/etc). Many of the people complaining about NAQT today have gotten to the point they are at in large part because of NAQT or writers whose first exposure to decent questions was NAQT (which is OK). Keep in mind that when Fred rates WV a 0.4, he would have rated it much lower if not for NAQT.

As far as the motives of NAQT, I remember the Coaches Meeting I ran at HSNCT a few years ago. Both to me before the meeting and publicly during the meeting, R said that more quizbowl is a good thing and that coaches should focus more on increasing the amount of quizbowl than on pointing out the deficiencies of bad quizbowl. I'm pretty certain that he said this not with capitalist motives, since he was speaking largely to people who liked NAQT questions and contrasted NAQT with Patrick's/QG/Auk/etc, but as somebody who believed what he was saying.

As far as the dilemma that opened this thread and that Seth returned to, it's a common dilemma in life. Just out of college, I first worked for a school where I was the only math teacher and then worked for a school where I was the only 6th grade teacher. While there, I could decide curriculum without going to meetings and plan field trips for the whole school. I now work for a school where there are about 45 math teachers--I don't even know the exact number. We have lots of meetings, and change comes slowly. There is at least one big advantage to my current job, however--my paychecks never bounce.

The same issue exists with NAQT. It hasn't changed much in the past several years, and nobody has any idea if it will change much in the next several years. It recently announced some changes to its college game that were minor--distribution adjustments of 10-20% are the minimal type of thing I would expect every year in an endeavor such as quizbowl that is young and constantly changing. Most of us have no idea if those changes are the only differences we'll see for the next few years or whether they are the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, the company is big enough that it is difficult to see how one college freshman is going to make a huge difference in its policies, though the company does offer you a chance to write questions that will be used by a lot of students and also to write questions that will be used without you getting involved in marketing/compiling them.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:46 am

Just a quick post echoing a couple of things said above.

1. I endorse Seth's post in its entirety.

2. Fred's post is also awesome. Although I disagree with some of his thoughts on A-series, I'd like to say that I too was disappointed by some of the questions in the 2007 HSNCT. Two weeks after that tournament, R. contacted me about editing history for NAQT. I gladly signed up, because I thought NAQT had problems that could be fixed, and was reaching out to me because of my circuit editing experience. Whereas ACF at the time (and still today) had a deep bench of experienced editors and has carried on producing high-quality tournaments.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:04 pm

I don't have a whole lot of time here again (I'm going to be gone through the New Year, so packing and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh), but I'll just acknowledge a couple things Reinstein said with regards to my post. I'm abbreviating certain parts for space considerations and not as a dismissal of the rest of his post, which I think does carry weight with it.
Shcool wrote:One is that complaints about NAQT on this board started before the 2007 HSNCT...
When I first put this together, I actually was going to cite 2006 HSNCT as the turning point, but I looked at the HSNCT reaction thread, and the criticisms there were along what was then the normal lines for NAQT on the high school level - "this set was pretty good overall, but because it's NAQT it had these quirky issues." The 07 discussion thread flipped the switch from that to a reaction that was based around disappointment more.
Shcool wrote:...between A-Sets and better alternatives, there are some tournaments that are deciding between A-Sets and worse alternatives.
I should have said this explicitly, but I don't think that A-sets are the worst high school product out there. However, my disappointment with them rises from the fact that, with NAQT's multitude of resources available to them, they should be much better.
Shcool wrote:I'll also add that Fred probably understates the historic significance of NAQT. To many areas of the country, including WV and IL, they were for a time the only writers trying to be pyramidal.
I actually tried to emphasize that NAQT was historically the best source of high school questions for several years in my first two paragraphs in the above post; if I didn't make it clear enough, NAQT was the only source of wide spread pyramidaility for a notable period of time. They should undoubtedly be given credit for this.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:58 pm

There's a lot I want to say in response to the thoughtful posts from Fred and Seth; this is just a first cut at a follow-up to Fred's post.

First, the issue with NAQT's A-sets. (I should perhaps note I have little to do with the production of A sets, as I have minimal interest in that level of quizbowl.) There seem to be a couple of concerns with these, but I take it that the following two are predominant. (For my understanding of the complaints against A-sets, I'm relying on Fred's post, which I assume is authoritative, as the basis for my understanding.)

1. They alienate top high school players
2. They are an essentially inferior product, but one which NAQT deceptively markets as acceptable quizbowl (perhaps from blatantly capitalist motives)

I'll address these in order.

1. Here, the issue seems to be "these A-sets are so unchallenging to top high school players that the latter are disgusted by NAQT per se." I have to say that this aspect of the complaint makes little sense to me. The A-sets are, by definition, very easy "introductory" quizbowl. They may or may not be competent introductions to quizbowl. But inasmuch as they are introductory, it should be obvious that they are beneath the notice of anyone who is a "top" high school player. So why should top players care about them, one way or the other? From what little I've seen of the current generation of high school players, the elite at that level are really, really good. For those players to be challenged, they probably need to be playing at HSNCT, or PACE, or even college invitationals. But the fact that top high school players have made themselves so good that they are competitive at collegiate levels of play says nothing about the acceptability of A-sets. If I were to attend EFT, I might be bored to tears by how easy the lead-ins seemed, but that would only show that I've outgrown that level of quizbowl.

2. This strikes me as the real heart of the matter. Here, I'm not sure what is going on: are people objecting that A-sets are inherently utter dreck, or only that they are not as good as they "could be," given NAQT's presumed resources? Fred seems to lean toward the latter position, as when he concedes that A-sets are not the "worst product out there," but that they "should be better" given NAQT's "multitude of resources."

I'm going to assume that NAQT's A-sets really aren't all that great, but that they are better than a number of their competitor products at this level. If that's true, then I wonder: What is the real problem here? Yeah, I'd prefer that NAQT only put out top-quality products across the board, but in fact our "multitude of resources" is not inexhaustible. In fact, it's somewhat strained due to a dearth of competent, productive writers.

I guess the obvious response is "then you shouldn't be producing A-sets at all, if you can't do them right." But this conclusion doesn't seem inevitable to me at all. I take it that the goal of the A-set is to serve as a low-level introduction to real quizbowl for "junior varsity" players, or for parts of the country that have never seen a buzzer, or for regions in which a dreadful form of quasi-quizbowl is entrenched as the norm. To me, that seems like a laudable goal. Also, it seems like a goal which NAQT (of all the current forces in quizbowl) is uniquely well-suited to pursue, because of its institutional credibility, its organizational resources, and its question-producing abilities (which may not be as multitudinous as is generally believed, but which are sufficient to produce at least something -- I imagine that anyone who has been involved with producing a question set at any level would know how challenging it can be to get a set finished). From what I glean from this forum, the "alternatives" to A-sets are truly horrendous, such that even a subpar NAQT product at this level is a step up from whatever else is out there (Chip, etc.).

Another way of putting this point: If NAQT doesn't produce a very low-level simulacrum of real quizbowl to attract this kind of audience, who will? And if nobody does it, quizbowl languishes in those areas where the alternative to A-sets is, as Fred concedes, something worse.

So my overall point is: I don't see that NAQT is corrupting the world of quizbowl via A-sets. In fact, I think it has acceptable non-profiteering motives for producing them. (As a side note, I might observe that it is odd, given the overall libertarian tinge of this board and of elite quizbowlers in general, that "letting the market decide on the merits of a product" is not an acceptable position.)

I have more to say about some of the issues raised by Fred and Seth, but that's going to have to suffice for now.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Galstaff, Sorceror of Light » Fri Dec 26, 2008 3:01 pm

I think a large part of why Guy started this thread is not so much out of concern for the near future, but rather a few years from now. Right now it seems like the majority of undergrads that are writing high school questions aren't interested in writing for NAQT, and if the high school players that will go on to write after they graduate continue to be dissatisfied with NAQT, this trend will continue. Thus NAQT's writers will continue to get older and further out of touch without many new people, and eventually a lot of those writers will presumably get jobs and such and not be able to devote as much time as they do currently. The problems that people currently have will continue to grow if this happens.

If I'm not mistaken, NAQT has dismissed several complaints in the past as coming only from top players and not from the majority of their customers. However, it seems to me like the majority of their prospective writers would be from those top teams. If those people who want to write high school questions are dissatisfied with NAQT, whether it be issues with the distribution, length limits, or other concerns, then they'll go elsewhere.

Question quality has been a major concern for a lot of us who are juniors and seniors currently, as it probably is for current undergrads who have observed the state of IS and A sets. Someone above mentioned an "army of undergrads." Unfortunately, it seems like that's exactly what would be needed to get a lot of younger people writing. They would need to believe that enough good writers are signing up that their individual contributions can make a difference in the long run, and that doesn't seem like a gamble most people would be willing to take when other options exist.

Recently some length requirement and distribution changes were made in NAQT's college questions. The distribution changes didn't seem that large, from what I could tell, but they still seemed like a positive change. It would taking something like this and a general increase in quality at the high school level, I think, before the current dissatisfied younger players would consider writing for NAQT.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by magin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 3:18 pm

I'd like to respond to Seth. I think his post is interesting, but misses a very important problem: the problem of responsibility. Inexperienced teams and players should be given leniency in their attempts to write and edit questions; question-writing organizations, on the other hand, require closer scrutiny.

It seems to me that NAQT does not think that their current high school and college sets have problems; they understand that many players have criticized them, which is why they've attempted to procure good editors, but I don't think they would have considered replacing their current editors if not for the criticism, which strikes me as problematic.

Seth argues that it's possible for enough good writers to join NAQT and write enough good questions that their sets will be good. However, I think that shifts the burden of responsibility from NAQT onto the circuit. If NAQT were seriously interested in producing excellent tournaments, they would take steps themselves to improve, to identify and understand these problems to make sure that they can create better questions. From what I've seen of NAQT's recent IS and college sets, a large percentage of the good questions therein were written by good circuit writers, while almost every bad question was written by a member of NAQT or someone who writes almost exclusively for NAQT. Because NAQT writes so many television and speedcheck sets, those writers don't have to make the effort to improve, because they need to write tons of questions which must, in the final analysis, be bad.

In my opinion, NAQT is producing the TV sets and the speedcheck sets in order to make money. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as they admit that those sets are not good by any definition and are written in order to make money.

Here is where I think NAQT differs from ACF: ACF, to my mind, takes responsibility for every question it produces, since it believes in producing exclusively good questions. That does not mean that ACF never produces bad questions, but that ACF tries to produce only good questions, and when players criticize ACF questions, ACF attempts to change in order to produce better questions. For instance, see the six-line hard cap ACF instituted for ACF Fall after hearing feedback that ACF Fall 2006's tossups were much too long. However, NAQT does not take responsibility that every question it produces meets a standard of quality; the TV and speedcheck sets, for one, mean that NAQT intentionally produces a large number of objectively bad questions in order to make money. Not only that, but NAQT seems content to let the good circuit writers produce good questions, rather than taking responsibility for producing them itself. That attitude, which suggests that NAQT does not need to understand good quizbowl or take steps to produce better questions, is exactly why I am not working for NAQT, and will not be until they decide to take responsibility to produce exclusively good questions. NAQT has the right to produce the kinds of questions they like; however, they do not have the right to expect the circuit to fix their question-writing problems.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 4:23 pm

Instead of composing a brief follow-up to Seth's post, I'll instead compose a brief response to Jonathan's intervening post. Jonathan makes a couple of absolute assertions (e.g. that NAQT's lower-level sets "are not good by any definition") which strike me as intemperate, for reasons outlined in my previous post. However, I want to focus on the concept of "responsibility" as Jonathan expounds it, as that seems central to his difficulties with NAQT as an organization.

Jonathan posits that a chief difference between NAQT and ACF is that the latter is great at being "responsible" for producing "good" questions, while the former is relatively lousy at doing the same thing. I'm going to set aside the fact that Jonathan tends to reify these organizations, as if they were two monolithic entities rather than coalitions of people who are individually more or less "responsible" in the way Jonathan describes. I want instead to make a larger point.

ACF historically has appealed to a small cadre of self-selected elite members of the quizbowl world. Because of this, ACF is a relatively homogenous community, which makes "being responsible" a rather straightforward notion for ACF-types. The relevant community to which one has to be responsible is essentially "active ACF-identified posters on this board." And most members of that community broadly agree on the appropriate criteria for judging quizbowl quality. One can imagine how much harder it would be for ACF people to be "responsible" by postulating a world in which the ACF community was fractured into people who think the current ACF distribution is ideal, and those who think that it grossly overstates the importance of literature in relation to RMP or the fine arts. One could also imagine a world in which the ACF community was bitterly split between people who thought that questions had to be of the length and difficulty of ACF Nats '05 in order to distinguish a true champion, and people who think that questions of the length and difficulty of ACF Fall are completely adequate to that task. Fortunately for ACF, such lines of dispute don't happen to exist: people in the world of ACF, by and large, are in agreement about such things. I am arguing that it is because of this general consensus over criteria in its target audience that ACF is able to enjoy what Jonathan calls "responsibility."

By contrast, NAQT (both by its own choice and by the way the quizbowl world works) has a much more heterogenous audience, and because of that heterogeneity, it doesn't reap the benefits of total consensus about the proper criteria by which to judge its questions. And while close to 100% of the ACF community consists of "people who are also represented on this forum," a much smaller percentage of NAQT's audience is present here. I think it's true that NAQT doesn't respond to each and every criticism levelled against it on this board in the same way that other quizbowl entities do; but I think it's far from clear, on the basis of that fact alone, that NAQT is "unresponsible" to its audience as a whole.

My own take on the salient difference between NAQT and ACF is that ACF has historically been very "responsible" to the preferences of elite players, and more or less unresponsive to the needs of the non-elite, whereas NAQT has been comparatively responsible to the preferences of non-elite players, and more or less unresponsive to the needs of the elite. I don't say this invidiously -- surely I've played a huge part in ACF's passive disregard of non-elite players in the past. And I'd like to think that both organizations are moving toward being more responsible to the needs of players at all levels. But it seems dubious to define "responsibility" as "being responsive only to that part of the market for total quizbowl which includes me and people like me," and then castigate NAQT for being "unresponsible."

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sir Thopas » Fri Dec 26, 2008 4:54 pm

Being a non-elite player (by college standards), I think it's disingenuous for you to say that ACF has spent the last few years catering only to the Browns and Chicagos out there. Jonathan cited the very example of a cap on Fall question length when newer players were complaining, and I have personally found that such tournaments are great in becoming acquainted with the college canon. The tournaments are eminently accessible (barely any crazy bonus parts in this year's Fall), and the emergence of ACF Winter this year—a tournament of reasonable difficulty to which, ideally, we may send two teams—further emphasizes to me that ACF is committed to the growth of quizbowl at all levels in playing and writing skills. As I outlined in my initial post, I'm not convinced that NAQT—on a broader, organizational level, not individuals like you and Seth—is committed to growing the circuit as a whole, rather than itself, possibly at a detriment to the rest of the circuit. To me, this is a big problem and barrier that would have to be broken before writing for NAQT.

Other than that, I agree with what Jonathan said, although I'd like to continue to emphasize that I wouldn't write for NAQT unless I'd be convinced that my work would be making a difference in improving the overall question quality. I have yet to hear a response to the claim I have heard many times that NAQT takes quantity of writers into account more so than quality. What I mean by that is, my contributions would just lead to NAQT committing itself to more speed and TV tournaments and pushing the bad writing there, instead of writing the same amount but pushing some of the bad material out with mine.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by magin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 4:55 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Jonathan posits that a chief difference between NAQT and ACF is that the latter is great at being "responsible" for producing "good" questions, while the former is relatively lousy at doing the same thing. I'm going to set aside the fact that Jonathan tends to reify these organizations, as if they were two monolithic entities rather than coalitions of people who are individually more or less "responsible" in the way Jonathan describes. I want instead to make a larger point.
I don't think NAQT and ACF are monolithic entities; however, I do believe that every member of ACF believes in producing good questions, while many members of NAQT do not, as shown by their actions.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:ACF historically has appealed to a small cadre of self-selected elite members of the quizbowl world. Because of this, ACF is a relatively homogenous community, which makes "being responsible" a rather straightforward notion for ACF-types. The relevant community to which one has to be responsible is essentially "active ACF-identified posters on this board." And most members of that community broadly agree on the appropriate criteria for judging quizbowl quality. One can imagine how much harder it would be for ACF people to be "responsible" by postulating a world in which the ACF community was fractured into people who think the current ACF distribution is ideal, and those who think that it grossly overstates the importance of literature in relation to RMP or the fine arts. One could also imagine a world in which the ACF community was bitterly split between people who thought that questions had to be of the length and difficulty of ACF Nats '05 in order to distinguish a true champion, and people who think that questions of the length and difficulty of ACF Fall are completely adequate to that task. Fortunately for ACF, such lines of dispute don't happen to exist: people in the world of ACF, by and large, are in agreement about such things. I am arguing that it is because of this general consensus over criteria in its target audience that ACF is able to enjoy what Jonathan calls "responsibility."
I think, whatever historical audience ACF has had, the point is to consider both the "ideal" and "practical" audiences of both organizations. For ACF, our ideal audience is anyone who enjoys questions that are interesting, that reward knowledge before guessing, that reward primarily academic knowledge over general knowledge or pop culture, and that are of an appropriate difficulty. As is so happens, a large part of our practical audience has the same goals as our ideal audience. Furthermore, I think that our attempts to produce tournaments like the most recent ACF Fall demonstrate that we are not interested in being the medium for "a small cadre of self-selected elite members of the quizbowl world, but for everyone who considers themselves a part of our ideal audience. Not only that, but the lack of fragmentation of ACF's practical audience suggests that ACF is responding to criticism and attempting to produce what players want. There is no dedicated faction arguing for much fewer literature questions, or questions in line with the 05 Nationals; ACF Nationals is now much more accessible than it was in 2005 precisely because ACF has been prompt to adapt to public criticism without compromising any of the principles of its "ideal" audience.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:By contrast, NAQT (both by its own choice and by the way the quizbowl world works) has a much more heterogenous audience, and because of that heterogeneity, it doesn't reap the benefits of total consensus about the proper criteria by which to judge its questions. And while close to 100% of the ACF community consists of "people who are also represented on this forum," a much smaller percentage of NAQT's audience is present here. I think it's true that NAQT doesn't respond to each and every criticism levelled against it on this board in the same way that other quizbowl entities do; but I think it's far from clear, on the basis of that fact alone, that NAQT is "unresponsible" to its audience as a whole.
To my mind, because NAQT's "ideal" audience is different than ACF's, their "practical" audience is therefore different as well. However, I think that NAQT's "ideal" audience has fundamental differences than ACF's "ideal" audience (which is perhaps an issue for another thread).
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:My own take on the salient difference between NAQT and ACF is that ACF has historically been very "responsible" to the preferences of elite players, and more or less unresponsive to the needs of the non-elite, whereas NAQT has been comparatively responsible to the preferences of non-elite players, and more or less unresponsive to the needs of the elite. I don't say this invidiously -- surely I've played a huge part in ACF's passive disregard of non-elite players in the past. And I'd like to think that both organizations are moving toward being more responsible to the needs of players at all levels. But it seems dubious to define "responsibility" as "being responsive only to that part of the market for total quizbowl which includes me and people like me," and then castigate NAQT for being "unresponsible."

Andrew
I think you're misunderstanding my position. In my opinion, ACF has been very responsible to its ideal audience, which happens to coincide with much of its practical audience. I don't think ACF is just for "the preferences of elite players," I think that's it's for everyone who self-identifies as a member of ACF's ideal audience. NAQT has been responsible to its ideal audience, which happens to conflict with the preferences of many members of its practical audience. Furthermore, I think you're positing an audience ("non-elite players" (which I think is insulting to a large percentage of the circuit), or people who like NAQT the way it is, or NAQT's ideal audience) whose preferences cannot be ascertained, precisely because they have not spoken up publicly on any quizbowl forum. If you believe in the public sphere (and I do), ACF has been responsible to members of the public sphere, while NAQT has not. I don't think that NAQT's ideal audience should include people who do not enjoy academic quizbowl, but I think NAQT's questions have shown that such players are part of their ideal audience. I think that's bad for quizbowl.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by cdcarter » Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:12 pm

I think Sarah hit the mark perfectly here, at least for me. NAQT has ignored complaints about their products many times with the simple quote of "we don't need your money." I am not on an elite team, and I am not an elite player, but I like good quizbowl a lot. I don't care about whether or not working for NAQT will allow me individually to change quality or whatever. I just don't want to write, or work for any company that doesn't respect my views. Simple as that. I think if NAQT opened their organization up more, specifically as to how decisions are made and took our complaints and actually debated them out with the complainers, I think they would get a lot more qualified writers.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by STPickrell » Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:13 pm

I'm in somewhat of a rush, so I fear I've left a Mack-truck sized logical hole in this post.

One post Guy made deserves a response: "I have yet to hear a response to the claim I have heard many times that NAQT takes quantity of writers into account more so than quality."

I will say from my own experience (going back 12+ years even): Better average questions than no questions. When you have several tournaments' worth of questions to write, a plodder that can produce 1,500 average questions a year (and write 60-70 questions over a weekend on request) may well be a more valuable asset than a stud that produces 100 excellent questions a year (or even 500-600 good questions).

I will say it takes me 5 minutes to write a 3-line MSHSAA tossup, 10 minutes to write a 5-line VHSL tossup, and 20 minutes to write an 8-line PACE tossup (the year I wrote for PACE). Length alone is not the sole factor in making questions good, but researching extra clues does take time, as does positioning them in a question.

If enough studs began writing for NAQT, they could be assigned to IS/HSNCT/college sets while the plodders wrote the speedcheck/A sets -- the latter are, as Andrew says, superior to the competition although probably inferior to what HSAPQ puts out. Like it or not, the speedcheck TV sets probably pay the bills.

My own experience:
I directed what was quite possibly the second-largest producer of attempted pyramidal questions in the country. In 2007-08, I wrote 55 MSHSAA-format matches, and 68 VHSL-format matches.

Family committments have led me to reduce what I write. I am hoping to have HSAPQ take over VHSL series question writing -- if that doesn't happen then I hope to form a new VHSL writing consortium. I will say HSAPQ is the first effort to produce massive (i.e. multiple tournaments' worth) amounts of questions up to modern standards.

Seth's issues about customer satisfaction, business maintenance, hours spent in infrastructure building, etc., also hold true. Also, there are (1) what I have heard about writers not writing questions and (2) the relative non-response to my posts in past years advertising writing opportunities for VHSL and MSHSAA series matches (granted I made those posts in 2005 and 2006.)

It appears the demand for good quizbowl is such that products such as my own and NAQT's are regarded as subpar; in 2002, they were seen as a 'fresh breeze.' This is only progress for the game.
Shawn Pickrell, HSAPQ CFO

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:23 pm

cdcarter wrote:NAQT has ignored complaints about their products many times with the simple quote of "we don't need your money."
Depends on what the complaint is... the most recent such event I recall centered on the complaint of "A-series questions are full of leadin buzzer races." Which may indeed be a good sign that an individual player or team has moved beyond the intended (inexperienced) audience for these questions, the easiest that NAQT produces.
cdcarter wrote: I think if NAQT opened their organization up more, specifically as to how decisions are made and took our complaints and actually debated them out with the complainers, I think they would get a lot more qualified writers.
I hope R. will have more to say about how the highest level of NAQT works. In the meantime: if anyone wishes to debate any aspect of the history questions produced by NAQT in 2007-2008, please feel free to use this board and I will be happy to talk with you.

I agree with Jonathan's notion of the public sphere; but I would also indicate that NAQT's audience (far more than ACF's) extends to inexperienced teams who do not participate in a public sphere as relates to quizbowl. NAQT policy, especially for our lower levels of difficulty, must balance opinions expressed by our customers on this board and opinions expressed by our customers elsewhere.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:53 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
cdcarter wrote:NAQT has ignored complaints about their products many times with the simple quote of "we don't need your money."
Depends on what the complaint is... the most recent such event I recall centered on the complaint of "A-series questions are full of leadin buzzer races." Which may indeed be a good sign that an individual player or team has moved beyond the intended (inexperienced) audience for these questions, the easiest that NAQT produces.
Though further discussion of this makes more sense in the A-series thread going on right now (and I'd gladly join you there), tournaments running on NAQT questions don't have total control over whether they get to run on an A-series or an IS set because of geographic exclusivity, etc., and A-series are half of the sets produced in a given year (which seems odd--wouldn't it make sense to have predominantly regular sets, plus an intro set or two and a nationals prep set or two, rather than an even split between the easiest stuff you produce and the regular stuff?), so often teams with some experience have little choice but to play an A-set.
Andrew Watkins

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