High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Caesar Rodney HS wrote: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.
There are two reasons that they are in place:

1. NAQT believes that better differentiation is obtained by hearing more questions (or playing more games) at NAQT's current question length versus hearing longer questions.

2. NAQT believes that a majority of players would find additional length to be disproportionately frustrating since the additional text would almost exclusively be clues they didn't know (and, in many cases, wouldn't understand).

It doesn't now have, and to the best of my knowledge never has had, anything to do with whether or not tournaments are timed. NAQT certainly understands that very few of the tournaments run with its questions are timed.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Sir Thopas wrote: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.
I think I may be misunderstanding you, so let me attempt to rephrase this to see if I am:

If NAQT were to commit to a production schedule that included no more questions than this year's, that would make you (or other people reading this thread) much more likely to sign up as a writer? Would that be sufficient in and of itself to get you to sign up as a writer?

Mind you, I don't think it's very likely that we would make such a commitment, but I find the notion interesting.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

OctagonJoe wrote: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).
I think you are overstating the magnitude of this issue.

Looking at NAQT's frequency lists makes it clear that there is a relatively well defined canon from which we draw our answers. In fact, we've been criticized in the past for "going to the same well" too often for some teams' tastes. I don't have access to similar lists for non-NAQT high school quiz bowl, but I suspect there would not be enormous divergences.

I'm willing to entertain (and even grant) some criticisms of our writers and editors, but the idea that they are ignorant of, or are willfully ignoring, a clear and objective canon of answers is, I think, totally mistaken. Certainly Great Expectations is a title that can be reliably expected to come up in NAQT packets.

What are some titles that you believe are in the high school canon that NAQT doesn't ask about?

That said, I understand that your point was not that we *don't* ask about Great Expectations, but that we might lead a Great Expectations tossup with a non-literature (perhaps even a non-academic) clue. It's certainly possible that we might do so, but to suggest that that's the majority case or even common is, in my eyes, inaccurate. I would guess that 95% of our academic questions start with significant facts about the answer that fairly reward teams with deep, relevant knowledge; I think it's very rare in our current packets to lead academic questions--filling academic quotas--with non-academic clues. I admit that it was more common years ago; this is one way in which I think we've changed in response to feedback from top teams (and, for what it's worth, by getting more people involved).

We do frequently use cross-subject or even non-academic clues as *giveaways* in academic questions, but only after giving the best academic giveaway we can. We craft our lead-ins for the top teams, and we craft our giveaways for the weak teams. If you're on a top team, you shouldn't ever be hearing a giveaway like ". . . name this country with capital Vienna" with both teams still on the buzzer.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

la2pgh wrote: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".
Let's talk numbers; what distribution for sports, popular culture, math, geography, and current events would you like to see?
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,
Can this discussion be brought above the level of "I think geography is important/I think it's not important"? What objective criteria would you like to see NAQT employ to determine its distribution?

In principle, I don't think we have an objection to the idea that we should be asking questions about things people care about; if we can get a better consensus on what our distribution should be, I think we would give it very strong consideration.
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.
First line giveaways appear with an alarming frequency.
Can you e-mail me some examples of these ([email protected])? I have some doubts that this is common; are you suggesting that if we look at tossup conversion statistics we'll see a large number of questions that have a power rate of over 85%? I'm willing to check into it, but I really doubt this is occurring.
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.
Can you e-mail me those answers?

That said . . . I have to admit that in a set that is intended to fairly differentiate between top ten high school teams having 2 answers (out of 360 tossups answers) that are harder than the average tossup answer at an introductory college tournament just doesn't sound problematic to me. At the risk of sounding complacent, why is this such a big deal?

On the other hand, you clearly don't like tossups that go unanswered (nor do we), but that's one of the major reasons that there are comparatively few fine arts and social science questions in our packets. High school teams tend to find those categories difficult, and conversion is low. If we increased those quotas we'd end up asking about harder things . . . which they would't know either.
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.
What could NAQT do to convince you of this? Some of our writers and editors have posted in this thread indicating that they believe they have "done something"; what do you need beyond their testimonials?
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.
Suppose that you were an excellent writer; what do you think would be the wisest manner in which NAQT could make use of your time? We could use more hands in just about every endeavor; our recent agreement with Seth Teitler to do nothing but edit our DI SCT is an example of somebody getting involved to fix one specific instance about which they felt strongly.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas »

rhentzel wrote:Sports and popular culture together are only 7%.
This is still entirely too much. Sports are groan-inducing for my team and many others- to be at a key point in a game and have a sports tossup come up is not fair. Do you reccomend we study sports, in addition to literature? Should I begin watching Lost, or Fringe, or whatever is used in a tossup?
Obviously, you're not going to tell me to watch sports along with studying history, or reading literature. So why is it this important?
It seems like there was 1 sports tossup per game in the A set I recently played. Pop culture also should not be this high- and most of my powers from the A Set tournament came from Trash.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by grapesmoker »

rhentzel wrote:But there are drawbacks to longer questions: they take more time to read (so games have fewer questions or a tournament has fewer games), they take more time to write, they take more time to edit, and there is a threshold for the number of clues through which any player can sit without becoming frustrated at not knowing them.
Without getting into everything else, I'd just like to point out that most of this statement is incorrect. The difference in time required to read these questions is relatively small. In some extreme circumstances I can imagine another line of tossup material adding 15 minutes to someone's tournament day. These questions require no more time to edit or write than short ones, since clues are typically abundant and the real problem is clue placement and knowing what to leave out, which is true for all questions. Finally, the idea that players are some kind of ADD-addled children who simply could not hold still for another 5 seconds of tossup material is insulting to the players and also completely false, as attendance at ACF Fall this year should have demonstrated.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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rhentzel wrote:Let's talk numbers; what distribution for sports, popular culture, math, geography, and current events would you like to see?
Personally, I would like for the sum of sports+popular culture+other related things to be closer to 5%, where other related things includes general knowledge questions that don't fit into academic categories (such as chopsticks, but not necessarily all interdisciplinary questions), children's and geek lit, and anything else that wouldn't fit a common conception of academic (which I realize is a gray line). I realize that this probably would cause conversion rates to go down a little bit, especially if some of that content was replaced with fine arts, but I would still be in favor of it.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Anti-Climacus wrote:NAQT's problem seems to be that it writes for teams that want to do well without effort,
I think that I understand where you are coming from, but I think a more accurate statement would be that NAQT wants teams to have fun even if they aren't committed to, say, practicing four hours a week or attending a dozen tournaments a year. We want teams to feel that their first tournament was fun and educational so that they desire to come to a second.

We also feel that the "effort" players have put into their normal classwork, out-of-class reading, hobbies, and otherwise learning things--even if not specifically as quiz bowl practice--counts as effort that it is reasonable to reward.

This means that we want all teams to convert some bonus points, to recognize answers (even if they don't get them right), to get some tossups, hopefully power something they know well, to care about the answers, to have a chance to win at least some of their games, and not to leave with a 50 PPG average. Some of this is beyond our control as it depends on the teams that attend a tournament and the tournament format, but we are committed to writing questions that are accessible to casual teams. Do we expect and/or want those casual teams to upset a top ten team more more than once in a blue moon? No, but we want them to consider quiz bowl as an activity that is worth pursuing.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

everyday847 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.
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.
I don't have a lot to say in direct response to this (really, all of my responses in this thread address different parts of the issue it in one way or another), but I did want to point out that NAQT is not oblivious to the fact that this currently is a major problem and one that is getting worse. At the risk of sound self-aggrandizing, this is certainly something that has been talked about "at the highest levels" and that we consider one of the highest priorities facing NAQT.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Sir Thopas wrote: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.
I disagree with that view of canonicity. Its certainly true that current events questions don't have a canon in the sense that, say, American literature does, but that doesn't mean that it's impossible (or even implausible) that good teams can't improve their conversion on them by worthwhile measures.

NAQT takes the subject matter for its current events questions from widely available, national-scope sources; a player interested in improving could certainly read such sources and relatively easily anticipate the sorts of things we'll ask by what's been in the news. If we're thinking about the same question, I think it's entirely fair to expect that players, whatever their location or faith, could have seen the answers as plausible, and significant, figures in modern American culture.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Tower Monarch wrote: I don't know much about the internal workings of NAQT with respect to editing practices, but this sounds like a testimony for having experienced editors write these questions instead of wasting the apparent time consumed through editing "even more unacceptable" submissions. Would that not also cut the costs of paying some of these less-than-adequate writers??
You're touching on editing policies that I consider above my pay grade (I'm an NAQT member, but don't generally take a big part in administrative discussions) but I don't mind defending it briefly.

By working to "clean up" the submissions of newer writers and/or pointing out to them some of the weaknesses in their questions, we're hoping to mold them into better writers, even if it means extra work up front. I've seen writers improve dramatically as they produce material for NAQT, and it's rewarding. New writers accepted by NAQT aren't necessarily "less than adequate" (I believe we reject the vast majority of applicants who want to write for us) but many produce the occasional less-than-adequate question, usually because they haven't given enough thought to some fairly fine point of composition. "Hmm, naming this Andersen work rather than another in the second sentence makes clear too early that he's Scandinavian." Or whatever.

I know that there are many circuit writers who have already mastered these subtleties, and it's a pleasure (not to mention much faster!) to edit their work when some choose to write for NAQT. I wish more of them wrote for us, which is one reason why I'm taking part in this thread.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Shcool wrote: Just to add one more bit of constructive criticism to what I said that both of us alluded to but that I want to make very explicit--the key to literature questions is literary clues. The Kafka question above is not the worst question in the world by any measure, but it misses a great, and I think obvious, opportunity to throw in a couple of summaries of Kafka works. The same problem exists with the Hans Christian Andersen tossup. We don't need a ton of HCA tossups, but a few are OK. However, I think any good tossup on him is going to begin with references to plots.

Some of what I'm stating is the result of changing standards. I just looked up a Kafka question I wrote in 2002, and it starts out, "He had a domineering father and very rocky relationships with women, both of which came out in his writing." An Andersen question I wrote in 2003 starts out, "Who completed a collection in 1840 titled A Picture-Book Without Pictures?" Here I am now telling you to do better than I have done, which is of course hypocritical. However, this is one change I have worked on as a writer, and it is something that hopefully both of us will improve at. I am not saying that none of your questions do this--I am saying that more of your questions should do this.
Agreed 100%. I notice the same dichotomy when I look at NAQT questions from just five years ago; there's been a sea change in quiz bowl question quality, and it's lifted all boats.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Ken Jennings »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: If there's a tradeoff between a strict length limit and the quality of a tossup, why not ease up on the length limit a little?
I wasn't referring to that particular compromise, as there are plenty of others in question composition. Can I shoehorn in this awesome (but not so closely related) clue, or will it disturb the flow of the question? Will this sentence read too awkwardly if I recast it to put the harder clue last? In general, how do I balance my preference for an accepted "canon" with the occasional novel answer choice? Etc.

That said, length limits are a subject of ongoing discussion behind the scenes at NAQT, and I'm sure that'll continue. In general, I think we all like the freedom and depth that come with longer tossups...as well as the efficient-running tournaments that come with the current limits.
We're not trying to trap you. We just have the sinking feeling that your image of a good tossup doesn't line up with ours, and we want to iron out why.
Uh, yes. That's mostly what I meant by "trap."
Also its "Dance Dance Dance".
But touche there!
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Since the literature criticisms thread got merged back in here, I want to take on something about the distribution - Ken, why do you seem to think it is acceptable for "geek lit" as you put it to be counted as part of the literature distribution. Even if there are some borderline cases as to what is trashy vs. serious lit, I don't think there's even a remote question that a tossup on Robert Jordan the author is anything but pop culture. Why are you not kicking back these questions, along with the questions on Harry Potter that made it into the HSNCT final and were classified as part of the literature distribution, and undoubtedly even more that I don't have the resources to name because I don't have access to any NAQT database?
Brian and Jeff have already addressed this, and might have more to say later. As I understand it, the current NAQT distribution allots a slightly larger quota to lit than it would otherwise, with the understanding that a small percentage of those questions will be less academic in nature. (Robert Jordan tossups are an easy bogeyman, but there's clearly a continuum here. Is HG Wells always pop culture because he wrote genre lit? What about Alice in Wonderland, Poe's Dupin stories, Graham Greene's spy "entertainments," etc.?) Yes, we could have allocated some or all of this continuum under pop culture instead of lit, but it was thought that the literature subject editor might be the right one to handle such submissions. (Evidently not true in the case of the poorly edited Robert Jordan question above!)

Currently it's the responsibility of set editors to ensure that NAQT sets contain a very small minority of non-academic questions, that they don't clump together in packets, etc. But R. and I are tweaking the current lit distribution to formalize those rules, and to make sure they're observed automatically in our set creation going forward. NAQT does still believe that there's a place for a small number of non-academic lit questions, but hopefully there'll be fewer glitches in how they're deployed in future.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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But aren't such marginal cases precisely what things like general knowledge, other, or interdisciplinary distributions are for?

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Ken Jennings wrote:Uh, yes. That's mostly what I meant by "trap."
In some circles, this is known as "discussion." The implication of using a word like "trap" is that you would rather not be "trapped" into discussing this topic.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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Captain Scipio wrote:But aren't such marginal cases precisely what things like general knowledge, other, or interdisciplinary distributions are for?
Is this in reference to a continuum of academic vs. nonacademic lit, above? No, I don't believe a "Murders in the Rue Morgue" or The Time Machine tossup should apply to NAQT's small quota of general-knowledge or interdisciplinary question, not when a small percentage of our lit distribution is already specifically earmarked for more "popular" lit (and, as I've said, that should be more formalized going forward).
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Ken Jennings »

grapesmoker wrote: In some circles, this is known as "discussion." The implication of using a word like "trap" is that you would rather not be "trapped" into discussing this topic.
If I didn't want to be trapped into discussing the topic of tossup composition, I probably wouldn't have written Jonathan a three-paragraph reply describing my general philosophy toward tossup composition.

But his follow-up request, for a small number of self-written questions that he can somehow take to represent my entire editing output, strikes me as problematic. I don't think any two or three questions I've written in the past, no matter how carefully chosen, could sum up ten years of subject editing for NAQT. "Discussion" would also imply a two-way exchange that I doubt you or Jonathan are envisioning.

But all this is moot because, as I said above, I'm perfectly willing to humor the request, whether or not it strikes me as completely fair, when I'm back home with my files.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

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NAQT takes the subject matter for its current events questions from widely available, national-scope sources; a player interested in improving could certainly read such sources and relatively easily anticipate the sorts of things we'll ask by what's been in the news. If we're thinking about the same question, I think it's entirely fair to expect that players, whatever their location or faith, could have seen the answers as plausible, and significant, figures in modern American culture.
In that case, I would very much like it if the question were posted once all the tournaments run on the set it came from are finished, so we all can see this for ourselves.
As I understand it, the current NAQT distribution allots a slightly larger quota to lit than it would otherwise, with the understanding that a small percentage of those questions will be less academic in nature.
Well, close this loophole. I feel that we would all be happier with 5 lit tossups instead of 6 if that meant that all the lit tossups were legitimate academic tossups. For me, "Classic" children's lit is still not real lit-the only grey area would be a small amount of genre lit that has a claim to significance and stuff like Gulliver's Travels.
But his follow-up request, for a small number of self-written questions that he can somehow take to represent my entire editing output, strikes me as problematic. I don't think any two or three questions I've written in the past, no matter how carefully chosen, could sum up ten years of subject editing for NAQT. "Discussion" would also imply a two-way exchange that I doubt you or Jonathan are envisioning.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by grapesmoker »

Ken Jennings wrote:"Discussion" would also imply a two-way exchange that I doubt you or Jonathan are envisioning.
I guess when you can read our minds, discussion really is a moot point.

edit: I think, by the way, that it's quite telling that when asked to provide some specific examples of questions for the purposes of discussion, you deign to do so only to humor us but you would like us all to note that you don't consider it "fair" to ask of you. I fail to see how anyone can actually make a judgment about someone's question-writing abilities without seeing, you know, the questions themselves, but I guess that's probably one of those things you learn in the NAQT inner circle.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by magin »

Ken, I'm not trying to "trap" you at all; however, I can only evaluate a writer/editor by the questions he or she produces. If you think such a request is unreasonable, please explain why; I specifically asked you, instead of the editors of ACF Fall, because I've seen many questions produced by those editors, and very few which I know to be yours. Thus, I want you to have the opportunity to post examples of questions you've written so they can receive accolades and raspberries, respectively, and enable us all to learn something and have a productive discussion.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

grapesmoker wrote: I guess when you can read our minds, discussion really is a moot point.

edit: I think, by the way, that it's quite telling that when asked to provide some specific examples of questions for the purposes of discussion, you deign to do so only to humor us but you would like us all to note that you don't consider it "fair" to ask of you. I fail to see how anyone can actually make a judgment about someone's question-writing abilities without seeing, you know, the questions themselves, but I guess that's probably one of those things you learn in the NAQT inner circle.
How is this kind of exchange supposed to yield productive debate? I guess you can point fingers at Ken and say "He started it by using the word 'trap,'" but the venom of this ancillary discussion is certainly seeming to confirm what I take to be Ken's concerns. (I.e. that people weren't really looking to have an open discussion with him, but were hoping to pounce on one of his statements as "evidence" that their pre-conceived notions about the cluelessness of NAQT editors were justified.)

I assume that people, in general, think it would be a good thing if more NAQT members were active participants in the discussions on this forum. I don't see how jumping all over stray remarks like this one (especially in the context of what strikes me as a rather thoughtful response, on Ken's part, to questions about his question writing philosophy) is meant to be helpful.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure »

The interesting question, to my mind, is what criteria does one apply to determine when questions are "long enough"? And this seems like an empirical question: they should be long enough that a packet fairly distinguishes between teams and long enough to include interesting clues. But once those ends have been achieved, I don't understand why they should be made any longer.
Well, this is why the ACF guidelines have a 6-line cap on questions. The contention of many on this board, and which I am sympathetic to, is that tossups are not, in fact, long enough to distinguish between good teams and/or include interesting clues.
With respect to the Ken Jennings question issue, I think it is entirely reasonable that the readers of this board have some indication of his work as a writer/editor, since the work of most editors/writers is public knowledge.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Sir Thopas wrote: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.
If offered a choice, today, between somebody who produced 100 good questions per year and somebody who produced 200 mediocre questions per year, I'd take the former in a heartbeat.
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.
I can't pledge to not seek out (or accept) new customers, but I can assure you that NAQT is not sitting here with a business model that says, "As soon as we sign up some more people to write regular IS questions, we're going to go out and take TV contracts X, Y, and Z that involve writing the same number of questions." And, beyond just sitting here not plotting to do that, as a practical matter, as NAQT's head of production for nearly seven years, I don't think it's very likely that that would happen.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by grapesmoker »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I assume that people, in general, think it would be a good thing if more NAQT members were active participants in the discussions on this forum. I don't see how jumping all over stray remarks like this one (especially in the context of what strikes me as a rather thoughtful response, on Ken's part, to questions about his question writing philosophy) is meant to be helpful.
So let me get this straight: Ken Jennings can come in here, post about his and presumably NAQT's question writing philosophy, blow off any requests for actual examples as an attempted trap, and then condescendingly deign to provide some while noting that he doesn't think this is a fair thing to ask, and I am the one who is out of line? My two slightly snarky posts (you can't seriously even call that vitriol) are a problem but reams of evasive nonsense from an editor are not? I cannot seriously believe we are now at the point where civil requests for additional information are being interpreted as traps or the "you raised your voice therefore you have now poisoned the quizbowl discussion well forever" arguments are being trotted out. If NAQT editors are seriously offended by this, I can only assume it's because they are petulant children who are not actually interested in discussing anything, given the lengths they go to to avoid saying anything substantive and bicker over word choices. I sure hope no one's fragile feelings were harmed in the making of this post! I would hate to think that a few sentences on my part could do more to kill an actual discussion than NAQT editors' refusal to actually discuss things.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

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.
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.
As to how decisions are made, they basically start with some sort of spark, either a direct complaint from a participant in a tournament or an NAQT writer, editor, or member thinking that something isn't working right.

The members discuss the issue, asking for input from writers, editors, players, or coaches as seems appropriate. In some cases, usually when the question impacts our core set of quiz bowl values, we make a decision right then. If it seems to depend on empirical evidence ("X, Y, both, or neither bonuses don't result in bell-shaped scoring distributions"), we try to collect sufficient data to answer it. If it seems to reflect player preferences and values ("Computation tossups are not real quiz bowl"), we'll try to design some sort of survey to capture majority opinion (and the strength of that opinion).

We gather the data and try to predict the changes in the game in terms of team participation, workload required, income/expenses, and so on.

In most cases, we end up with a unanimous decision among the membership. In some cases it goes to a vote that is taken on the basis of equity points, where equity is determined based on contributions to NAQT (weighted to favor recent years' work).

That's the decision-making process in a nutshell, but I doubt that it sounds very different from the way in which decisions are made in other non-dictatorial organizations, quiz-bowl-related or otherwise.

I'd be happy to address more specific questions about the process.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

everyday847 wrote: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.
It's true that sometimes we don't have a regular set available for teams that want them, but this is a relatively rare phenomenon. I believe it happened twice in all of 2007-2008, thrice if you count the team that chose to hold its tournament on a different date so that a set would be available.

In terms of the proper split between A-level and regular sets, it's a happy coincidence for us that the apparent demand for our sets can be (almost) happily satisfied by the 5 regular and 4 A-level sets that we produce per year. We're not wedded to this ratio; if more resources magically appeared and we could choose them to produce either another A-level set or another regular set, I suspect we'd choose to do another regular set.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Brian Ulrich »

grapesmoker wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I assume that people, in general, think it would be a good thing if more NAQT members were active participants in the discussions on this forum. I don't see how jumping all over stray remarks like this one (especially in the context of what strikes me as a rather thoughtful response, on Ken's part, to questions about his question writing philosophy) is meant to be helpful.
So let me get this straight: Ken Jennings can come in here, post about his and presumably NAQT's question writing philosophy, blow off any requests for actual examples as an attempted trap, and then condescendingly deign to provide some while noting that he doesn't think this is a fair thing to ask, and I am the one who is out of line? My two slightly snarky posts (you can't seriously even call that vitriol) are a problem but reams of evasive nonsense from an editor are not? I cannot seriously believe we are now at the point where civil requests for additional information are being interpreted as traps or the "you raised your voice therefore you have now poisoned the quizbowl discussion well forever" arguments are being trotted out. If NAQT editors are seriously offended by this, I can only assume it's because they are petulant children who are not actually interested in discussing anything, given the lengths they go to to avoid saying anything substantive and bicker over word choices. I sure hope no one's fragile feelings were harmed in the making of this post! I would hate to think that a few sentences on my part could do more to kill an actual discussion than NAQT editors' refusal to actually discuss things.
This is the second time someone in this thread has accused one of us of evasiveness. You may feel our answers are unsatisfactory in some way, but at least give us credit for trying to answer directly.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by grapesmoker »

Brian Ulrich wrote:This is the second time someone in this thread has accused one of us of evasiveness. You may feel our answers are unsatisfactory in some way, but at least give us credit for trying to answer directly.
Jonathan Magin: Ken, please provide some examples of your questions so we can talk about question writing.
Ken Jennings: No. You are trying to trap me. Ok, maybe I will provide them, but I don't think that's a fair thing to ask.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by magin »

Yeah, I'm confused where this notion of a "trap" came from. Since I don't have a convenient source to find examples of questions written/edited by NAQT editors, I'm asking politely that they post some in order to start a discussion from which we can all learn from.

As Milton wrote, "For if we be sure we are in the right, and doe not hold the truth guiltily, which becomes not, if we our selves condemn not our own weak and frivolous teaching, and the people for an untaught and irreligious gadding rout, what can be more fair, then when a man judicious, learned, and of a conscience, for aught we know, as good as theirs that taught us what we know, shall not privily from house to house, which is more dangerous, but openly by writing publish to the world what his opinion is, what his reasons, and wherefore that which is now thought cannot be sound. Christ urg'd it as wherewith to justifie himself, that he preacht in publick; yet writing is more publick then preaching; and more easie to refutation, if need be, there being so many whose businesse and profession meerly it is, to be the champions of Truth; which if they neglect, what can be imputed but their sloth, or unability?"
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Brian Ulrich »

Brian Ulrich wrote:This is the second time someone in this thread has accused one of us of evasiveness. You may feel our answers are unsatisfactory in some way, but at least give us credit for trying to answer directly.
This post perhaps did not help matters. NAQT has not communicated effectively with the circuit as manifested in this forum, something it is aware it needs to address. This has engendered a situation in which regular posters here look suspiciously at NAQT and those of us with some connection to the organization feel like the most suspicious ones take them to lengths we simply have trouble fathoming. This, in turn, leads to a defensiveness on our part and leads to a spiral in which each party comes to see the other as unthinkingly antagonistic.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

theMoMA wrote:One of the hardest parts of moving away from NAQT for me is that I know and like R. Hentzel, and as such I suspect a lot of the nefarious things accused of NAQT are not true. But I do get the feeling that this is true: NAQT reads its quizbowl-community critics as only a small portion of the sales demographic pie. This troubles me.
Well, I won't deny that there is some truth in this. For instance:

As best as I can tell, the single-most common complaints that NAQT gets about its questions (based on the number of people expressing it in person, over the phone, or in e-mail) is that our questions are too long, too hard, and don't have enough pronunciation guides. These are *not* the complaints that we get from hsquizbowl.org; in fact, they are pretty much the opposite complaints.

The idea that the hsquizbowl.org consensus advocates the same things as a majority of NAQT's customers or a majority of the quiz bowl community (as defined by, say, everybody who competes at least once a year on NAQT questions) is simply not true. Without being facetious, I wish that it were true: It would make things a lot simpler.

That said, good/top/elite teams form a very important part of our target audience; we value their opinions and I don't think this job would be worth doing if they didn't value us.

In my opinion, we already do spend a disproportionate amount of effort on trying to produce products that appeal to the top end of the quiz bowl audience; we devote more space and more clues (and thus more editing time) to the first two-thirds of our questions at any level, where the good teams will be squaring off. We spend way more time on our HSNCT set than on any TV set. And so on.

Is this enough of a difference? Well, I think that's open to debate (and may simply boil down to unprovable preferences), but I think it is absolutely not the case that NAQT doesn't care about top teams for whatever reason and wouldn't mind if they left in droves. We do care, and we would mind terribly.
I get the feeling that NAQT conflates the community with "elite players," which couldn't be further from the truth. The quizbowl community extends from the best college teams to the high school teams that come to every pyramidal tournament, lose every game, and say they had a great time even when the questions are way over their heads.
At the risk of taking literally something that may just be a rhetorical device, do you also include teams that play once a year in their local television tournament? Teams that come to one or two pyramidal tournaments a year even if they have easy access to a dozen? That is, more "casual" teams?

If you do, then I fundamentally disagree that this group of players and coaches has anything resembling a consensus on the ways in which NAQT should change to better meet their needs.
I also get the impression that NAQT always reads criticisms coming from "the community" as almost parroted from top players. In other words, I think that when Chris Carter criticizes NAQT, NAQT reads it sort of as Matt Weiner criticizing NAQT through Chris.
We don't--at least I don't--view younger players as parroting top players, but I think many of those players may be "more elite" than they think.

Chris Carter, for example, is currently the #5 scorer (out of 456 people) in the Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl League:

http://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament-in ... nt_id=2679

This nominally puts him in the 99th percentile of quiz bowl players in Minnesota. Now, probably that will fall once the second week's worth of games are recorded and he may have very little shadow effect (sorry, Chris), but I suspect he's still at the 95th percentile. To my eyes, his feedback is feedback coming from a very good, very devoted player. And, of course, it shouldn't be disregarded because of that, but it isn't a data point of feedback from the "typical" player at NAQT tournaments.
This goes back to the elite player-community member conflation; NAQT seems loathe to believe that individual players of all skill levels align themselves with community standards on their own, choosing instead to believe that they have been almost "contaminated" by interacting with elite players or reading hsquizbowl.org.
Well, it's true that we don't believe that. There's no doubt that some individual players do; I think it's also clear that those players are predominantly the better players and the players on better teams. But I don't think that most--or even many--players actually do that.

NAQT would never assert that such an alignment constituted "contamination"; after all, it's a process that all of us went through at some point in our lives. We just don't believe that it's at all a universal process and we believe that there is value in providing a form of quiz bowl that is accessible (hopefully) to the entire spectrum of players.
This hypothesis has extraordinary explanatory power over NAQT's actions and attitudes. If you view community standards as merely a construction of an elite oligarchy parroted by impressionable, "infected" people, you could easily see your mission as sufficiently placating the community so that it will buy your product, while also producing material contrary to community standards to sell to other areas. If you believe that the community will not grow beyond elite players, it makes sense not to grow it, and instead work with the idea that you're producing questions for those of all standards. I see this view as problematic, and NAQT should at least be worried. If the community is not just an echo chamber for elite players, if the community really is something that can grow, NAQT might be in trouble if it does.
Though I wouldn't phrase it in the same way, this paragraph does sound remarkably familiar to me.

As a matter of principle, NAQT is not averse to evolving with the community. If we took a comprehensive survey and found that 90% of our players hated computation questions, I'm pretty sure that we would do away with them entirely. Smaller survey majorities would probably suggest a concomitant reduction. If there were enough teams that wanted to start playing current HSNCT-level quiz bowl throughout the year and we had the resources to do it, I think we'd happily start producing "super invitational series" and kick the HSNCT itself up a notch. Certainly the HSNCT has, for instance, gotten much harder over the past decade in response to a general improvement in team ability.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Ken Jennings »

My posts here are "reams of evasive nonsense," huh? Yeah, I can't imagine why anyone would think twice about trying to engage you here, Jerry.

Jonathan, I appreciate your follow-up and clarification. I have no problem providing quiz bowl bona fides to people who seem likely to be fair-minded about them, but was a little wary about being singled out on a forum where, as Andrew points out, many regulars are likely to have pretty strong preconceptions. This is the same forum where Matt Weiner called me "a notoriously poor writer whose questions any putatively competent NAQT editor must somehow find a way to include" and Jerry's on the record as thinking I'm a "mediocre player" who has "ignored the subculture from which (I) emerged" except when I return to "advertise my celebrity to impressionable high schoolers." (Thank you, phpBB search feature!) So obviously I won't necessarily be posting on friendly ground, is allz I'm sayin.

In the hopes of getting this thread back to actual quiz bowl, here's a lit tossup of mine...not for NAQT, but just off the top of my head. (I'd probably have to squeeze it a tad for NAQT length limits, actually.) It was a 5-minute thing, but I don't see anything obvious that I'd change. Swing away.

During the climactic chase, the protagonist pauses to ponder the odd appearance of the pelicans and hornbills in a zoo, while his quarry escapes on an elephant and then a hot-air balloon. Then all the protagonists gather on thrones in a torchlit English garden, wearing robes representing the creation in Genesis: Dr. Bull as animals, the first "traitor" Gogol as waters, and the feared Secretary as light and dark. All are undercover policemen, like the title poet Gabriel Syme, in--for 10 points--what "Nightmare" novel about a septet of anarchists, by G. K. Chesterton?
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Shcool wrote:With the ICT, NAQT made an effort over the past few years to survey participants. Has something similar happened with IS Sets, A Sets, or HSNCT? If somebody wants to dismiss the overall opinions on this board as being biased towards elite teams or the East Coast, they can make that argument, but they shouldn't claim to be meeting the needs of the overall circuit unless they have made an effort to determine the needs of the overall circuit. I have no doubt that NAQT is meeting the needs of some teams, including in many ways mine, but there probably are some things it is doing that are not meeting the needs of the overall circuit, and I don't think anybody has made a substantive effort to determine exactly what those things are.
NAQT has not performed a comprehensive survey of its participants; I'll admit that our opinion of the market that we are trying to serve is built hsquizbowl.org feedback, members' observations from tournaments, ad hoc comments from participants, host reports, RFPs, and looking at the statistics from events. In total, there's a lot of data, but it's not very well organized and it's difficult to say, for certain, that any particular viewpoint is indisputably a majority one.

We have done some surveys about the HSNCT, but the response rate was really low; too low, in fact, for us to have statistical confidence in the results.

Starting to gather such data is actually one of our higher administrative priorities.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Ken Jennings »

Jonathan Magin: Ken, please provide some examples of your questions so we can talk about question writing.
Ken Jennings: No. You are trying to trap me. Ok, maybe I will provide them, but I don't think that's a fair thing to ask.
More like:
Ken Jennings: Yes, as soon as I can, though I worry that doing so in this (sometimes unfriendly) forum may be a no-win situation for me.

But I do agree with Jonathan's "sunlight is the best disinfectant" sentiment, especially as phrased (much more prettily) by Milton.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

theMoMA wrote:I have long believed that spreading quizbowl is more than replacing bad questions with good; it's about bringing new voices into community discussions, mentoring new writers and editors, and ensuring the future of the game.
I think every NAQT member would agree with these sentiments.
NAQT is reluctant to engage in discussion about its distribution,
Well, that's probably true. From NAQT's point of view, the question of distribution is almost entirely one of collective preferences which can't really be objectively determined.

Why should engineering be more-or-less ignored in quiz bowl? Why isn't current events knowledge considered of paramount importance to as to educate people toward doing their civic duty? Why is mythology ultra-important is quiz bowl? Why isn't classic film considered the equal of classic literature is quiz bowl? Why isn't math considered equal to all the rest of the sciences given that most high school curricula are structured that way? I don't believe there are objective answers to these questions; I think that the proper answer of what we should be asking questions about boils down, largely, to the question of what players (or, to stretch things a little, potential players) want to hear questions about.

NAQT has no problem doing surveys on its distribution with the intent of capturing the majority view; on the other hand, collecting individual bits of feedback ("Geography is neither academic nor important") is not viewed by us as nearly as valuable.

My point is not that I think we are fundamentally unable to admit that our distribution may not be perfect, but that discussions with a comparatively small number of people in one forum are unlikely to provide us with evidence that we find sufficiently compelling to make a change.
NAQT instead chooses to label community discussions "elitist" and implies that adopting community principles would cause it to lose business among those who choose not to discuss. These actions speak to one conclusion: NAQT would rather attempt to please those not in the community than grow the community itself.
I've certainly used the word "elite" in the past while trying to explain NAQT's decisions, but I'm not trying to use it in a way that's insulting to either those I include or those I don't. I'm trying to convey "the way the world appears to NAQT" in terms of the conflicting feedback it gets about what constitutes fun (or even educational) quiz bowl and to suggest that one of the most easily identifiable subgroups is players that are both (1) very good and (2) very active on hsquizbowl.org.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas »

I can see the usefulness of trash in A sets- something pop culture comes up, a new player gets it, says, "Hey, I knew that. This quizbowl thing is pretty cool." That says, I would agree with Mr. Reinstein's proposal of a 5% distribution of sports/pop culture- certainly a step in the right direction, though ideally it would be one tossup per maybe 2 games, which I think would certainly be enough for new players to recognize and enjoy without aggravating more experienced players with their prevalence. This comes to around 4%. But 5 is fine by me.
Here are the numbers you requested, Mr. Hentzel; what do you think?
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Ike wrote:Someone (I think Reinstein,) said something about R. Hentzel saying "our format of quizbowl is better than most local formats, and to keep that up." While many may interpret that as a capitalistic viewpoint, I think its a right viewpoint to have no matter what way you cut the cake, but I also wish R. Hentzel would talk to coaches saying that if you're team desires something more out of quizbowl "this is the way to go."
I think that if you asked around Minnesota coaches, you'd find that I do, in fact, often say things like this.
I didn't very much appreciate R.'s earlier comment about challenging other people to start up another company because "we believe in capitalism" (-its not exactly those words, but something that gets that point across.) Because I think whether we have bad intentions, most people do not want to see NAQT driven out of business.
I apologize if you found that comment insulting; I certainly didn't mean it that way. If you'd like me to explain the thoughts behind it more fully, I'd be happy to do so.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Alvin6226 »

Johannes Climacus wrote:I can see the usefulness of trash in A sets- something pop culture comes up, a new player gets it, says, "Hey, I knew that. This quizbowl thing is pretty cool." That says, I would agree with Mr. Reinstein's proposal of a 5% distribution of sports/pop culture- certainly a step in the right direction, though ideally it would be one tossup per maybe 2 games, which I think would certainly be enough for new players to recognize and enjoy without aggravating more experienced players with their prevalence. This comes to around 4%. But 5 is fine by me.
Here are the numbers you requested, Mr. Hentzel; what do you think?
We already have one sports/pop culture tossup every 1 to 2 games ...
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:Andrew Yaphe brought up something that I'd like to address: why do elite teams go to A-set tournaments? I have an experience that I think can help explain. This year, the Walton Varsity tournament was run on an A-set. Walton Varsity has a history of attracting top teams from Georgia (Chattahoochee, Brookwood, &c.), South Carolina (Dorman, James Island, &c.), and other states. My school also attends annually. Those teams, and my team, aren't going to skip an annual tournament or send an introductory team just because it's on an A-set. It's a Varsity competition, so the best teams are going to go. In this case, I think it is the error of NAQT in assigning a clearly top-level tournament a clearly low-level set. Because of this, I don't think that you can make a blanket statement that it's the top players' faults for playing A-sets.
The Walton tournament is an unfortunate incident from this year. I didn't conduct the conversation with the host, but I believe the gist of the matter was that by the time Walton requested a (regular) set, NAQT had already sold out its Georgia exclusivity for the only set (IS #77) that would be done by the date of their event. It wasn't possible to use a set from last year and it wasn't possible for them to hold their tournament later. We offered an A-level set, which was accepted.

It is our general policy to provide advice to teams on what sort of set would best match their field, particularly if they are new hosts. I don't know for certain that in this particular instance that we told Walton that an A-level set would be easier than many of their teams would expect (or prefer)--possibly to the point of their deciding not to come--but it is our general policy to do so.

Should the Walton tournament have been using a regular invitational series? Yes. NAQT is under no illusion that an A-level set was the most appropriate choice difficulty-wise. On the other hand, there was no coercion involved: Given the options available, Walton chose the A-level set in preference to their other options.

I've been pilloried for making this sort of comment before, but, in this particular case, had NAQT had more writers and editors interested in working on regular invitational series (even if they had no interest in working on TV sets, or whatever), it's entirely possible that IS #79 could have been completed by October 11, in time for Walton to use it.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure »

Why should engineering be more-or-less ignored in quiz bowl? Why isn't current events knowledge considered of paramount importance to as to educate people toward doing their civic duty? Why is mythology ultra-important is quiz bowl? Why isn't classic film considered the equal of classic literature is quiz bowl? Why isn't math considered equal to all the rest of the sciences given that most high school curricula are structured that way?
Let's see:
-Engineering is principally the utilization of scientific information. This information does, in fact, come up.
-Nobody is objecting to the presence of current events. Rather, people are concerned about its overrepresentation.
-Mythology is given 1 tossup a round in a standard distribution, possibly two in some rounds if you define bible stuff as mythology. I have trouble calling that "ultra-important".
-There is rather less classic film that is artiscially significant than there is classic literature that is artistically significant. Certainly, the classic film canon is much smaller than the classic lit canon.
-I for one would not object to 1 math Theory tossup per game. Nobody's calling for the expulsion of math from quizbowl, just the expulsion of computational math. I do, however, object to your appeal to the high school curriculum, paticuarly since basing quizbowl on the high school curricum would result in the Lit, RMP,Fine Arts,and Social Sciences categories/subcategories being gutted.
As for Walton, you still sold them a set that was inappropriate for the field and you should have at least have offered to put them in touch with tournaments seeking a southeastern mirror.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Tower Monarch wrote:
Ken Jennings wrote:
Looking at the weaknesses in these questions is helpful, and definitely prompts me to be more careful when similarly problematic questions are submitted in future. (If you're an experienced writer pondering working for NAQT, I should say that you don't generally have to worry about editors introducing problems like these into your work. Maybe I'm being too candid here, but in my experience, most unpopular NAQT questions are not-entirely-successful attempts by editors to improve even more unacceptable questions submitted by less-experienced writers. Not that that's any excuse.)
I don't know much about the internal workings of NAQT with respect to editing practices, but this sounds like a testimony for having experienced editors write these questions instead of wasting the apparent time consumed through editing "even more unacceptable" submissions. Would that not also cut the costs of paying some of these less-than-adequate writers??
I say "yes," and, in fact, we've been trying very hard to recruit people, an initiative that led more-or-less directly to this thread.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas »

Alvin6226 wrote: We already have one sports/pop culture tossup every 1 to 2 games ...
No, it's hovers more around 1 per game, whereas I'm advocating 1 per 2 or 2.5 games.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

rhentzel wrote:
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.
1 in 18 tossups are computation.
This is embarrassing, particularly in the context of discussing computation tossups. As Seth Teitler informs me, this is incorrect. The actual answer is 1 in 14.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Anti-Climacus wrote:
NAQT takes the subject matter for its current events questions from widely available, national-scope sources; a player interested in improving could certainly read such sources and relatively easily anticipate the sorts of things we'll ask by what's been in the news. If we're thinking about the same question, I think it's entirely fair to expect that players, whatever their location or faith, could have seen the answers as plausible, and significant, figures in modern American culture.
In that case, I would very much like it if the question were posted once all the tournaments run on the set it came from are finished, so we all can see this for ourselves.
We don't really know that the set won't be used again until close to the end of the year, but I'll add a reminder to my calendar to come back and post the question at such a time as that appears to be the case.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by rhentzel »

Anti-Climacus wrote:
Why should engineering be more-or-less ignored in quiz bowl? Why isn't current events knowledge considered of paramount importance to as to educate people toward doing their civic duty? Why is mythology ultra-important is quiz bowl? Why isn't classic film considered the equal of classic literature is quiz bowl? Why isn't math considered equal to all the rest of the sciences given that most high school curricula are structured that way?
Let's see:
-Engineering is principally the utilization of scientific information. This information does, in fact, come up.
I don't think this is accurate; I wasn't an engineering major, but I watched a huge number of them participate on Iowa State's quiz bowl team and pretty much all of them complained that the important aspects of their field (that which made it engineering rather than basic science) were almost completely unrepresented.

I respect your opinion that everything important about engineering is already included in quiz bowl through its inclusion of "scientific information"; in fact, I largely share it. But I don't know that it is widely shared among engineers and I don't find this particular argument persuasive.
-Nobody is objecting to the presence of current events. Rather, people are concerned about its over-representation.
Yes, I understand that. My point is that I think an argument could be made that current events are among the most useful and relevant things asked about in quiz bowl and that, perhaps, it should be given an even larger portion of the distribution than NAQT gives it. I don't see that this argument is inherently flawed. I just see two people stating their opinions about what is and isn't important.
-Mythology is given 1 tossup a round in a standard distribution, possibly two in some rounds if you define bible stuff as mythology. I have trouble calling that "ultra-important".
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that it's more than astronomy or computer science gets; is mythology clearly more important than either of those disciplines? I expect opinions would vary considerably on that topic.
-There is rather less classic film that is artiscially significant than there is classic literature that is artistically significant. Certainly, the classic film canon is much smaller than the classic lit canon.
Ok, I'll grant that. But, one might also argue that it might even be possible that, if film were considered sufficiently important, good players could watch every film in the canon and we could have ultra-deep, ultra-interesting questions about those films in a way that doesn't happen with literature.
-I for one would not object to 1 math Theory tossup per game. Nobody's calling for the expulsion of math from quizbowl, just the expulsion of computational math. I do, however, object to your appeal to the high school curriculum, paticuarly since basing quizbowl on the high school curricum would result in the Lit, RMP,Fine Arts,and Social Sciences categories/subcategories being gutted.
Perhaps unexpectedly, I see this as contributing to my point. The people who laid out the standard high school curriculum were--I assume--attempting to assign class time in approximate proportion to subjects' importance. I took an equal number of math classes as science classes in high school; I think it would be plausible to have quiz bowl in which that equality was reflected (as, if I recall, Illinois does). I don't find this wrong or reprehensible for any reason save aggregate player preference.

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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by at your pleasure »

I don't think this is accurate; I wasn't an engineering major, but I watched a huge number of them participate on Iowa State's quiz bowl team and pretty much all of them complained that the important aspects of their field (that which made it engineering rather than basic science) were almost completely unrepresented.
I find this interesting. Prehaps you could elaborate on what "important aspects" they felt were not adeqatley represented?
es, I understand that. My point is that I think an argument could be made that current events are among the most useful and relevant things asked about in quiz bowl and that, perhaps, it should be given an even larger portion of the distribution than NAQT gives it. I don't see that this argument is inherently flawed. I just see two people stating their opinions about what is and isn't important.
How is it that important? If we base its value on "understanding the world around you", than being aware of major events is only a small, if essential part of that. To fully understand "the world around one", it is necessary to understand both history and culture(of which the literary and fine arts are a part).
-Mythology is given 1 tossup a round in a standard distribution, possibly two in some rounds if you define bible stuff as mythology. I have trouble calling that "ultra-important".

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that it's more than astronomy or computer science gets; is mythology clearly more important than either of those disciplines? I expect opinions would vary considerably on that topic.
In terms of strict value to the human race, I suppose it is debatable, although a strong case could be made that mythology is more necessary for human survival than astronomy or CS. In terms of how it is valued in quizbowl, I see no problem with a minor humanity being valued over a minor science.
Ok, I'll grant that. But, one might also argue that it might even be possible that, if film were considered sufficiently important, good players could watch every film in the canon and we could have ultra-deep, ultra-interesting questions about those films in a way that doesn't happen with literature.
Although I would love to see example of such films, the fact is that there are more legitmately important works of literature than there are legitimately important films.
Also, can people please stop appealing to the school curriculum as a model for what we should do in quizbowl?
Douglas Graebner, Walt Whitman HS 10, Uchicago 14
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by magin »

Ken Jennings wrote:During the climactic chase, the protagonist pauses to ponder the odd appearance of the pelicans and hornbills in a zoo, while his quarry escapes on an elephant and then a hot-air balloon. Then all the protagonists gather on thrones in a torchlit English garden, wearing robes representing the creation in Genesis: Dr. Bull as animals, the first "traitor" Gogol as waters, and the feared Secretary as light and dark. All are undercover policemen, like the title poet Gabriel Syme, in--for 10 points--what "Nightmare" novel about a septet of anarchists, by G. K. Chesterton?
I think this tossup is pretty good, although I would put "nightmare" and "septet of anarchists" before Gabriel Syme, considering that I believe more people know Syme's name than either of the former clues. However, that's not a major point. Also, I think "this novel's protagonist" or "this book's protagonist" is clearer to players than "the protagonist."

To spark discussion, I think that I wouldn't have more than minor quibbles with NAQT's literature questions, at either the college or highschool level, if most of them looked like this. The clues seem interesting and reasonably uniquely identifying to me. However, I've seen a number of literature questions produced by NAQT that are not up to the standard of your Man Who Was Thursday tossup; perhaps this thread would be a good place to discuss if such problems exist, and how to rectify them reasonably?
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I've been traveling and its taken me literally hours to dig through all of these new posts, so sorry if this response is coming kind of late.
Charlie, would it be reasonable to restate your position as "NAQT should have fewer questions on music, tv, and movies, and more questions on academically important novels, plays, and poems"? I'm assuming people don't actually have strong feelings about NAQT's internal labels for questions (compare to the "true RMP distribution" discussion a while bacK).
In some technical way, I guess? Really though, that doesn't capture what I'm getting at. My position is that within the distribution NAQT has, there is already enough room for non-academic subjects (which are things I don't inherently have a problem with) to make it unacceptable to set aside small chunks of the parts of the distribution that are considered academic and turn them into more pop culture that isn't internally labeled as such. It seems if you have a distribution, you should try to do a better job sticking to it than secretly subverting it (which if you think about it is exactly what has happened - there wasn't really a way for non-NAQT writers to know until this thread came about that NAQT had even more pop culture intentionally than was announced in their released distribution). If you are wondering what to do with the extra few questions per tournament set that fall under lit, either write some more academic lit or myth (since I believe those are grouped together and in my experience, NAQT's myth distribution is quite small.)
No, I don't believe a "Murders in the Rue Morgue" or The Time Machine tossup should apply to NAQT's small quota of general-knowledge or interdisciplinary question, not when a small percentage of our lit distribution is already specifically earmarked for more "popular" lit (and, as I've said, that should be more formalized going forward).
This seems to be a bit off. To me, a lot of the examples given seem like they would actually just be considered straight up literature were they submitted elsewhere (stuff by Poe, etc) even if they aren't necessarily the greatest works of art. However, I think this is avoiding the issue of that very bogeyman of the Robert Jordan and Harry Potter questions. There is no justifiable way in my mind to even try to argue for the inclusion of those works anywhere but trash by using the "borderline cases" argument, and I'm not sure why this has happened. Yes, we all know there are borderline examples - fine, I could really go either way on whether these are used as lit or trash. But for everything else that is not a borderline case, I don't see any acceptable argument for them being misdistributed.
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Re: High Schoolers and Writing for NAQT

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite »

rhentzel wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that it's more than astronomy or computer science gets; is mythology clearly more important than either of those disciplines? I expect opinions would vary considerably on that topic.
From a real-life standpoint? Probably not. However, Quizbowl is not meant to be an accurate reflection on real life. While I personally would love to more Astro questions, it's not really that easy to write Quizbowl questions about the subject. If you were to start a tossup with "This galaxy", then you're down to 3-5 realistic answers.

Also, if you gave Astro, CS, Non-comp math, and Geoscience equal showing as the others, you'd end up with 7/7 Science.

EDIT: And this is from the guy who currently spends two class periods in Astro or Astro-related classes.
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