Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by square635 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:44 am

Matt Weiner wrote:That's a very thoughtful reply. I'll add my name to the list of people willing to provide some help if asked.

I do want to make a note about your last point. I don't think it's necessarily more difficult for an "average" team (and btw, Centennial is usually around the top 10% in the country based on the ratings that exist, so don't sell them short) to write a good tournament than it is for a national championship contender. At the college level, I can name dozens of great players who write awful questions, and an equal number of average players who are among the best writers. As a counterpart to this point, I have found that writing good questions is by far the best way to get better at quizbowl, so you won't be an average team for long if you do it.
I suppose I think of our team as average-to-above-average, depending on the year, because I am thinking in context to the DC-area, which is probably one of the most competitive circuits in the country. (On an unrelated note, I think it's cool that there exists an attempt to rate high school Quiz Bowl teams across the country. And the fact that I think that that's cool probably explains why I played Quiz Bowl in high school. In any event...) Either way, I'd say that question-writing abilities are still probably highly correlated with skill at answering questions. Even if it is not necessarily more difficult, I think it is telling that it doesn't usually happen. Has there ever been a team rated lower than the top 10% in the nation that has created objectively good housewritten sets that were met with approval?
Ari Seifter
Centennial '07

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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by wexs883198215 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:07 pm

Well, when writing questions it's sort of good to have a basic grasp of what is in the canon and what is not, so I suppose below average teams would have a hard time with that. You also sort of have to know what people know to make questions actually pyramidal, so a below average team would struggle with that as well.

EDIT: erm I guess I didn't read the part about being below the top 90%
Kuo-Kai Chin
Walter Johnson High School '11
Harvard University '15
Stanford University School of Medicine '19

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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by msaifutaa » Wed Jan 06, 2010 5:11 am

square635 wrote:My older brother played Quiz Bowl at MIT (at least up until he graduated I think), and even though I didn't play in college, I've been around for a while between my own high school experience and my brothers'. For various reasons, in my case mostly related to time, we were negligibly involved with the tournament the last two years (except the coach's round, which my dad mostly writes and has us check through). But I know that I, at least, plan to be more involved this year, partially because of things I've read here, and partially because my younger brother probably can't ignore me very easily. I'm sure my older brother would also agree to help run a writing workshop for the students; he did it once before when I was still on the team, but he was inexplicably discouraged from helping in future years.
I think it may come out of the desire to "do their own thing", to take charge when in charge rather than delegate. It may also have been an issue of people thinking "oh, right, but those are just problems from college Quizbowl / Quizbowl elitism" and dismissing my comments out of hand.

Whatever the case, Centennial hasn't lacked for advice in these matters. All of these problems that come up on hsquizbowl? Well I usually get to see some of the set, and at least someone hears general issues from me beforehand (this year, I managed to get minor edits done to eliminate truly obnoxious problems with questions in several categories, but they didn't show me the History questions among others, hence the Croatoan and Gupta stuff causing the main concerns coming from History). I said that the bonuses were too wildly divergent in difficulty--the reply: "We'll just put the hard ones in the later rounds". My response: "It's still too much of a jump, and there's a high enough ratio of hard ones that you could make the later rounds have impossible bonuses". Another difficulty was that the bonus difficulty was actually rather consistent within category (by which I mean, the authors of the mythology bonuses wrote them hard. Two that I made them removed were too hard, I thought, for *me*, and those who know me know that I'm not a myth slouch--one removed Chinese myth question would have been harder to 20 than any myth question I saw the year I played at ACF Nats). On the other hand, 90% of the geography bonuses when I first saw them were stupid easy to 30) which made it worse. They made some of the cosmetic changes I requested in the few questions I got to see, but most of the big overarching problems remained.

And, in fact, here's the interesting part--I promise you that the students have gotten better at writing the questions over the years. Much better. I know because I've seen reasonable cross-sections of each set. But because of this they've been getting away with less editing done by outside editors, so this improvement isn't passed on to the end product.

Perhaps this will help you guys get a perspective for the Centennial tournament's history: I've been there since it was first proposed. I could never get our sponsor to allow us to hold a tournament while I was in high school. I lobbied heavily, but it wasn't until I graduated and the club got a new sponsor who was mainly interested in feathers in his cap that the idea got a green light (ironically, because he let the club do whatever without much oversight, they really grew and flourished here). It was a not considerable effort to muster together the team enough to get a set of questions sent to the editor (me), but...

The first year, the questions were the worst set that I have ever seen in my entire life. Editing them took longer than just writing the round from scratch. However, it was inaugural, so everyone pretty much accepted that I heavily editied the whole set, essentially rewriting 90% of them while driving through Turkey. This was ~100 hours of work. There were no repeats. I believe there were no off-canon wazoos. It was sometimes a bit hard for some of the weaker teams' tastes, but I got many positive comments on the questions from the teams there made to me directly. From Centennial, however, there was discouraging silence, even a negative, discouraging vibe towards the work I did as editor. Rather disconcerting

I don't know, I guess editing is a pretty thankless job, and also a hard one to notice how important it was if you're the one who needed the edits in the first place; maybe people felt attacked when their (bad) questions were heavily edited. They decided to go on their own the next year. This led to huge issues with the question set, which in turn led to me begging to give a question-writing session, wherein I read and explained to them all the rules linked in the thread (esp Subash's rules), with additional examples given to illustrate. That was for last year's tournament, when they also got a better coach, but he's more hands-on than before with decision-making. I also kept asking them until they generated and gave me the first set of questions (in advance to writing all the rest), which I edited one by one, showing my edited question next to the original with comments as to why I made each edit and what was good and what was bad. I hear they made that round the finals due to being well-edited. I am by no means a spectacular editor, and last year's was sadly for a format that included category rounds and other weirdness (leading me to sad comments like "This was the best, most pyramidal question in the set, but sadly it was given for an individual round, so that doesn't matter"), but I thought I gave some pretty solid advice with play-by-play feedback of what went wrong (if people are interested in seeing what kind of stuff I said there, I believe I have that file somewhere, as well as all the questions the year I edited the tournament). I think I also missed a year in there somewhere...

Anyway, this year at least they moved to a fully pyramidal toss-up/bonus style (showing Centennial's continual evolution away from the TV-focus of my years there and towards quality Quizbowl, even if they aren't there yet in their own questions). Probably it'll be better next year. Maybe they'll allow some of you guys to get involved in the process and help out with advice on question-writing. I tried it myself, and I wouldn't be so cynical as to say that it didn't help at all--the questions direct from the students are better than they were before. But they still have a ways to go. And you guys are probably much better than I am at editing, so even if they only give you minor access, you may be able to kill more bugs than I could in this year's "glance at the questions while we drive up to Thanksgiving and give any quick fixes you can see in that time span" fest.

But above all, as far as I know (which isn't too much as a an alum), no one on the rest of the Centennial team supports Ana's assertions in the deleted post, and they all want to see the questions and the tournament continue to improve, continue to serve the Quizbowl community, continue to introduce local teams to Quizbowl, and to learn from mistakes and do it all better next time--basically the opposite of all the stuff she said there (and I think she may take it back too, hence the deletion). That's why I truly hope they will be allowed to get more editing help next time round.

As for following through on that hope and getting better access to the questions for an outside editor--you should know that a significant portion of the decision-making process is made by people who do not read the hsquizbowl forums. I am sure I could help connect anyone here interested in editing with teacher and parent sponsors via e-mail, which would be the best way to affect true action on getting an outside editor to help out (imo).

Thanks for reading my rather longish post. And I know, since so many posts in this thread were flames that you won't hear this enough, but thanks for caring. The passion of people here for good Quizbowl is admirable (if the responses to an inflammatory post like Ana's can sometimes be quite inflammatory in turn).

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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:43 pm

Charbroil wrote:I'm not sure how your statement (made in response to Isaac) disputes Isaac's. Both of you say that you want tournaments to be more accessible, but when Isaac (a member of a stronger team) argues that this tournament was too difficult, you disagree even though you're the coach of a weaker team and thus should prefer accessibility. This seems odd, especially given that all of the top notch players at this event seem to be saying that it was too hard.

Thus, it seems that you two are making the same point, except that Isaac says that the tournament was too hard and you say that it wasn't. In essence, he seems to be arguing your position and vice versa.
I, too, found it odd that I thought the tournament was reasonably accessible while Isaac thought it too hard, and this was the reason for my posting about the difficulty of the questions. The answer, it seems, from Isaac's posts and others in the thread, is that my team didn't play in the rounds where the questions were too difficult. I'm effectively judging the tournament on the first 6 rounds, whereas Isaac is including three rounds we didn't hear.
Charbroil wrote:The only way your argument seems to work is if, as you say:
Howard wrote:...there's still no perfect objective indicator of the appropriate difficulty level.
Which makes me wonder, when you say "perfect," do you mean literally "perfect" or merely "useful?" If the former, while it's true that there's no "perfect objective indicator" of tournament difficulty (or most things, for that matter), that hardly seems to be a reason to say that it's impossible to judge a tournament's difficulty. After all, statistical indicators such as PPB and PPG combined with reading the questions themselves usually reflect difficulty fairly well.
This is what I meant, including the idea that some information can be inferred from PPB and PPG, even if not perfect.
Matt Weiner wrote:John Gilbert can stand on top of the mountain and scream "I love it when the answer to the question isn't referenced until line seven of a seven-line tossup" and "games which reduce to six-tossup matches because fourteen of the questions are on things no one in high school knows are awesome...
Just for the record, none of these features were present in any of the six rounds my team played.
Aldo Montoya wrote:Additionally, I see no reason why Centennial shouldn't "distinguish what has been written with a response." After all, I've offered to help edit the set to make it more accessible, an offer that has been outright ignored.
As someone in charge of a program, I'd be reluctant to allow an outsider to perform these duties for the simple reasons that I wield no control over such persons and that there are far too many tournaments (perhaps even a majority) where questions are ready (if they can actually be considered ready) far to close to the start time of the tournament. This would have nothing to do with your (or anyone other competent person's) editing capabilities, just the issues of being ready on time and my ability to control it. Of course, I'm not speaking for anyone other than myself when I say this.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by wexs883198215 » Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:31 pm

Believe it or not, that CROATOAN toss-up's occurrence is by no means a fabrication. Round 3, toss-up 14.

EDIT: By the way, I was told that the tournament's questions were ordered by difficulty, with round 1 being the easiest, and I have fewer complaints of difficulty with the early rounds. I do have toss-up structure complaints about the whole tournament though, and bonus variation still existed in the form of 3 easy parts and such early on.
Kuo-Kai Chin
Walter Johnson High School '11
Harvard University '15
Stanford University School of Medicine '19