ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by itsthatoneguy » Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:27 am

I thought the vast majority of the fine arts in this tournament was very well written and was at the correct difficulty.
women, fire and dangerous things wrote:I'd appreciate any feedback on the linguistics, which I wrote/edited. I also wrote a handful of assorted tossups: finishing the Unfinished Symphony, Natural History, Francis Parkman, John Coltrane, Chimamanda Adichie, and José Clemente Orozco.
-I thought "finishing the Unfinished Symphony" was a really cool answer line. Unfortunately we were playing Yale when it got tossed up...

-On the Orozco tossup, I believe "Man of Fire" was dropped too early, but other than that it was fine (thanks for not mentioning Hidalgo like every other tossup on him).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:34 am

grapesmoker wrote: Actually that Viking raids question should just have been "Viking raids," because I made a mistake in where I placed Iona (it's in the Hebrides and not Ireland). So, that is totally my fault for getting that information wrong.
Man, my teammate answered that tossup with "Viking raids," got prompted, couldn't pull Ireland, got negged, and Chris Ray picked it up in our match against them when we lost by 30 points! We didn't have any reason to protest since there were clues like "the first of these" and "the last of these" that obviously don't match up to Viking raids in general. Whatever.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 19, 2011 12:49 pm

At the time, I was wondering if Ireland had colonies at Iona or something or if this was some strange Irish city I had never heard of before.

The next few paragraphs are not really explicitly attacking this tournament, it's just perhaps me trying to explain my mindset to these questions and perhaps suggest where people like Andrew or Kurtis are coming from here.

In regards to La Reforma/Winter War, I actually think La Reforma is a reasonable idea--if my brain had somehow explicitly realized that "La Reforma" and my made-up guess of "Mexican Reform" was the same thing, I wouldn't have been as stunned at the time. As a historian, I find history to be a difficult topic to write about though for the reasons people are expressing above. Aside from people, countries, and I guess some documents, the names of things are not as explicitly defined or as clear-cut as say, literature or the arts. For instance, I am not sure who actually coined the phrase "La Reforma"--maybe Juarez did, but my guess is that it was attached to the period by later historians or commentators, much like the other pieces in Mexican history ("Mexican miracle," "Ten Tragic Days," which ironically I was about to neg La Reforma with at some point). Thus, these are names that by convention have become attached to something over the years, but weren't always referred to it nor really is there any reason why some of these names are attached to anything. For instance, Melville's Moby Dick at the time of its creation was called Moby Dick. It was always and will always be called Moby Dick (I'm aware that some lit/fine arts things are a little murkier). At the time it happened, was anyone calling the "Ten Tragic Days" the "Ten Tragic Days"? When did this get attached to it?

The other kickier is to what Dwight was referring to earlier. In history, some of these things get names, some don't, and in a quizbowl match, you are never sure just what the answer line is going to want. For instance, in the Truman Desegregating the Armed Forces question, what if historians had started referring to this as the "Great Leveler" or some such nonsensical term, which probably makes as much sense as Ten Tragic Days. I guess you could argue at any time that just saying what is going on should be enough to get you points, but this is not always true at tournaments, and when you're playing tight matches against top teams, it's tough to make that gamble. During the IRC, we played an unused packet and there was a tossup on the Days of Rage, which tickled me to no end. After looking through the rest of the tossup and checking my facts, I was surprised there were no alternate answer lines or prompts. I see nothing wrong with early buzzes accepting "The 1969 Weathermen Protests in Chicago" or the "Bring the War Home" actions or even the more formal name of "Weathermen National Action." I wonder if perhaps tossups should provide more explication early on what they want ("we need a specific name," "this doesn't have a name," "we can take a description"). People might think this sounds ludicrous, but after playing a variety of tournaments and confronting various editing crews's stances on such philosophies, it seems a legitimate concern.

Note that this is not me saying we should NOT write on La Reforma, Days of Rage, Ten Tragic Days, or unnamed things. It is me suggesting that there are legitimate concerns as to how these questions cumulatively play out.

(For the record, Days of Rage is also pretty damn hard. I'm glad I remembered the buzzword I used in a Weathermen tossup and it does brute force gradate knowledge, but it seems like a thing that I'm skeptical you really need to gradate knowledge on with 8 lines. I will grumpily note that there appeared to be too many of such questions in this set--Preface of Cromwell appears to be important and that question gradated knowledge and rewarded those who knew about it, but are there enough people with full knowledge of it that 8 lines of clues needed to gradate knowledge? Rararagh get off mah lawn ACF Nats)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by kdroge » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:08 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I'm not saying "La Reforma" was an easy answer line, but just like any answer line on a proper thing, you had to know the name to get the points, and this would have been no different for any other answer line save that you would know that label but didn't know this one.
I actually agree with this absolutely. I'm also not trying to say that "La Reforma" is any more or less important than, say, the Winter War, in any abstract sense. However, I'm not sure how many people would have been thinking to themselves "what is the name of that Russo-Finnish conflict, I just can't remember it or I don't know it," and I don't think a tossup on the Winter War would have gone dead in any of the top bracket games. The issue seems to be the convertibility of questions in that if the people who are playing the tournament don't know that a thing has a certain name, than tossing that up just doesn't create questions that play productively.
grapesmoker wrote:I saw very few history bonuses 30d during the course of the tournament, and I read for all manner of teams, so I don't think that the bonuses were horribly unbalanced.
I don't think they were horribly unbalanced either. My point is that of around 4 or 5 bonuses that through the course of the tournament stuck out to me as being considerably easier than the norm, they were all (or all but one) in history. An example is Diadochi / Ipsus / Rhodes.
grapesmoker wrote:Those questions would have looked different and wouldn't have covered the same ground. In any case, perhaps you should address your "feh" to your fellow writers, who inflicted the majority of these questions on you. My role in most of these was to make sure they were right on the facts and the clues were ordered properly.
This perhaps stems from a personal view of mine that I prefer more concrete answer lines whenever possible. I'm certainly not saying that quiz bowl should degenerate into "name these people" or "name these polities," but rather that careful attention should be paid to tossups where the answer line is inherently complex to make sure that people don't get hosed or falsely rewarded for acceptable or imprecise buzzes, and that sometimes those issues can be fixed by modifying the answer line. For what its worth, I thought there were some interesting answer lines that did a good job of being singular and identifying such as the tossups on the assassination of Kotzebue or of Paul. Regardless of the execution of those tossups, or of the tossup on Viking Raids of Ireland, I think there's a difference in that the latter will lead to buzzes of "Viking Raids" and prompts and people negging, while no one is going to buzz on the assassination of Kotzebue with "assassination" and be disappointed to learn that more is being required.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:20 pm

I think Mike Cheyne greatly exaggerates the problem of things in quizbowl history having names. Sure, many names are not widely adopted, or are even entirely fabricated (Wikipedia has, in the past, made up names for unnamed things, solely becuase otherwise they would have no name for the relevant article or category). To avoid unnecessary harm to limb and PPG, editors should be careful to make sure that names are actually commonly used, and should be generous with alternative answers and prompts.

None of these considerations apply to "La Reforma". It was introduced into quizbowl years ago as both a clue and an answer, with no controversy at all. It has been in use within Mexico for over a hundred years, and one of the largest and most important streets in Mexico City is named for it. And most other names asked about in quizbowl are similarly established. The only situation I can think of (off the top of my head) where a dubious name was used in quizbowl was "War of the Schmalkaldic League" at WUSTL ACF Nats.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:34 pm

Bruce, I think La Reforma is a good answerline. My point was more in keeping with what you yourself suggest: "editors should be generous with alternative answers and prompts"--I might be heretical here, but I would posit that when you ask about historical events, clear knowledge should be able to be rewarded over knowing specific names (obviously there comes a point in a question when this is no longer possible). Saying "Charles X being overthrown and Louis-Philippe" ascending in an early buzz on a "July Revolution" tossup is acceptable to me, as is the "succession crisis between Stephen and Matilda" in an early buzz on "the Anarchy" tossup--from my experience playing and reading packets, it appears some editors agree with this philosophy and some do not, making it difficult to determine at times when to buzz when (and I will freely admit this) your knowledge is not completely perfect. I will admit that you can take this to ludicrous extremes ("the conflict which pitted the Allied powers against the Axis powers").

From my understanding of the La Reforma answerline, it did reward general descriptions, since anything involving "reform" appeared to be acceptable (I would assume the somewhat imprecise but close "Juarez's Reforms" would even work).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:37 pm

Cheynem wrote: For instance, Melville's Moby Dick at the time of its creation was called Moby Dick. It was always and will always be called Moby Dick
Actualy, it was first published as The Whale, which brings me to my point about knowing things: questions of the "common link" and "unnamed thing" variety have been common since, at least, the 2005 ACF Nationals, just off the top of my head, and if I did some research I would probably find that they predate that tournament significantly. Part of knowing things is knowing not just what the names of named things are, but whether things have proper names. I don't know why, when most of the people at Nationals have played their whole college quizbowl careers in the era of these questions, there is still a seemingly ideological resistance to just playing these questions properly (other than the fact that certain influential people denounced said questions on the board). If you don't know whether or not "the period in which Mexico was reformed" has a name, you might neg, or you might be outbuzzed by someone who knows more. That's the whole point. If you refuse to do the mental work to actually listen to the clues and put them together to produce "the expulsion of Asians from Uganda," and you'd rather play like a freshman at his first practice and just say "Uganda!" because you heard a word, well, tough. These questions are good ideas for any number of reasons, they play perfectly fairly when people actually try to play them rather than express their quizbowl-hipster disdain for them by refusing to be the elite teams that they are for the duration of that question, and they aren't going away. My advice is to Deal With It and get better rather than tilt at the windmill of eliminating questions that are hard to get by memorizing old packets.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:51 pm

Heh, I knew my ill-advised cognitive map picture of picking Moby Dick as the first thing in my head was going to bite me.

I enjoy common link questions and actually wrote the "assassination of Paul" tossup for this tournament. Since I was playing for a national championship, I don't think I was attempting to prove my hipster cred by sneeringly disdaining these dastardly history tossups on unnamed things and common links. I'm aware there are people who don't like these types of questions and criticize them sometimes willy-nilly. I'm also aware there are people who make idiotic buzzes and demand points--I wholeheartedly agree that by saying "Uganda" or "Juarez" on those questions, you are making horrifically bad buzzes. I was attempting in each case to do the mental work and figure out what was going on--I managed to get La Reforma, I would have gotten Days of Rage, I did not get "expulsion of Asians from Uganda" because someone knew more about it than me, and I did not get "Truman's Desegregation of the Armed Forces" because Matt Jackson knew more about it than me. Those are all fair instances.

Matt makes the good point that "knowing whether something has a name or not" is a reasonable thing for quizbowl to judge. That's a fair explication which I can see the reasoning behind. I personally disagree with this stance, but I am willing to accept it and Deal With It if quizbowl itself thinks so.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 19, 2011 2:00 pm

Unsuprisingly I am 100% in agreement with Matt's post. When it's plausible to provide reasonable alternate answers, we tried to do this. It probably didn't happen for the "Days of Rage" tossup because it was written late in the game, but for example the tossup on the Kargil War has a number of alternate answers that are acceptable. I am not getting the feeling that this discussion is taking us anywhere other than back to the completely non-constructive arguments about "why did you write X instead of Y" and an endless cycle of debate on common link tossups.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Apr 19, 2011 3:55 pm

I agree very strongly with Evan's argument. Last year in the HI thread I outlined my own writing philosophy as I believe that hard tournaments should have a range of difficulty in answers with the strong majority lying in the middle. I think it's fine to have a few questions on hard subjects testing the sheer breadth of knowledge, but I think these types of questions are far better suited to bonuses because we don't need 10 lines to differentiate team's level of knowledge about Cities of Salt. It seems better to throw it into a bonus and see if a team knows it or not.

First of all, I don't think this tournament should be universally maligned. The arts were uniformly excellent and the British and American literature was the best I think I've ever heard at any tournament. I'm not praising these questions because they were on my pet subjects, in fact most of the English language literature questions in the playoffs focused on areas that I am not very knowledgeable about. But objectively I felt these questions were paradigms of how to write questions that fairly differentiate players on important topics that they are likely to have real knowledge about. However, the accessibility of the arts compared to the other categories definitely had an effect on the results of this tournament as players with deeper knowledge about history, science, and european/world literature were often subverted while arts players were able to take advantage.

Conversely, I detested the European and world literature questions in the playoffs. I don't want to rehash the old arguments about importance because almost any answer line can be justified by some measure of importance (and its not like Jerry could ever be convinced that anything he chose to write about wasn't important). Also, I'm not saying that the questions were bad or in any way illegitimate. There were also lots of good questions, and every question was well-written. It's all about what types of knowledge you want to reward. The playoffs rewarded teams with mere exposure to a lot of topics as opposed to attempting to reward players with deeper knowledge about more canonical and academically studied topics. I felt screwed over for actually reading european and world literature; I would have been served if I had devoted that time to memorizing the names of protagonists in minor Indonesian novels or the names of Nobel Laureates who have never come up before. That is a legitimate way to write a tournament, but it's not a game I want to play. According to the questions in the playoffs of this tournament Stephen Liu is the best player on our team. While that may very well be true next September, it isn't an accurate representation right now.

Also the logistics at this tournament were worse than the much maligned 2009 ACF Nationals (in which we finished prelims by 8 pm), but it seems that those problems will be fixed for next year.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:04 pm

Yeah, so both Ninigi and Ryujin had sons named Hoori (who were both fishermen) and both are credited with being the great-grandfather of Jimmu-tenno.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:20 pm

every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:Yeah, so both Ninigi and Ryujin had sons named Hoori (who were both fishermen) and both are credited with being the great-grandfather of Jimmu-tenno.
Sorry about that. I had asked Eric to write me that question to replace a bad submission. Given his deeper knowledge about these things, I had assumed the question would contain all the correct information. In any case, it seems to me that by the end, the answer should already be determined by other clues anyway; of course, had I known about this ambiguity I would have modified the question to disambiguate accordingly.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:31 pm

I said son-in-law, man! Pay attention!

EDIT: Point being there's no ambiguity. Ryujin is the mother of Otohime, who's Hoori's wife. Hoori is Ninigi's son. And Jimmu Tenno is Hoori's grandson. So there you are.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:36 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:First of all, I don't think this tournament should be universally maligned.
Not universally, eh? Well, that's mighty fucking generous of you.
Conversely, I detested the European and world literature questions in the playoffs. I don't want to rehash the old arguments about importance because almost any answer line can be justified by some measure of importance (and its not like Jerry could ever be convinced that anything he chose to write about wasn't important).
Rather I would say that your arguments about importance are not very good. I did a metric fuckton of research trying to come up with interesting and important topics, and I'm going to stand by those selections insofar as I believe they were motivated by an attempt to pull valid topics from many different literary traditions. I will of course readily admit that I overestimated the knowledge-base of the field with respect to those answer lines.
Also, I'm not saying that the questions were bad or in any way illegitimate. There were also lots of good questions, and every question was well-written. It's all about what types of knowledge you want to reward. The playoffs rewarded teams with mere exposure to a lot of topics as opposed to attempting to reward players with deeper knowledge about more canonical and academically studied topics.
I of course question your distinction between more and less canonical topics (or rather, I don't actually subscribe to it in the first place). I furthermore deny that it is "better" in any objective sense to know one big thing rather than many small things; I don't see why a quizbowl tournament should not span the space of available literature.
I felt screwed over for actually reading european and world literature; I would have been served if I had devoted that time to memorizing the names of protagonists in minor Indonesian novels or the names of Nobel Laureates who have never come up before. That is a legitimate way to write a tournament, but it's not a game I want to play.
I am equally charmed and frustrated by your labeling of anything you have no interest in as "minor." In fact, that question on Indonesia had clues from two things: Max Havelaar and the books of Pramoedya Ananda Toer, who is basically the major Indonesian novelist of his time. It's quite curious to me that it's apparently acceptable to do things like write tossups on one particular minor Neruda poem or a relatively obscure Russian play which hardly anyone is likely to have read, but somehow the literature of an entire nation, as exemplified in the works of its major 20th century writer is somehow off limits. Or, you know, two major poets writing in Spanish and French, respectively. Or the work of a major Arabic-language novelist. I guess it's better to write the same five tossups on Mishima novels every year. Sure, that's a legitimate way to write a tournament too, but it's neither a game I would want to play nor a tournament I would want to write.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Apr 19, 2011 4:58 pm

EDIT: Sorry I misread a post
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by setht » Tue Apr 19, 2011 5:11 pm

I think this post-tournament discussion has a better chance of getting somewhere productive if people drop most or all of the specific question nitpicks* and focus on the larger picture, as suggested above by Evan. By my count the top bracket answered 427 tossups in 28 games, or 15.25 tossups per match, during the final round robin, and the second bracket answered 365 (13.04 tossups per match). My impression is that everyone--players and editors alike--agrees that those numbers are well below what everyone would like to see. If that's the case, perhaps it would be useful to get a clear sense of what people think nationals should shoot for next year, with the understanding that calling for 90+% tossup conversion and then submitting a packet with 6 tossups on never-seen-in-quizbowl-before topics is pretty silly. Part of getting an ACF Nationals set that conforms to community expectations is communicating those expectations to the editors, but another large part is hashing this out with the rest of the field a bit, too.

-Seth

* I certainly don't mean to discourage all specific-question discussion; that can be useful too, but presumably not in a "the take-home message of ACF Nationals 2011 is that a tossup on La Reforma is too hard/a bad idea/whatever" kind of way.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 19, 2011 5:31 pm

Yeah, I think Seth is right about this and when I get home I will have a longer and more general post about some of the things that have been said in this thread; that will be an attempt to get people to think not just about the specific questions in this tournament but about their larger role as writers of packets for such an event.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Apr 19, 2011 5:49 pm

grapesmoker wrote: I am equally charmed and frustrated by your labeling of anything you have no interest in as "minor." In fact, that question on Indonesia had clues from two things: Max Havelaar and the books of Pramoedya Ananda Toer, who is basically the major Indonesian novelist of his time. It's quite curious to me that it's apparently acceptable to do things like write tossups on one particular minor Neruda poem or a relatively obscure Russian play which hardly anyone is likely to have read, but somehow the literature of an entire nation, as exemplified in the works of its major 20th century writer is somehow off limits. Or, you know, two major poets writing in Spanish and French, respectively. Or the work of a major Arabic-language novelist. I guess it's better to write the same five tossups on Mishima novels every year. Sure, that's a legitimate way to write a tournament too, but it's neither a game I would want to play nor a tournament I would want to write.
Once again, I'm distinctly not labeling Indonesian literature as unimportant (though I would have written that tossup on Max Havelaar rather than a country). I'm distinctly not saying every literature tossup should be Mishima novels. It seems like you didn't even read my post and just labeled my post with your preconceived notion of my beliefs because I don't know how you could say that I label anything I don't have interest in as "minor" while critiquing the very post in which I praised the English literature questions as being on important topics--even though I have no interest in a number of the topics that were written on.

But lets put arbitrary distinctions of importance aside. As I said above I think there should be a range of answers rewarding different types of knowledge. You will notice that I distinctly avoided saying that Indonesian literature is unimportant because I don't want to get into an argument about inherent senses of importance, which you seem to expand every critique of the tournament into an ultimatum about an individual subject's importance. I don't have a problem with any single one of these answers coming up and in my previous post I explained that I felt there should be a range of answers. The problem wasn't with any individual answer--and I'm annoyed that you imply that I somehow endorsed the "Walking Around" tossup which I didn't like and had nothing to do with-- the issue was that the playoffs had far too many canon-busting answers on topics people are most likely to have cursory knowledge about. I was critiquing the overall distribution of the tournament rather than any individual question. Just as there should be questions testing subjects like Indonesian literature there should also be questions testing books that people are actually likely to read, and the playoff's decision to move away from canonical writers almost all together is just as extreme a position as it would be to claim that there should never be questions on subjects like Arabic literature.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Apr 19, 2011 6:37 pm

To use the Indonesia example as concretely as possible, we played Minnesota on that packet. I think it's probably approximately true that Minnesota and Harvard are two of the four strongest humanities teams in the country; the buzz on that tossup occurred on the name of Eduard Dekker. (Rob got it; I would be surprised if he was the only one buzzing, though I was stuck on "that man sounds pretty Dutch.") It's trivial that not every tossup will distinguish every pair of teams well, but the first five lines of nine of this tossup did not substantially help two teams of our strength.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:25 pm

After some of the issues at this tournament completely unrelated to the questions, I think some basic rules about running a tournament need to be stated. I'm sure Jerry can list these as well as anyone, but they were not followed this weekend and led to unnecessary delays and confusion. I hope and expect that they will be followed in the future.

1. The tournament director should be located in a set location separate from a game room during the tournament. Having moderators repeatedly come into our game room during matches was very distracting, and the fact that Jerry was reading questions in our room during the round with a repeat/missing tossup caused a delay that could have been avoided if he (or someone else acting as TD) was located in another room.
2. When a tournament has multiple divisions for awards, find out what teams and players are eligible before the tournament.
3. When conducting a rebracket using packets submitted by teams, it's a much better idea to change around numbers assigned to teams than have different packets being read in different rounds. It should be possible to do this and keep some sort of 1 vs 2 matchup for the last round, and the numbers can be figured out or partially figured out during the last game of the first round robin.
4. If there is internet available for the moderators, the tournament director should have their email addresses and vice versa. That way, moderators don't have to go running around the building for instructions if something goes wrong.
5. Stats should be available in some form at the end of the day besides knowing which 4-seeds had better bonus conversion. This is especially true when teams are told they will be posted soon, which I'm pretty sure was the case.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:56 am

So I have some reactions to the tournament and to the discussion surrounding it that I wanted to share with the forums.

First of all, I want to say that I was genuinely surprised by the results of ACF Nationals. Not, mind you, the result of Yale's victory, which did not surprise me at all, but rather how hard the teams found this tournament. It's pretty clear that in writing the editor questions I overestimated the knowledge base of even the top teams at this tournament. That's not me saying you're all dummies and I'm a genius; it's just that I genuinely thought the top bracket teams would be able to convert the hard questions, and that turned out not to be the case.

I am curious as to why that happened. I'm a year out of playing collegiate quizbowl but I have been to multiple tournaments this year so it's not like I'm "out of touch" with what the kids are doing. So I find it weird that I overestimated the difficulty to such a great extent, and what's even stranger to me is that when I look at the submitted material, I find a lot of things that I would consider to be very difficult, being written by the top-bracket teams. And so I want to move from a discussion of individual questions to a larger context.

I'd like to first offer up a possible explanation of why people found many of these questions so difficult, and that explanation is pretty simple: they were on things you'd never seen before. When you're pretty sure that an answer is something you recognize, you're already half-preparing yourself for that key clue that you're hoping is going to give you the information you need to buzz. But there's no way to "prepare" for a tossup on "preface to Cromwell," because you've never seen that question before and you have no idea what to look for. So if you're waiting for when you're going to hear that one clue that's going to put you over the top, you'll never get it (except maybe at the giveaway) because those clues just don't exist for that question. Instead you pretty much have to accumulate information throughout and reduce your answer space (e.g. "oh, this is French. It's about aesthetic theory. About Romantic literature. About drama...") and then of course you have to actually know the answer to buzz. The way many of these questions were written, that was the only shot you had before the giveaway of converting on the answer. And for many people, I am guessing it's hard to maintain that level of concentration through what was a pretty demanding schedule.

Next, I want to focus on how submissions affected this tournament. You can find the answer sheet that shows what was submitted here. Let me explain the color coding. The green parts correspond to stuff that was written for the editor packets. Anything marked yellow was written to replace a question in the submissions without reusing the answer line. Anything in blue was submitted and was either used as-is or was rewritten in some way; the spreadsheet doesn't indicate which, but that's not terribly important for my purposes.

I want to draw your attention to how very blue that matrix is. So very much of what was in this tournament was stuff that people submitted and we either let through or brought up to par. In the vast majority of cases, we edited the bonuses downwards to make them easier. We threw out what we thought were truly egregiously difficult questions and replaced them with something more reasonable. A large number of tossups got rewritten completely from scratch because even if the answer lines were good, we couldn't use the questions because they were bad. And so on.

But what's really important here for my point is how much of the material that people submitted was just really fucking hard. My policy with editing this tournament was to use good questions even if they were hard, and to try and salvage the answer lines if I could; otherwise, why would we even need packet submissions if we had to write the whole thing ourselves? But what that ends up meaning is that this tournament has answer lines like "deterministic finite state machines," and "Khorasan." The issue here is not just one of aesthetic preferences; it's also an issue of time. We just don't have the time to replace every single question that we think is either not the right difficulty.

When I look at the range of submitted answers, I draw the following conclusion: when you are sending me questions on the holographic principle and "Walking Around", The Three Cornered World and Woe from Wit, "On the Improvement of the Understanding", Nelson Goodman, Lysimachus, hesychasm, and Coyolxauqui, what I'm going to assume is that you're big kids who are ready to play tossups on: locality, Berlin, Alexanderplatz, hypergeometric functions, the Majapahit empire, Shah Abbas, and Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. I may be guilty of making a faulty inference from this data, but I can only judge from the data I have, and the data that I have tells me that you wanted this to be a really difficult tournament. If you didn't, why would you have written many of the questions that you did? Why would you have made your bonuses so hard that most teams would struggle to get 10 points on them?

I'm obviously not saying that anything about the submissions made me write the editor questions one way or the other. But they certainly made me think that the field was ready for these questions. I get the strong impression that a lot of people don't seem to mind when they are the ones writing the hard stuff, but once they have to play it themselves, they've got a wholly different view on the matter.

In the end, a large part of the tournament you get is the tournament you write. Nothing about the submitted material made me think that anyone was interested in a substantially easier tournament, and indeed, indicated to me that the majority of the writers thought the tournament should, literally, be harder than it ended up being. So while on the one hand I'm sympathetic to the complaints about difficulty in this tournament, the revealed preferences of question writers indicate something entirely different from what is being said post hoc.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by SnookerUSF » Wed Apr 20, 2011 1:35 pm

grapesmoker wrote: We just don't have the time to replace every single question that we think is either not the right difficulty.
This is certainly at least part of the problem. As a writer of some eccentric (putting it kindly) questions, one of the key qualities of a Nationals tournament caliber editor/editing crew that I appreciate and respect is the ability to determine or gauge consensus about what is the "right" difficulty of clues, answer lines on a wide array of topics and propagate with thematic consistency that difficulty throughout the distribution and for the tournament. For someone who doesn't know a whole lot about Eastern Orthodox traditions, any answer line is as difficult as hesychasm, right? We have all been witness to, even in this one thread, the wild disagreements about difficulty and this is mostly among people who have significant experience in writing and editing tournaments. You can imagine how many people had a hand in writing this ACF Nationals and some of their wacky ideas about acceptable answer lines (either ideologically driven or accidentally ridiculous), and because of the time constraints on their side teams are forced to write questions on topics with which they have little familiarity.

This tournament in its sheer volume of questions was highly, highly ambitious, replacement of difficult but otherwise passable questions could have never happened. Maybe ACF should consider in its next meeting standardizing the format of Nationals more formally [how many rounds (given a certain number of teams), how brackets will be created, ties broken, etc.]; it might preclude well-intentioned editors from being excessive victims of their own ambition. More Quizbowl is usually good quizbowl, but do we need 20+ rounds to determine a National Champion? I understand that question is probably a big "depends" but among 28 teams was that many rounds necessary or preferable, logistical issues aside? I know that some members of the community snub their noses at formalization and RULES!, but if the organization wants to move more formally into the realm of legitimacy rather than the rebellious contrarianism that characterized its formation than perhaps this move has merit.

Also a much more strict delineation of difficulty at the outset would have helped a little. This year's announcement had precious little information about expectations of difficulty, which was perhaps surreptitiously imported in the notion of packet "quality". No doubt this was intentional, but look people write on obscenely hard stuff not because they are ready to play on that level in general but because they don't know better, me included.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by selene » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:28 pm

I realized that I haven't thanked the editors for all the hard work they put into this tournament. I thought it had lots of interesting questions on important things.

I'd also like to make a couple comments about the difficulty of the tournament and the submitted questions.

First, on the difficulty of submitted tossups. Since Chicago A (but not me personally) was the source of the tossup on Khorasan, it's not like I'm guiltless here. From what I can tell, there are several potential reasons for writing ridiculous questions:

(1) A lot of people still think of ACF Nationals as "OMG this tournament is so difficult, so I need to write questions that are at the limits of my knowledge base and this tossup on Shakespeare will just get laughed out of the tournament set." However, certainly one can write difficult questions on easy things.

(2) People have pet topics that they can't think of a better outlet for than ACF Nationals. "I love Khorasan and I can easily spend more than 10 lines Times New Roman talking about it. Where else can I write a tossup on Khorasan? ACF Nationals it is!" The flaw with this, of course, is that just because you can write a tossup on something, doesn't mean that you should. I generally prefer converting those pet topics into clues for tossups with easier answer lines, or into hard parts for bonuses.

(3) As Evan pointed out, the issue is not necessarily with one ridiculous question, but with huge clumps of them. Let's say each writer on the team decides that he has three ridiculous ideas for tossups, but thinks that's going to be okay because it's only half the tossups he has to write, and as long as the other people on the team have reasonable tossup answer lines, everything is going to be fine. If every writer on the team does that, though, that's twelve ridiculous tossup ideas. I know that when I wrote my questions for ACF Nationals, I threw in the occasional difficult answer line on the assumption that "this question will be fine for this packet if the other literature questions are easier." But then the other literature questions weren't all easier.

(4) It takes a lot of circuit awareness and awareness in general to realize whether or not a question is likely to play well in a tournament setting. I don't think there's anyone on the circuit who is perfect with this, which leads to all kinds of questions being panned on the forums for being such bad tossup ideas.

The question, then, is what editors should do with these submissions. In general, editors are more likely to (a) have a better idea of what the completed packet looks like in terms of difficulty, and whether there are a few ridiculous tossup ideas that would be okay to deal with, or 12+ out of 24; (b) be more rational about people's pet topics and their unreasonableness; and (c) be more aware of how well a question would be expected to play in a tournament. Jerry offers that he prefers to keep answer lines, ridiculous though they may be, and suggests that people's question submissions were reflective of what people wanted the tournament to be like. I'd submit that most people don't realize what their submissions will turn out to be like in a full tournament setting, and that, ideally, given lots of time to edit and impose their own visions for the tournament, this is something that the editors should impose. Of course, this is in that ideal world where people submit their questions on time, which we (most of the circuit) certainly didn't for this tournament.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:18 pm

I think Selene makes some excellent points. In retrospect, I suspect that as others have already pointed out, the ambition of producing 24 (!!!) packets probably contributed to this. I don't think any other tournament is or has been that large; 24 packets of 20/20 is 480/480 which is comparable to the 476/476 I'm told is contained in ICT, but these questions are far longer and harder to write. I want to explain that the reason we went for this (and the reason for the somewhat unusual format) was to try and give the top teams more games against each other, rather than having Minnesota stomp seeds 14 through 6 in their bracket. Regardless, it would have probably been a better idea to write 5 editor packets instead of 10 and spend more time toning down the submissions, as well as going to a more relaxed schedule (perhaps something like a 12/5 Saturday/Sunday split).

In any case, one thing I do want to say is that we'd be happy to give you feedback on any questions you wrote. If you want to know why a question was edited a certain way or not used or whatever, let us know. A few people have gotten in touch with me already and I'll try to get back to them ASAP, but the offer is open to all.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:10 am

grapesmoker wrote:
But what's really important here for my point is how much of the material that people submitted was just really fucking hard. My policy with editing this tournament was to use good questions even if they were hard, and to try and salvage the answer lines if I could; otherwise, why would we even need packet submissions if we had to write the whole thing ourselves? But what that ends up meaning is that this tournament has answer lines like "deterministic finite state machines," and "Khorasan." The issue here is not just one of aesthetic preferences; it's also an issue of time. We just don't have the time to replace every single question that we think is either not the right difficulty.

When I look at the range of submitted answers, I draw the following conclusion: when you are sending me questions on the holographic principle and "Walking Around", The Three Cornered World and Woe from Wit, "On the Improvement of the Understanding", Nelson Goodman, Lysimachus, hesychasm, and Coyolxauqui, what I'm going to assume is that you're big kids who are ready to play tossups on: locality, Berlin, Alexanderplatz, hypergeometric functions, the Majapahit empire, Shah Abbas, and Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. I may be guilty of making a faulty inference from this data, but I can only judge from the data I have, and the data that I have tells me that you wanted this to be a really difficult tournament. If you didn't, why would you have written many of the questions that you did? Why would you have made your bonuses so hard that most teams would struggle to get 10 points on them?

I'm obviously not saying that anything about the submissions made me write the editor questions one way or the other. But they certainly made me think that the field was ready for these questions. I get the strong impression that a lot of people don't seem to mind when they are the ones writing the hard stuff, but once they have to play it themselves, they've got a wholly different view on the matter.

In the end, a large part of the tournament you get is the tournament you write. Nothing about the submitted material made me think that anyone was interested in a substantially easier tournament, and indeed, indicated to me that the majority of the writers thought the tournament should, literally, be harder than it ended up being. So while on the one hand I'm sympathetic to the complaints about difficulty in this tournament, the revealed preferences of question writers indicate something entirely different from what is being said post hoc.
I wanted to wade in and offer a different perspective on the challenges of editing a tournament like ACF nationals. I wasn't at this year's tournament and haven't seen any of the questions, so my remarks are in no way directed at the particulars of ACF nationals 2011. Rather, this is a general response to Jerry's description of his editorial process.

One of the threshold questions that confronts any head editor of any submission-based tournament is: How hard should this tournament be? There are, broadly speaking, two ways to answer that question. First, you can formulate in advance a rough sense of the difficulty level you're shooting for, and then edit the submitted packets as they come in so that they more or less conform to that level. Second, you can decline to predetermine the difficulty level, and instead allow the submissions to dictate how hard the tournament will be.

With some tournaments, it's obvious which of these two approaches to take. In the case of ACF fall, for instance, no editor in his right mind would take the second approach. Instead, an ACF fall head editor will decide in advance how hard he wants the tournament to be (i.e. "not very") and will ruthlessly edit the submissions to bring them in line. By contrast, I think it would be natural for a Chicago Open editor to take the second approach, on the principle that CO has a wide reputation for being an "all bets are off"-type tournament.

So, the question becomes: Is ACF nationals more like ACF fall or Chicago Open? Jerry appears to have adopted the presumption that ACF nationals is a tournament of the second type, and that the tournament should be as difficult as the submissions make it. On its face, that isn't obviously an erroneous presumption. However, it's not the approach that I took in editing ACF nationals (nor is it the approach that Ezequiel took, for that matter). As I see it, there are a number of problems with treating ACF nationals as if it were CO and letting the submissions dictate the difficulty. First, a lot of people writing questions for ACF nationals have no real clue about how hard it should be; they just think of it as "a very very hard tournament." Further, those people have no idea about how to write "very very hard" questions aside from picking an extremely obscure answer and writing an extremely lengthy tossup about it. Second, even within the pool of competent question writers who are perfectly capable of writing decent ACF nationals questions, there appears to be a wide divergence of opinions about how hard the tournament should be. Some people are of the opinion that it should basically be "ACF regionals, but a bit harder"; others are of the opinion that it should be significantly harder than regionals; yet others are of the opinion that it should basically be a regular-season CO. Third, there appear to be problems that arise from ACF nationals' position as the final big packet-submission tournament of the quizbowl year. In the past, at least, I noticed that some writers seemed to go out of their way in their nationals submissions to avoid topics that had come up in earlier tournaments. Or, worse, some writers would select obscure things that had appeared in a previous tournament and take them "to the next level" (this is the now-cliche "a Dandicat short story collection was a bonus part at regionals, so I'll ask for a particular story FROM that collection for my nationals-level Dandicat bonus").

I haven't looked at Jerry's spreadsheet of the 2011 submissions, but I would be surprised if they were much worse or much more variable than the 2005-2007 submissions on which I spent so many hours. Based on my own experiences with ACF nationals submissions, I would strongly encourage future editors to decide on a difficulty level in advance, and then edit the packets as they come in to make them conform to that level. Sometimes the editorial decision may result in a tournament that is too hard for the field (as was the case with my 2005 nationals), but I still think it's better on the whole to have the difficulty be determined by editorial forethought, rather than by the haphazard nature of what teams happen to submit.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:32 am

I suppose I'll put in a few thoughts about this.

For one thing, you will have guessed that I wrote the Khorasan tossup and, in light of Selene's post, let me say that there have never existed inappropriate relations between me and Khorasan. Our relationship is purely professional. The reason I wrote that tossup was because 1. I wanted to do something Islamic, and 2. I think too many Islamic history questions have dynasties as answer lines. The Khorasan tossup is comprised of clues that, for the most part, have appeared as clues for "Abbasid" and "Timurid" tossups, for instance. I also happen to like history questions where the answer is a place because I think those give a sense of history beyond discrete facts, but that's certainly a matter of taste.

More generally, I don't think that obscure answer lines were the problem with this tournament, and I don't have a problem with top-bracket games where five tossups go dead because they demand knowledge of something that a given set of eight very smart people doesn't know. A tossup on Tony Judt wasn't answered in the finals, but Judt was an important and interesting thinker and if knowing about him and reading his work is rewarded in quizbowl, that makes quizbowl better. Plus, if you happened to be the one person in those eight who knew about him, you'd be rewarded--in that case a buzz at the end would have been a "good buzz," which is fine with me.

I think the problem with this tournament's tossups were the large number of answer lines that were too demanding to be intuited from the clues or to be formulated in five seconds. The Truman tossup in the finals was the most egregious example and was properly corrected, but the Tertiary Protein Folding Problem and Neutron EDM questions seemed also to have that quality (with the caveat that I know nothing about those matters, of course). In the latter case, I watched two good physics players try hard to figure out what words needed to come out of their mouths, and I don't think that's a good model, however important Neutron EDM is. Furthermore, the process of re-arranging and/or translating words in the giveaway to come up with the right sequence to get points is something I'd rather not do in the future.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Susan » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:53 pm

Marshall wrote:I think the problem with this tournament's tossups were the large number of answer lines that were too demanding to be intuited from the clues or to be formulated in five seconds. The Truman tossup in the finals was the most egregious example and was properly corrected, but the Tertiary Protein Folding Problem and Neutron EDM questions seemed also to have that quality (with the caveat that I know nothing about those matters, of course).
I can't speak for Jerry's edm of the neutron question, but I think this criticism of the tert protein structure prediction tossup is entirely accurate (with the added problem of what I now see to be an ungenerous answerline; the lines that I was trying to draw with the lengthy set of prompts and possible acceptable answers for this question now seem to be specious and/or overdemanding). This was an attempt to ask a question about a topic that I think is pretty cool, relatively underasked in quizbowl, and likely to have been encountered by some players in their coursework. In retrospect, I think it would have made a better subject for a bonus, because even if I had improved the answerline by accepting things like "protein folding problem" and "protein structure prediction", there's still sort of a "which of several possible answers is this question going for?" problem when you're hearing it. (That sort of problem isn't fixed by having a more inclusive answerline because, of course, when you're hearing the question read to you, you can't assume that the answerline is inclusive!)

I do normally try to think about questions from the players' perspective; in fact, I cut several questions from the submissions and from my own list of ideas because I thought they would have this sort of "what's being asked for?" problem. I'm not sure why I failed so dismally with this question when I caught the others (overly enamored of the topic?) but I will be extra-vigilant in the future.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:49 pm

I don't want to get bogged down in the debate about a single question, but there was nothing to intuit in the neutron EDM tossup; all those parts are required for very good reasons. Yes, it's a very hard question, probably too hard for all but a few players. But it's not ambiguous in any way. Just saying.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:19 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I don't want to get bogged down in the debate about a single question, but there was nothing to intuit in the neutron EDM tossup; all those parts are required for very good reasons. Yes, it's a very hard question, probably too hard for all but a few players. But it's not ambiguous in any way. Just saying.
To give it a more mundane context that those less familiar with physics might be able to figure out, it's somewhat like being appalled that a tossup on "spin-orbit coupling" wasn't just on "spin." Sure, you could do that, but there's no especially good reason to because "spin-orbit coupling" is a thing universally recognized as a thing by anyone who knows enough about it to answer a tossup on it--if you don't know that "spin-orbit coupling" is a concept unto itself with plenty of significance, you won't get a tossup on it and that's fine.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Sun Devil Student » Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:20 pm

A lot of what I'd say has been said by the time I got around to this post, so I'll just add a bit before the discussion dies off entirely.

On behalf of the Arizona State Sun Devils (not to be confused with the Arizona Wildcats - those are our rivals whom we're trying to teach the game of quizbowl as our contribution to circuit expansion :), a big thank you to everyone who wrote, organized, and staffed this wondrous tournament. If only the questions were easier (and just as 'real') and the 13-hour Saturday schedule had included a dinner break and been announced that way in advance, this would have been one weekend of true quizbowl heaven.

Since even the very top teams have mostly expressed the view that this tournament was uncomfortably difficult for them, I'd just remind everyone: If that's how the top teams feel, imagine the experience for the bottom bracket. This is certainly the most difficult tournament any ASU team has ever played in, and ASU's two lower brackets were the muddiest battlefield I've ever witnessed (using Ryan Westbrook's term). Many of our close matches were decided by which 10 out of the 20 tossups went dead and which 5 of the 10 bonuses had an answerable easy or medium part. If even the top teams weren't being distinguished by precise knowledge levels, then the bottom teams were even more certainly being ranked by stochastic factors (luck) rather than by knowledge. (ASU had a curious trend where we got the less favorable bonuses whenever we played better opponents in the bottom bracket; in several matches, the result (win or loss) would've flipped if we had simply switched bonuses with our opponent. I checked this in Excel, and there's a partial correlation between our PPB and opponent PPG which simply should not be there - sometimes I question whether randomness is truly random in our world.)

I am about to graduate with my bachelor's in biology, and I like to think after four years I have a non-negligible amount of real biology knowledge. Half the biology tossups were still above my pay grade. How much worse for a team whose biology specialist was only a sophomore or junior, or which didn't have any biology students on it?

Now, I love this game so much that even stuck in the mud and dinnerless on Saturday I still had a good time. But among teams who were expecting something more like last year's Nationals, I suspect many of them were as frustrated as my teammate, the nominal music specialist whose regular-difficulty knowledge was almost entirely useless at this tournament - put another way, this tournament granted zero recognition to large swaths of more-commonly-known knowledge, and not rewarding the significant amount of effort it takes to acquire beyond-basic knowledge of these fields seems unnecessarily harsh, in addition to failing to distinguish commonly-held levels of knowledge. Just how much do we have to know before your tournament acknowledges that we know *anything* about the subject? It may be that the difference between two bottom-bracket teams is so insignificant compared to the difference between the top and bottom brackets that it's approximately fair to tell both of the bottom-bracket teams they know equally little (e.g. nothing) about the subject, but it would be nice to have somewhat playable matches even if we don't deserve them.

(Of course it's more important to distinguish the top teams than the bottom teams. However, if we can rank the bottom teams better without harming the top teams I don't see why we shouldn't.)

Based on the discussion above, I have the impression that one lesson to learn from this tournament is that "real" knowledge will have lower conversion rates than "fake" knowledge of equal difficulty level; based on this, it seems the following simple rule would help increase conversion rates: When trying to write questions for real knowledge, make the questions much easier than the typical question of that difficulty level. I personally appreciate realness in tournament questions and would certainly enjoy having more easy, "real" questions in place of difficult, "fake" questions (or, more likely, tossups with real middle clues and fake giveaways to ensure conversion).

Anyway, this should probably be an ongoing discussion in another thread. Again, thank you to everyone who made this tournament possible, it was nice to meet several fellow forum posters in person and I hope to return to an even better ACF Nationals next year.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by Tanay » Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:23 pm

The Michelle Rhee tiebreaker tossup seemed pretty fraudable, as it mentioned vouchers and Washington, D.C. in the first half of the question.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by salamanca » Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:58 pm

I have been following this discussion with some interest for a number of reasons and just wanted to offer a reflection inspired by Kenneth from ASU’s discussion of the playability of questions by folks who are not in the top bracket of ACF Nationals.

As a player I loved harder questions, I prided myself on being better on “real” questions and felt that the “realer” the questions got, the more it would benefit my team. I had little or no use for folks who complained that the canon was expanding precipitously, or that difficult answers were making the game less attractive and less enjoyable. That is, until I read my team’s round at ACF Nationals 2003 to two teams that weren’t national title contenders. These teams were both from the South, had never met or seen me before, and, as far as I know, had no idea who I was.

Michigan’s 2003 Nationals packet, though challenging, certainly wasn’t the hardest thing written during this era, but almost every tossup went to the end and bonus points were hard to come by. The teams looked defeated and mock relieved when they’d heard of an answer, or managed to get some things right. It was not fun to read to them and, on some level, I felt responsible. Thus, when I edited ACF Nationals for the first time that next year, I kept these folks in mind and tried to be judicious about the distribution of more difficult answers per packet. I also chose to read the majority of the ACF written playoff rounds in the lowest bracket to see whether or not my decision to proactively mitigate difficulty had an effect. I distinctly remember reading to Lee Henry’s Athens State team, for instance. What became apparent to me that day was that even though converting tossups early was unlikely to happen among these teams, ensuring that they could buzz at the end often made a difference in their demeanor and approach to the round (and the tournament as a whole). Likewise, although there were few 30s on the bonuses, making sure teams could consistently count on having heard of at least one of the bonus parts made the teams pay attention and participate throughout the round. I am not naïve to think that this cured all of the issues that lower bracket teams may have had with the questions, but this experience continues to inform my editing decisions at tournaments like ACF Nationals to this day.

In fact, I would recommend that today’s players take the time to read questions to a wide spectrum of teams at a tournament— it is too easy to read exclusively in the top bracket when you have edited and written the bulk of the tournament. I think it makes you a better editor and writer in the long run.

Thanks,
Ezequiel

PS- Jerry, not to blow up your spot, but last year’s Nationals also had 24 rounds
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:53 pm

salamanca wrote:PS- Jerry, not to blow up your spot, but last year’s Nationals also had 24 rounds
Ah, I had not realized this, though it should have been obvious to deduce from the number of rounds played by the finalists. I retract my outrageous lies.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:50 pm

This is more of an administrative thing, but: some people have asked me to sign various things so they can get reimbursed for paying for Nationals. I sent a bunch of such signed things out, but if you need me to fill out any kind of paperwork and I haven't done so yet, please do let me know.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by mattreece » Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:20 am

grapesmoker wrote:However, the neutron EDM has deep physical significance: namely, if the neutron EDM is non-zero, then there exists a T-invariance violation that compensates CP violation and makes CPT a conserved symmetry.
The way you've phrased this looks really problematic to me. Would you mind posting the question so I can take a look?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Apr 28, 2011 9:14 am

mattreece wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:However, the neutron EDM has deep physical significance: namely, if the neutron EDM is non-zero, then there exists a T-invariance violation that compensates CP violation and makes CPT a conserved symmetry.
The way you've phrased this looks really problematic to me. Would you mind posting the question so I can take a look?
Sure, here it is:
The first measurement of this quantity was attempted by Purcell and Ramsey in 1950, although it was not until 1957 that the significance of this quantity was noted by Landau. The current upper limit on this quantity comes from an experiment at the Laue-Langevin Institute, which measures this quantity by detecting a shift in a transition frequency as an applied electric field is alternated between being parallel and anti-parallel to an applied magnetic field. In theoretical calculations, this quantity gives a direct measurement of the QCD vacuum angle. Because CP is a violated symmetry, according to the CPT theorem a nonzero measurement of this quantity would imply the existence of a corresponding time-reversal violation such that CPT is conserved. With a current upper bound of about 3 times 10 to the minus-26 power in units of elementary electron charge times centimeter, for ten points, identify this vector quantity, which represents the bulk charge distribution of the lightest non-charged baryon.

ANSWER: electron dipole moment of the neutron [prompt on any partial answer]
If I made any mistake in the way I wrote that up, please let me know. All I can tell you is that this is consistent with everything I was taught in my classes and read in my textbooks.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by mattreece » Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:29 pm

grapesmoker wrote:In theoretical calculations, this quantity gives a direct measurement of the QCD vacuum angle. Because CP is a violated symmetry, according to the CPT theorem a nonzero measurement of this quantity would imply the existence of a corresponding time-reversal violation such that CPT is conserved.
Yeah, this story isn't quite right. A neutron EDM violates both time-reversal and parity, and conserves CPT. But this time-reversal invariance is in no way a "corresponding" violation to the CP violation we've seen in weak interactions. The CP violation in weak interactions also violates T and conserves CPT, but they're totally independent processes. CPT isn't something where one process violates CP and another violates T and somehow composing them preserves CPT; every process individually conserves CPT. We don't need to see a neutron EDM to know that CPT is conserved; CPT violation would require breaking of Lorentz symmetry, and we know Lorentz symmetry is unbroken to extraordinarily high precision. (Some people think some experiments involving neutrinos have seen hints of CPT violation, but that's an insane interpretation of those results.)

It's also not entirely true that the neutron EDM is a direct measurement of the QCD vacuum angle. More or less anything that violates CP will lead to a neutron EDM. In the Standard Model, there are two sources of CP violation: a phase in the CKM matrix, which is measured to be nonzero, but which leads to a neutron EDM several orders of magnitude smaller than anything that's been probed experimentally so far; and the QCD vacuum angle, which is thus plausibly the dominant contribution to the neutron EDM in the Standard Model, although we don't know its value. So, in that sense, the existing bound on the neutron EDM is a strong bound on the QCD theta angle. On the other hand, if a nonzero neutron EDM were measured, it wouldn't tell us the QCD theta parameter is nonzero; the neutron EDM could be originating from some other new CP-violating phase (a number of which, for instance, could be present in models of supersymmetry, or any number of other possibilities beyond the Standard Model).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:03 am

mattreece wrote:Yeah, this story isn't quite right. A neutron EDM violates both time-reversal and parity, and conserves CPT. But this time-reversal invariance is in no way a "corresponding" violation to the CP violation we've seen in weak interactions. The CP violation in weak interactions also violates T and conserves CPT, but they're totally independent processes. CPT isn't something where one process violates CP and another violates T and somehow composing them preserves CPT; every process individually conserves CPT. We don't need to see a neutron EDM to know that CPT is conserved; CPT violation would require breaking of Lorentz symmetry, and we know Lorentz symmetry is unbroken to extraordinarily high precision. (Some people think some experiments involving neutrinos have seen hints of CPT violation, but that's an insane interpretation of those results.)
Right, I understand what you're saying. When I said "corresponding," I didn't mean to imply (but probably did imply) that these were somehow dependent processes; I was trying to come up with a way of saying "this measurement is a probe of the CPT theorem." I'm not sure what the best way of saying that would be in the form of a question, and I guess I formulated it somewhat inaccurately.
It's also not entirely true that the neutron EDM is a direct measurement of the QCD vacuum angle. More or less anything that violates CP will lead to a neutron EDM. In the Standard Model, there are two sources of CP violation: a phase in the CKM matrix, which is measured to be nonzero, but which leads to a neutron EDM several orders of magnitude smaller than anything that's been probed experimentally so far; and the QCD vacuum angle, which is thus plausibly the dominant contribution to the neutron EDM in the Standard Model, although we don't know its value. So, in that sense, the existing bound on the neutron EDM is a strong bound on the QCD theta angle. On the other hand, if a nonzero neutron EDM were measured, it wouldn't tell us the QCD theta parameter is nonzero; the neutron EDM could be originating from some other new CP-violating phase (a number of which, for instance, could be present in models of supersymmetry, or any number of other possibilities beyond the Standard Model).
Noted. I did not do any research on things beyond the Standard Model for this question, so for the latter part, I simply was not aware of that. I did read about the phase in the CKM matrix as a contribution but forgot to mention it in the question; mea culpa.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2011 thanks and discussion

Post by The Tourist » Mon May 02, 2011 3:10 am

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:I'd appreciate any feedback on the linguistics, which I wrote/edited. I also wrote a handful of assorted tossups: finishing the Unfinished Symphony, Natural History, Francis Parkman, John Coltrane, Chimamanda Adichie, and José Clemente Orozco.
Really quickly:

-Finishing the Unfinished Symphony was really cool, definitely appreciated that one. Jose Orozco was good too.
-Coltrane appeared to me to have a serious difficulty cliff. The four movement part hinted at A Love Supreme, so immediately after "Acknowledgement" two or three of the other team's players (it was Illinois A, so perhaps that biases my thinking here) and I all buzzed at nearly the same time.



Edit: apologies for the gravedig, I didn't realize that this topic hadn't been touched in a few days.
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