Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:55 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Buzzer races on first clues even between two great players at hard tournaments are so rare they are effectively negligible in this argument.
To play devil's advocate for a second: One could argue, as Ted is doing, that this is true at least in part because hard tournaments in the past have generally featured the longer tossups Ted is advocating, thus providing the exact effect he's arguing for--namely, that first-clue buzzer races don't happen.
Yes, but they don't happen on the shorter tossups at those hard tournaments either. And I will venture to say that if you convert a longer tossup into a shorter one, they wouldn't begin to happen even if you did remove the original leadin.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:24 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Buzzer races on first clues even between two great players at hard tournaments are so rare they are effectively negligible in this argument.
To play devil's advocate for a second: One could argue, as Ted is doing, that this is true at least in part because hard tournaments in the past have generally featured the longer tossups Ted is advocating, thus providing the exact effect he's arguing for--namely, that first-clue buzzer races don't happen.
Yes, but they don't happen on the shorter tossups at those hard tournaments either. And I will venture to say that if you convert a longer tossup into a shorter one, they wouldn't begin to happen even if you did remove the original leadin.
Just to make sure you didn't miss it, I was in the middle of editing my last post to clarify my actual thoughts when you posted this.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:27 pm

edit: This does sort of ignore the fact that making tossups shorter obviously doesn't necessarily exactly correspond to "removing the hardest, 'most-differentiating'" clues", of course. I tend to sympathize with Ted's argument for slightly different reasons--I'd support longer tossups on easier answers in hard tournaments because they provide more harder-clue buzzpoints and thus provide more opportunities for Tristram Shandy experts, or whatever, to distinguish their knowledge before the question starts rolling into more generally familiar material. I don't really want to see leadin-heavy monstrosities either, but more clues, used properly, can indeed allow for a finer gradation of knowledge.
Yeah I agree that longer tossups on easier answers provides you with more harder-clue buzz points. However, empirically, at hard tournaments, most of the clues go un-buzzed on anyway, and more hard clues means more clues that people generally won't be buzzing on. What hard clues are already there are sufficient for the experts, I think.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:33 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
edit: This does sort of ignore the fact that making tossups shorter obviously doesn't necessarily exactly correspond to "removing the hardest, 'most-differentiating'" clues", of course. I tend to sympathize with Ted's argument for slightly different reasons--I'd support longer tossups on easier answers in hard tournaments because they provide more harder-clue buzzpoints and thus provide more opportunities for Tristram Shandy experts, or whatever, to distinguish their knowledge before the question starts rolling into more generally familiar material. I don't really want to see leadin-heavy monstrosities either, but more clues, used properly, can indeed allow for a finer gradation of knowledge.
Yeah I agree that longer tossups on easier answers provides you with more harder-clue buzz points. However, empirically, at hard tournaments, most of the clues go un-buzzed on anyway, and more hard clues means more clues that people generally won't be buzzing on. What hard clues are already there are sufficient for the experts, I think.
Which is a reasonable viewpoint--I just don't think it should be mandated. I like using the unique freedoms provided by difficult opens to the ends I've described, even if empirically most such clues don't get regularly buzzed on.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:37 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Buzzer races on first clues even between two great players at hard tournaments are so rare they are effectively negligible in this argument.
To play devil's advocate for a second: One could argue, as Ted is doing, that this is true at least in part because hard tournaments in the past have generally featured the longer tossups Ted is advocating, thus providing the exact effect he's arguing for--namely, that first-clue buzzer races don't happen.
Yes, but they don't happen on the shorter tossups at those hard tournaments either. And I will venture to say that if you convert a longer tossup into a shorter one, they wouldn't begin to happen even if you did remove the original leadin.
Actually, harder tournaments with shorter tossups and regular difficulty tournaments with shorter questions do have more buzzer races during the first two lines of the question. For example, I marked five lit tossups that had buzzer races during the first two lines of the questions at VCU Open, which was a larger number than there was at CO and MO (note that I'm not talking about buzzer races in general but buzzer races only during the first two lines). Moreover, the number of early buzzer races I've experienced is even greater in regular difficulty tournaments.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:48 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:
Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:Buzzer races on first clues even between two great players at hard tournaments are so rare they are effectively negligible in this argument.
To play devil's advocate for a second: One could argue, as Ted is doing, that this is true at least in part because hard tournaments in the past have generally featured the longer tossups Ted is advocating, thus providing the exact effect he's arguing for--namely, that first-clue buzzer races don't happen.
Yes, but they don't happen on the shorter tossups at those hard tournaments either. And I will venture to say that if you convert a longer tossup into a shorter one, they wouldn't begin to happen even if you did remove the original leadin.
I marked five lit tossups that had buzzer races during the first two lines of the questions at VCU Open, which was a larger number than there was at CO and MO (note that I'm not talking about buzzer races in general but buzzer races only during the first two lines).
Okay. I was talking about leadin buzzes only, so let's say that you witnessed three of those. Then you can remember that VCU Open was easier than most other hard tournaments (like MO, which we're discussing here). Then only three out of 60-75 lit tossups in the entire set had first clue buzzer races and the field was composed of several superteams. I'm not really seeing the systematic problem here. That's not a statistically significant increase or anything.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:54 pm

In practice, I find that buzzer races tend to happen more often in events where the editors either (1) aren't very good/knowledgeable when it comes to sorting clues and making sure you don't drop very gettable clues early...or (2) are knowledgeable but are just not that concerned about dropping buzzable clues. The first one of those events is obvious; I'll focus on the second, which is more relevant to quality events.

The second one happens when editors are willing to drop things that they know will or might create buzzer races because they're prioritizing other goals for the tournament. For example, an editor of a difficulty-capped event may shrug at the notion that a few talented players are going to have to buzzer race on some clues, because he wants to focus on gradations of knowledge for less talented players, and he doesn't want 3-4 lines taken up with quite difficult clues.

What I'm saying is that, even more than tossup length as the determining variable, I think buzzer races happen a lot when you have an editor who (for whatever reason) is being purposely lax about dropping clues that are eminently buzzable. It's very often just a conscious choice that an editor is not going to finely sift through the upper half of the tossup.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:11 pm

Basically, I want to push back against two doctrines that some people want to put forward as universal truths: 1) Shorter tossups are inherently better than longer tossups therefore we should value 8 line tossups more than longer tossups and use them at all hard tournaments; 2) There are no valid reasons to have long tossups and therefore every 10 line question could be converted into a 7-8 line tossup without any sacrifice in quality.

While being an editor for the last two ACF Regionals, which have been very well-received and were cited by the editors of MAGNI as the standard of excellence for regular difficulty tournaments with controlled line caps after which they were modeling their tournament, I have gradually come to feel there are three reasons why longer questions are perfectly valid. I'm not saying all tournaments should have long questions, but rather there are several valid reasons why an editor could choose

1) Better gradations in difficulty. I've laid out my argument for this reason in my earlier posts in this thread.

2) Greater room for specificity and providing the proper amount of context. Countless times when I was editing regionals the last two years, I was faced with a situation where I had mercilessly edited excess clues and excess verbiage out of a tossup—to the point I had spent more time editing the questions than writing it—but the tossup was still 9 lines long. To meet the line limit editors often end up cutting out lengthy contextual information from a clue, which frequently leads to less specific clues than is ideal. For almost every regular difficulty tournament in the last couple years I could go through like Seth did for the science in this tournament and anally point out numerous small details that are wrong, misleading, or unspecific.

One thing that this tournament did really well was provide the proper amount of context necessary for clues to be uniquely identifying. For example, the first line of the tossup on The Makioka Sisters illustrates what I’m talking about well: “One character in this novel is saved from a flood by a photographer who later dies of gangrene he contracted during ear-infection surgery.” Usually questions discussing this incident just say that one character is saved from a flood at the beginning of the second part of a novel or if you’re really lucky maybe it will say that a photographer saves a girl from a flood, but the couple extra contextual clues in the MO question really improve the buzzability of the tossup. For full disclosure, I didn’t actually answer this tossup because Jerry negged me out of it, but I probably was processing slowly due to the shock of having someone properly describe this incident. The Auroni Guptas of the world would probably prefer if we cut out this extra contextual information, as he himself asserted, he wouldn’t shorten a ten line tossup by just cutting off the first couple lines but would look for places to shorten the length throughout the question. However, this mentality of trying to slash down every clue to be as short as possible has insidious side effects by diluting clues and making them less distinct.

Basically I agree strongly with what Rob said in earlier post: "I tend to be rather prolix (partly) because of the very freedom I have to be so. The intended audience of a difficult open tournament can handle slightly longer questions, and there's no real harm in working for a finer gradation of knowledge or tossing in an extra clue you find cool when writing for such an audience." It’s perfectly fine to give a competent editor extra space to describe a topic with the level of specificity he or she feels is appropriate for the topic. There are often situations when an editor genuinely feels they need an extra line to properly describe a clue; and, I am incredibly unconvinced by the arguments put forth by the critics in this thread that there are any real negative consequences for giving editors of hard tournaments the freedom to describe clues with the amount of space they feel is needed.

3) Learning about new, interesting things.
I only mention this reason as a corollary because it obviously isn’t the primary goal of questions to introduce people to new topics, but one thing I really enjoy about tournaments like CO and MO is that I feel like I'm being exposed to new topics. I often wanted to include an extra clue about a fascinating essay I had read about a book that I think other people might be interested in or an extra line about an important anecdote surrounding the history of some detail in a painting, but these clues are the first to go when you are cutting down the length of a tossup. People often view canon expansion simply as their opportunity to introduce their favorite new Japanese author to the canon in the third part of a bonus so next year we can have the much-anticipated tossup on Bannana Yoshimoto, but people should not forget about developing the depth of the canon in leadins to tossups. For example, at this tournament the Edward Said tossup mentioned his essay “Yeats and Decolonization” which is a chapter in his book Culture and Imperialism. I had never heard of this essay before the question and had assumed like many quizbowlers that the book was just bitching about Mansfield Park for hundreds of pages. But the clue piqued my interest so I read the essay and now I’m greatly enjoying Culture and Imperialism. I’ve actually begun to agree somewhat with Jerry that it’s valid for hard tournaments to include some extra clues on what Rob Carson would call “cool stuff.” I genuinely look forward to tournaments like CO and MO in a way I don’t look forward to “regular difficulty tournament X” because even if I hear a tossup on Middlemarch the clues will be deeper and more interesting.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:28 pm

For those too lazy to read the above post, basically I think there are several valid reasons why an editor is justified to write longer tossups. We shouldn't be criticizing a tournament just because they've decided to write short tossups or long tossups, but rather criticize the tournament if the line length for tossups negatively impacted the quality of the tournament, which I don't think was a problem at this tournament. Chris Ray rightly points out above that sometimes people writing long questions pile on leadins at the cost of having sharp difficulty cliffs later in the questions because they focused on finding leadins rather than ordering the clues properly in the second half of the question. But we shouldn't blindly criticize editors who know what they're doing because they decided to include a couple extra clues to improve the difficulty gradation of the question at no cost to the quality of the questions. Sure, I would have personally enjoyed the tournament more if the history tossups were two lines shorter because I wasn't going to buzz on those questions and I can justify this argument by claiming I didn't see too many early buzzes in history, but those distinctions did matter in some games.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:47 pm

Those are some good posts, Ted. I too have been frustrated at trying to write a proper leadin with full context, only to find that it enters the third line when it's done. As a result, my instinct is to think that I have done something wrong and that I must cut down on my verbiage. Now that you've laid it out, I am beginning to see that that context actually does benefit players with knowledge.

I'm also sympathetic to the argument that you go to CO and MO to get exposed to cool new things -- I myself have gotten that feeling numerous times playing at these events. (Also, I'm glad that you learned from the Said tossup that I wrote. That essay on Yeats essay is pretty widely anthologized.) However I still think that that's possible under my framework. You still won't know the majority of clues at a hard tournament and there's a lot of room to learn from them.

Essentially my real argument for a line cap has nothing to do with the adverse effects of an incremental addition of a clue -- like 8.4 lines instead of 8, but because I think that lots of good writers get pretty attached to all the clues they find and want to put as much of them into questions as possible. This will result in pretty clue dense questions with lots of clues probably nobody in the field will know. Line caps are about checking writer impulses, not necessarily always about trimming questions down. I think that the cap should be 8 or at the very most 9 lines since I think that's the lowest number with adequate clues for all levels of players. I don't see the point in allowing tossups on easy ansewerlines to be longer--the slope is steeper but you still are granting plenty of clues for all levels of players.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:53 pm

I mean, I guess what Ted is saying is at its heart uncontroversial...easier topics need more differentiation when good players are hearing them than harder topics, a 10 line tossup here and there won't kill anybody, etc. The problem is that asking quizbowl people to just be reasonable about length always results in disaster. Empirically, the choices for something like ACF Regionals have been "strictly enforce a six-line cap with no exceptions" or "have 90% of the questions be nine lines." Asking people to write six lines most of the time except when they feel a nine-line tossup is really better results in the latter. Like lots of other things such as "no element questions" which were once necessary to avoid tons of problems but have now fallen by the wayside as people have become more sane, maybe we can avoid the hard cap if and only if people understand that most questions don't have to reach the 10-(or whatever-)line maximum.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:38 pm

I have no qualms with a cap for ACF Regionals; as for this tournament, I was very happy with most of the content in the questions, even if it made them longer, and I liked hearing the extra clues. For an open tournament being played by a host of good players, why not?
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by magin » Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:36 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I have no qualms with a cap for ACF Regionals; as for this tournament, I was very happy with most of the content in the questions, even if it made them longer, and I liked hearing the extra clues. For an open tournament being played by a host of good players, why not?
I can think of a few reasons why not. The first is that really long questions (more than 9 line tossups and bonus parts of more than 3 lines) make tournaments longer, and tend to strain all but the best moderators. The second is that really long questions tend to make tournaments less enjoyable for players who aren't hardcore; since the answerlines and clues at hard/open tournaments are already tough for non-hardcore players, it becomes even more discouraging when you have to hear tossups with 10+ lines of clues you're not buzzing on.

Finally, even more importantly, I think that long questions prevent editors from buckling down and making sure the tossups are as clue-dense, efficient, and packed full of middle clues as possible. At open tournaments, I'd much rather hear a set of carefully edited questions where each tossup is seven-eight lines, graduates difficulty well, and contains solid middle clues than a set of longer tossups with more inconsistent difficulty and more leadins. Longer tossups can certainly contain many good middle clues and graduate difficulty well, but I'd much prefer an editor to focus on that kind of clue density and consistent difficulty, since that separates a good set from a great set.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auroni » Fri Dec 09, 2011 2:42 pm

magin wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:The second is that really long questions tend to make tournaments less enjoyable for players who aren't hardcore; since the answerlines and clues at hard/open tournaments are already tough for non-hardcore players, it becomes even more discouraging when you have to hear tossups with 10+ lines of clues you're not buzzing on.
To this I might add that it actually also negatively affects the experience of hardcore players by requiring insane amounts of focus to process every single clue for every 20 10 line on average tossups in each of 15 rounds.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:23 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
magin wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:The second is that really long questions tend to make tournaments less enjoyable for players who aren't hardcore; since the answerlines and clues at hard/open tournaments are already tough for non-hardcore players, it becomes even more discouraging when you have to hear tossups with 10+ lines of clues you're not buzzing on.
To this I might add that it actually also negatively affects the experience of hardcore players by requiring insane amounts of focus to process every single clue for every 20 10 line on average tossups in each of 15 rounds.
Come on you guys, you're sitting in a chair for 30 minutes listening to someone read. Boohoo I have to pay attention to things in a game which rewards paying attention to things!

I'm not saying every tournament should be like this. I am not going to play many tournaments anymore, so when I do, I appreciate playing one that caters to the open players it allows.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:26 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:
magin wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:The second is that really long questions tend to make tournaments less enjoyable for players who aren't hardcore; since the answerlines and clues at hard/open tournaments are already tough for non-hardcore players, it becomes even more discouraging when you have to hear tossups with 10+ lines of clues you're not buzzing on.
To this I might add that it actually also negatively affects the experience of hardcore players by requiring insane amounts of focus to process every single clue for every 20 10 line on average tossups in each of 15 rounds.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:39 pm

Not every question in a tournament should be 10 lines. I am okay with some questions being slightly longer if there is a good reason, such as, perhaps on a well known topic that requires a bit of gradation, on a lesser known topic that requires a slightly lengthier giveaway, or on a question that has an interesting if admittedly esoteric lead-in. I agree with the concerns being expressed by Jonathan, but I think it comes down is discipline within tournament editors. Minnesota Open to me had a nice mix of long and (relatively) short questions (using a superficial analysis, I think Eric and Rob write lengthier questions than me). As long as a tournament does not bog down amid hordes of lengthy, unbuzzable questions, I see no problem with a few longer questions. I think length caps (within reason) are great for some tournaments, but for a tournament like this, I don't really see the point. However, like every tournament, it should be subject to criticism, and if a number of people felt questions were too long, then that's something that needs to be fixed.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:46 pm

magin wrote: Finally, even more importantly, I think that long questions prevent editors from buckling down and making sure the tossups are as clue-dense, efficient, and packed full of middle clues as possible.
It's important to make a distinction here between excellent editors and mediocre editors (and all degrees of skill in between). Perhaps, mediocre editors might ironically make long questions less clue-dense and efficient than shorter questions (though this claim is debatable), but should we have enough faith in top editors to avoid such mistakes. I agree that tournaments like Regionals need to have hard caps for line length, but when Matt says, “The problem is that asking quizbowl people to just be reasonable about length always results in disaster” it’s important to distinguish the general mass of packet-writers from top-tier editors. I strongly think we should trust the judgment of the best editors to write longer tossups if they think it's appropriate for the goals of a given tournament. Theres a difference between giving established editors a certain amount of freedom to produce the best version of a question and promoting all writers to write long questions for every tournament they play.

Also, I’m extremely unconvinced by the objectivity of the arguments mentioned in this thread in favor of universal caps at hard tournaments, especially the claim that we should write shorter tossups because it would make the tournament slightly more enjoyable for them and the average player (who doesn’t come to MO or CO anyway). First of all, this sentiment is far from universal because while some people find lengthy tossups grating and tiring, other players enjoy the extra clues. To offer a hypothetical example, I would personally find hard tournaments less mentally exhausting if science questions had fewer technical terms and used more descriptions written in layman’s terms —and this feeling is a sentiment I’ve heard voiced by many less hardcore players. But this personal feeling is hardly a reason to change science questions because it has nothing to do with the quality of the questions. Like I said in previous posts, I think it’s wrongheaded to criticize a tournament simply for choosing a given line length for tournaments. Criticizing question length for the sake of question length doesn't really prove anything.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Windows ME » Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:20 pm

The angelfire link appears to be down was this set ever posted anywhere else?

Edit: never mind I got a copy
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by mhayes » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:57 pm

Could I get a copy of this set from someone? Thanks.
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:19 pm

This set is still posted here; just click the word "few". I will look into getting it posted on the actual database.

EDIT: http://www.hsquizbowl.org/db/questionsets/460/ (when the upload is finished)
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Re: Minnesota/Penn Open IV Discussion

Post by mhayes » Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:04 am

Thanks Rob.
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