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The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 9:44 am
by theMoMA
Have we ever had a discussion of who the best readers are? I'll start this thread, and throw out the names of a few of my favorites, because I'm interested to see the discussion (and the inevitable Cheyne List that will result).

My favorite readers outside of our team are Jerry, Matt Weiner, Mike Sorice, Seth, Susan, R., Eric Hillemann, Ken Mitchell, Matt Keller, and Jeff. Jerry and Mike are probably my two favorites; both read with clear diction without sacrificing speed and pacing, can pronounce most words across the humanities and sciences, and drop in the occasional amusing comment without being too over-the-top about it.

I have noticed that most of the readers I consider really good are older and Midwest-centric; I'm sure this is mainly because I'm not playing lower-level events in other circuits when I might get to hear the Matt Bollingers and Evan Adamses of the world ply their moderating trade. From my peer group, I think that Carsten, Eric, Trevor, Ted, and Auroni are all well above-average readers. (I'm guessing that many top players on the east coast are as well; I'd hypothesize that Chris Ray, Evan Adams, and various people named Matt are solid readers, but I can't recall having heard a packet read by them, even though it's likely that I have at some point.) Obviously I have a lot of experience hearing Minnesota people, and I think we have some good moderating talent; Rob, Mike, and Bernadette in particular are very good.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 9:54 am
by The King's Flight to the Scots
I'll tout Evan as a very good reader; I generally read too fast and start stumbling over words.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 10:27 am
by Cheynem
Matt Bollinger seemed okay when I saw him except he screwed me out of a bonus part on Catwomen of the Moon by giving away the answer (he was in a particularly GIVING mood that whole weekend, as qbwiki buffs will realize).

My favorite reader is Jerry, who hits for me the perfect blend of clarity, speed, and good natured mockery. Other readers high up on my list include: Matt Weiner, Mike Sorice, Seth Teitler, Jeff Hoppes, and Ahmad Ragab. I would be remiss not to mention Ryan Westbrook, who has a delightfully droll style of reading.

To be honest, among the cadre of the top levels of the collegiate circuit, most of the readers are excellent. You go to ICT, Chicago Open, and ACF Nationals, you're not going to run into too many out and out bad readers (if any--I didn't encounter any this/last year). You do run into readers with certain tics that subjectively bug you. For example, some of the readers Andrew listed as good, I would rank a few spots lower, not because they're bad or unprofessional, but because their reading styles just don't quite click with me as others.

In general, I think the best readers have the traits of keeping a room moving, not wasting time (but still able to throw out a well-timed bon mot if applicable), reading at a quick but clear pace, and being responsive to teams. Aside from being able to better pronounce words, none of this really corresponds to quizbowl skill--rarely have I marveled at a moderator's knowledge because good moderators understand that protests are resolved later, not by moderator fiat. I also dislike moderators who become "the show" themselves--commenting too much on the questions or on what teams do/don't know.

It might be more interesting to try to note particular people unique to your circuit or who don't play quizbowl (lately). Obviously Sorice and Jerry's peerless reputation for moderating is notable, but what about others who aren't as well known? Some lesser known figures that I would tout as good readers include: Mike Laudermith, Max Henkel, Saul Hankin, Dan Donohue, and Brian Weikle.

Andrew, Chris Ray at least read for us at ACF Nationals last year.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 10:40 am
by ThisIsMyUsername
In the Northeast circuit, the best readers used to be Katy Peters (still probably hands down one of the best readers I've heard) and Jerry (before he left Brown). On a National level, the best readers I've heard are probably Yaphe, Jeff, and Matt Weiner.

Actually, one of the things I'm proud of in terms of the changes in Yale over the past four years is that not only did we improve as a team in terms of playing and writing, but also in terms of moderating (I think we finally had an A team where everyone is a good reader; if I return to the Northeast circuit someday I'll gladly be read to by Matt Jackson, Kevin Koai, and Ashvin), which is more crucial in running a good tournament than we give it credit for.

A couple of months ago, Kevin and I had a discussion about what makes a good reader. Everyone talks about speed and clarity of word pronunciation, but I think there are three factors we don't emphasize enough:

- The problem with many fast readers is not that the words start getting mispronounced, but rather that the sense of punctuation and sentence structure disappears, and you as a player then have to repunctuate and shape the sea of words that just flowed past you in order to parse it. What separates the good from the great readers is the ability to clearly communicate structure to help you digest whole sentences.
- While general vocabulary and the ability to pronounce words correctly are really important, almost as important is the way a moderator deals with words they don't know. Of course, this means not sitting on a word and taking multiple stabs at trying to pronounce it, but this also means quickly inventing clear and comprehensible pronunciations for words the reader has not seen before.
- The best readers also know on which words they need to be especially clear. They slightly emphasize the identifying pronoun phrase (e.g. "In one work by *this author*, …"). They also know which words sound similar to other words in cases of crucial difference (e.g. alkyne/alkene, adsorption/absorption, etc.) and are careful to be extra clear on those words.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 10:48 am
by theMoMA
Ahmad, Andrew, and Ryan are three glaring omissions from my list; all are really good.

I think John's on the right track. There are plenty of readers who can keep pace, but only the best can preserve the sentence structure and emphasize the pronouns to keep the players engaged in the question. I'll note that one thing I really dislike is when readers emphasize what they seem to think are buzzwords, as if to indicate "hey, buzz here!" Not only is it annoying, but it's actually unfair.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 10:59 am
by Kyle
theMoMA wrote:I'll note that one thing I really dislike is when readers emphasize what they seem to think are buzzwords, as if to indicate "hey, buzz here!" Not only is it annoying, but it's actually unfair.
One adult British quizzzing enthusiast pauses at the point in the question where he would have buzzed in. I think you would really enjoy this approach, Andrew.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 11:04 am
by grapesmoker
SO MUCH FLATTERY. Seriously, though, thanks.

My favorite readers over the years have been Zeke, Andrew Yaphe, Matt Weiner, Seth Teitler, and Rob Carson.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 11:07 am
by theMoMA
grapesmoker wrote:Zeke
Another glaring omission.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 2:22 pm
by itsthatoneguy
Kurtis is an excellent reader; if we are hosting an IS set, he'll get through all 24 tossups 99% of the time with a lot of time to spare. Saul, Surya, and Will are also very good.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 2:50 pm
by cvdwightw
I think John makes some excellent points. I'd also add the following:

-Cadence. I think this may be part of what Mike is talking about when he says that some moderators just subjectively bug him, even though they're not doing anything wrong.
-Good moderators are able to parse something akin to the Ike Jose EFT basically on the fly. Putting all sorts of quizbowlese and bad grammar into packets can cause as much as a ten minute difference between a good moderator that can sort through that and make teams understand the question and an average moderator that can't figure out what the clue is supposed to mean.
-Great moderators can adjust to match the conditions of the game. A second-bracket ICT game in a quiet room is entirely different from one between two bad high school teams when the air conditioner is running full blast.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 3:04 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
I came into this thread to praise Andrew Yaphe and Zeke, but I see it's already been done. I have vague memories of Leo Wolpert being a good moderator, and I think Ed Cohn is also underrated.

At my first two HSNCTs, I worked a room with Charles Meigs, and he was a surprisingly good moderator in the NAQT format. He read fast and clear and was expert at pronouncing strange and foreign words. In the mACF format, without the clock to discipline him, it was of course a different story.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 3:28 pm
by dtaylor4
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:I came into this thread to praise Andrew Yaphe and Zeke, but I see it's already been done. I have vague memories of Leo Wolpert being a good moderator, and I think Ed Cohn is also underrated.

At my first two HSNCTs, I worked a room with Charles Meigs, and he was a surprisingly good moderator in the NAQT format. He read fast and clear and was expert at pronouncing strange and foreign words. In the mACF format, without the clock to discipline him, it was of course a different story.
When both were at Chicago, I found Ed and Susan to be two of my favorite readers.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 3:47 pm
by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Though I don't know his name, at SCT 2011 I found Northern Michigan's coach to be an extremely good reader. I believe he got through 24 tossups every time he read for my team, was extremely understandable, and knew how to pronounce more difficult terms (as opposed to a volunteer reader mentioning "circadian rhymes" and the Franco-Persian War).

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 3:49 pm
by Cheynem
Yeah, Leo was a good reader at ACF Nationals one year. I think Paul Litvak was too. I'm also a big fan of Andrew Feist.

I feel like good readers have a sense of the question before they start reading it. There are times when I don't do that and I am horrified as I realize I was emphasizing all the wrong words.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 4:28 pm
by Kouign Amann
The yet-unmentioned Dan Goff deserves a shout-out. He doesn't read as much as he used to, it seems, but I remember thinking for awhile that he was the best Mid-Atlantic area mod.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 4:43 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
Kyle Haddad-Fonda is another person we should all be ashamed of not mentioning earlier in this thread.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 4:49 pm
by Bartleby
I haven't had the chance to hear many people in this thread read, but I'd give a shout-out to Chris Borglum, who read for us at ICT '11 and was very good.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 5:06 pm
by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Additionally, I scorekept for Selene during this year's ICT and she read quite well.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 5:20 pm
by pray for elves
I don't know that he's read at any tournaments in the last five years, but Steve Watchorn was a great reader.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 8:08 pm
by Rufous-capped Thornbill
Rob Carson and Jerry are the two that come to mind first when I think about the best readers I've ever had, and Will Nediger, Matt Weiner, Andrew Hart and obviously R. Hentzel come to mind as well as being excellent.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 9:10 pm
by I'm a goff (in case you couldn't tell)
Prof.Whoopie wrote:The yet-unmentioned Dan Goff deserves a shout-out. He doesn't read as much as he used to, it seems, but I remember thinking for awhile that he was the best Mid-Atlantic area mod.
Aw, shucks.

Jason Thweatt deserves mention in this thread, too. He doesn't read much outside of tournaments at VT, but he also embodies all of the qualities already espoused in this thread.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue May 29, 2012 10:21 pm
by marnold
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Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 12:07 am
by Muriel Axon
I haven't heard packets moderated by most of the people mentioned here, but I, too, have been very impressed by Chris Borglum's reading.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 1:30 am
by The Atom Strikes!
I too love Chris Borglum. I also admire Rob Carson's ability to blaze through packets while still making snarky comments about everything. I really love Susan Ferrari's voice-- she's one of the most pleasant moderators to listen to.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 2:34 am
by The Ununtiable Twine
Matt Weiner is my favorite reader, Borglum is second, Matt Hayes third.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 9:10 am
by ValenciaQBowl
I am humbled and appreciative of the kind words and, especially, acrostics.

Also, it's interesting to note that my pores exude a pleasant aroma of freshly washed linen upon completing an ICT packet with time still on the clock.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 9:27 am
by Priscus Attalus
Kyle wrote:One adult British quizzzing enthusiast pauses at the point in the question where he would have buzzed in.
Kyle, who does this?

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 2:57 pm
by Gonzagapuma1
Andrew Fiest and Dan Goff are great. Another great one is the guy who read the 3rd place game between us and Yale at ICT, but I don't remember his name.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed May 30, 2012 10:42 pm
by Gautam
Of the folks not mentioned already, I am a fan of some of the folks who were regulars on the Minnesota leagues circuit. Ted Salk comes to mind, the others I can't recall too well.

Other people I remember from various tournaments - Margo, Miriam, Jonah, Wes Eddings, Ken Mitchell. Ken, Wes, and Jonah I remember almost exclusively from ICTs of the past few years, so kudos to them. :)

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:51 pm
by Cheynem
I finally got Borglum as a reader at CO History and he was really good. I heard Matt Lafer as a reader last weekend and he wanted me to add him to this list and he was good, so I did.

This may not have been what the thread was intended for, but I wonder what are things that readers do that bug you (aside from the obvious "too fast/too slow/not clear" problems). Here's some for me:

1. Indicating that as a reader, you would be buzzing on a certain clue, that the players in a match are not buzzing on. I can tolerate this in informal settings/practice, but I have seen people do this in an actual match and it bugs me to no end. Besides being rather unprofessional, it seems designed to trigger buzzer races.

2. Poor instincts during bonus deliberations. This can be deceptively tricky to do, but pretty simple in theory--count five and prompt unless it's OBVIOUS that an answer is being directed. A number of moderators: too quickly take an answer that may or may not be directed, unconsciously prompt or accept as soon as they hear the correct answer, allow for way too much time (i.e. further deliberation even after five seconds), etc.

3. Not really understanding what they are reading. I'm not sure how to explain this accurately. There are times when I've seen readers just sort of "read words" as opposed to "read questions," which results in awkward cadences and occasional bouts of confusion on answers that may not be 100% what the page says. I like readers that realize they are reading sentences that require specific words to be emphasized (not for clue purposes but just because that's how people talk and make themselves clear). This also can avoid:

4. Not correcting the problems of the question. Obviously, one does not expect all moderators to be copy editors, but as Dwight points out, the best can sort of do minor edits on the fly. Again, I think lesser (or I guess more inexperienced) moderators are hurt by just reading the words when if they realized what they are reading, they would avoid saying the obvious grammatical problem.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:05 am
by tiwonge
I've seen some readers make quote marks in the air with fingers when reading anything in quotations (quotes/excerpts, titles, etc.).

Is this a common practice? Is it recommended? I haven't done this, and tend to put a slight pause in front of a quote and emphasis at the start of it to indicate that it's a quote

Re: The best readers

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 11:46 pm
by Angry Babies in Love
tiwonge wrote:I've seen some readers make quote marks in the air with fingers when reading anything in quotations (quotes/excerpts, titles, etc.).

Is this a common practice? Is it recommended? I haven't done this, and tend to put a slight pause in front of a quote and emphasis at the start of it to indicate that it's a quote
If it isn't contextually obvious that it's a quote, as a player I find the least annoying option is to do what you mentioned, a slight pause. Personally I find air-quotes obnoxious in a quizbowl context.

Re: The best readers

Posted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:04 am
by jonpin
Brief pauses to represent quote marks and vocal intonation on titles are probably the best way to make sure players can HEAR the difference between "This man also painted Madonna and The Red Pony" vs "This man also painted Madonna and The Red Pony."