Current events discussion

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Current events discussion

Post by theMoMA » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:01 pm

I'd like to engage the SCT-playing populace in a discussion of current events. Despite the fact that I'm decently versed in recent important events, this is a topic I've never much cared for in quizbowl. But because I've had the responsibility of editing the category as a set editor for the previous two SCTs, I've spent some time considering my editing philosophy on CE.

My conclusion is that, across the spectrum of players, current events is harder to convert in a game situation than other categories. Here's how I put it to Kyle when we were discussing this over email:
I think the main issue (at least for me) in terms of remembering current events is that they're 1) out of quizbowl context and 2) transitory. To the first point, when I hear about Boko Haram while listening to the radio, I'm less inclined to remember it in a quizbowl context than something I hear about, say, Kurt Weill on the radio, because the latter causes my quizbowl senses to perk up. To the second point, anything is a lot easier (for me at least) to remember in a quizbowl context once it's come up once and I had to pull it from the recesses. For example, I read a long article about the Azawad separatists, but couldn't pull the name the first time it came up in quizbowl CE. Once it came up, it was sort of like the road to that answer was paved, and the second time it did, I remembered it easily. Something like Boko Haram could come up only once during its quizbowl shelf life, which I think limits conversion.
I'm not saying that these phenomena are qualitatively good or bad. But I think they exist, and quantitatively, we need to account for them when writing accessible current events questions.

Looking through the current events of the set, I think that we ended up writing CE bonuses that almost uniformly had true easy and middle parts, and CE tossups that were answerable to almost every team in the field. The vast majority of the credit for this should go to Kyle, who combines great knowledge of current events with an even better sense of what's interesting and important. There were a few questions I thought might be too hard (but didn't feel qualified enough to definitively decide). I'd be interested to hear player feedback on them, mainly to see whether my idea of difficulty is accurate.
On January 16, 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar led an assault on a gas facility near the eastern border of this country. For 10 points each--

A. Name this country, the largest by area in Africa, where 39 foreign hostages died in that attack.

answer: People's Democratic Republic of _Algeria_ (or al-Jumhuriyya al-_Jaza'ir_iyya al-Dimuqratiyya al-Sha'biyya)

B. That assault targeted the Tigantourine gas facility near this Algerian city, which lies on the border with Libya.

answer: _In Am\'enas_ (or _In Amanas_)

C. This current president of Algeria was criticized by some Western governments for taking unilateral action to storm the gas facility.

answer: Abdelaziz _Bouteflika_
I wish I'd seen that the easy part of this bonus required specific knowledge of one recent event. I realize that this is important and has received a lot of coverage, but I think enough teams probably don't know the specific gas facility attack to warrant the Algeria prompt giving only that clue. Requiring In Amenas as the middle part also seems difficult to me.
For 10 points each--answer the following about Islamist militant groups in North and West Africa:

A. The U.S. government designated {Ansar al-Sharia} [ahn-SAHR esh-sha-REE-uh] as a terrorist organization less than a month after it took part in a September 2012 attack that killed Ambassador {Christopher Stevens} in this Libyan city.

answer: _Benghazi_

B. Mohammed Yusuf founded this organization that takes its name from a Hausa [HOW-zuh] phrase meaning "Western education is forbidden." Its terrorist attacks have included bombings of churches in Nigeria.

answer: _Boko Haram_

C. Iyad Ag Ghaly [ee-YAAD ag GHAAL-ee], a Tuareg [TWA-reg] leader, founded this organization which has destroyed Sufi sites in Mali and clashed with French forces. Its name is Arabic for "Defenders of the Faith."

answer: _Ansar Dine_ (or _Ansar al-Din_)
The easy part seems fine here; the Benghazi attack has been at the forefront of news coverage for quite a while. Boko Haram is the middle part; I considered switching it to ask for "Nigeria" from Boko Haram clues only.
This militant is being tried along with Ramzi Binalshibh and three others in an American court. For 10 points each--

A. Name this {al-Qaeda} [KYE-duh] member labeled by the 9/11 Commission Report as "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks."

answer: Khalid [KHAA-lid] Sheikh _Mohammed_

B. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in 2003 by a combined task force of the CIA and the ISI, the intelligence agency of this country.

answer: (Islamic Republic of) _Pakistan_

C. Guantanamo Bay inmates have been allowed to challenge detentions in American courts since this 2008 case involving a Bosnian national, which built upon the ruling in ~Hamdan v. Rumsfeld~ that military tribunals lacked proper authority.

answer: (Lakhdar) _Boumediene_ v. Bush
Initially, the middle part asked for the ISI; did my changing it to Pakistan (based only on ISI clues) make this bonus too easy?
In January 2013 Tyrone Freeman was convicted of embezzling from this organization. A lawsuit against this organization and Kaiser Permanente filed by Prime Healthcare was dismissed in 2012 in a finding that its United Healthcare Workers West did not fix wages. Currently headed by Mary Kay Henry, it has joined the (*) Teamsters in the Change to Win Federation. For 10 points--Andy Stern recently ran what union that represents health care, public service, and property service workers?

answer: _SEIU_ or _Service Employees International Union_
This just seemed too hard to me, and it went dead when I was reading. But I wasn't sure, and didn't feel qualified to boot it from the set entirely.

Feel free to comment on any other CE tossup or bonus in here as well; I'm interested in any feedback you have.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:22 pm

The first two bonuses are a little bit too hard, although the last bonus is fine in my opinion. The SEIU tossup is a bit tricky, as I feel there is a pretty big difficulty cliff at Change to Win. Labor news doesn't get covered as much as it once did though, so you don't really have a good choice of clues you could have used to make the middle of the tossup much easier.

For what it's worth, the leadin to the Joe Biden tossup (that he plagiarized from Neil Kinnock) is more well known than I would have thought, at least based on what people in the room with me said. I feel like it's been used as a first clue in quizbowl before, but I can't promise that's the case.

[It's worth pointing out that the Biden tossup was in D2, not D1]
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:27 pm

Sulawesi Myzomela wrote: For what it's worth, the leadin to the Joe Biden tossup (that he plagiarized from Neil Kinnock) is more well known than I would have thought, at least based on what people in the room with me said. I feel like it's been used as a first clue in quizbowl before, but I can't promise that's the case.
It has (eg, in the 2011 HSNCT).
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Demonic Leftovers » Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:28 pm

Just as a quick note I believe that the SEIU was a tossup at last year's ICT as well. While it is a good idea for a tossup, it is probably more appropriate at ICT than SCT.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Kyle » Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:53 pm

Cultural Infidel wrote:Just as a quick note I believe that the SEIU was a tossup at last year's ICT as well. While it is a good idea for a tossup, it is probably more appropriate at ICT than SCT.
If I had known that it was a tossup at the ICT last year, I would not have let it into the SCT. This is a problem with changing editors. I promise to read through the current events from last year's ICT before starting work on this year's.

I did think that SEIU was a little bit difficult, but I had already kicked a couple submitted questions up to the ICT and we had a big shortage of usable American current events tossups for the SCT. While I wrote replacements for some of it, on the whole I was trying to use as many of the submitted questions as I could. Probably I should have written something else to replace this one, but it was about an important topic and I think good teams were probably okay with it.

Andrew changed the Boko Haram middle part of that bonus to Nigeria, but Jeff changed it back to Boko Haram. I sided with Jeff in this dispute. I did so because Boko Haram is in the news all the time and it has been for several years and I think you should know it by now. If you don't, well, I think you should read the news more. Some things are just kind of like that. Some things are noteworthy whether you pay attention to them or not. I wouldn't make something like that the easy part of a bonus, but I really don't have a problem with making it the middle part.

The Algeria bonus is a different situation entirely. Boko Haram is in the news all the time for lots of different attacks, but the In Amenas incident was in the news for a specific period of time. Normally, I do not like to write bonuses about one single event, but in this case I made an exception because this was such an important incident. I made the middle part hard-ish and left a note about it, which Jeff then agreed with. I did so because this event had absolutely dominated the American news only a week before (and, for once, I had even been in the United States to see the news get dominated by it).

Recency bias is an interesting problem in writing current events questions. It is worse for IS sets, which can be used over the course of four or even five or six months; when writing for those sets, therefore, you have to try to predict whether a topic will get more or less obscure over the course of an indeterminate time period. For the SCT, where I know the set will be used one time less than a week from now, I have the opportunity to ask one or two questions which I know will be harder a few weeks from now than they are right now. Possibly I shouldn't do this.

I did end up running into a problem with this issue in reverse. I wrote the tossup on drones, put John Brennan in the second line, edited it, and moved on. The next day, his confirmation hearings started. For a week now, all I have been reading about in the American news has been Brennan's drones running amok. I caught the problem before the tournament started, but after the packets had been shipped, so I moved Brennan much later in the question for the snow-delayed mirrors. I'm sorry for those of you who were inevitably perplexed to hear him mentioned so early. (I do hope you all powered that tossup. If not, go read the news!)

One of the things I told Andrew during our email conversation about current events is that you're supposed to get questions right by paying attention to the news. He said that NAQT current events questions in the past have privileged things of fleeting importance which have happened very recently and which have thus given an advantage to anybody who happened to read the newspaper or watch the news in the week before. I agree that this has been a problem, and I tried to avoid it in the SCT. With that said, I told Andrew that I don't have any problem with somebody getting points from current events questions by reading the newspaper or watching the news. That is how it is supposed to work.

And I continue to find it very bizarre that so many people rush out to read very minor 600-page novels by obscure Nigerian authors in the hopes that that novel might come up once at Chicago Open, but that so few people make a daily commitment to reading about what is going on in the world in order to get lots of points in NAQT tournaments and to be able to hold informed opinions about important events. Andrew makes a good point that people cannot study for current events questions in the same way as other subjects, but I am not convinced that that point has any particular relevance for how we write the questions. What Andrew seems to be saying (and I realize I am badly perverting his message) is that current events questions should be easier than questions in other subjects to accommodate people who study for quizbowl by reading old packets. I don't agree that that is the case.

Anyway, I was delighted to have the opportunity to impose my version of current events on your SCT. I didn't get an early start at it because I was between continents, but now that I am settled in here I am ready to do an extra good job on the ICT. I hope that you will all enjoy that tournament. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to reading in this thread whatever anybody has to say about current events from the SCT so that I can hopefully make the current events in the ICT a less frustrating experience for you than previous NAQT events have been.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:22 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Sulawesi Myzomela wrote: For what it's worth, the leadin to the Joe Biden tossup (that he plagiarized from Neil Kinnock) is more well known than I would have thought, at least based on what people in the room with me said. I feel like it's been used as a first clue in quizbowl before, but I can't promise that's the case.
It has (eg, in the 2011 HSNCT).
Can you post the tossup used at SCT?
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Kyle » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:52 pm

The 2013 D2 SCT wrote:In 1987 this man {plagiarized} a speech by Neil Kinnock, ending his presidential campaign. He was elected to the Senate in 1972, at the age of 29, and oversaw Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings as Judiciary Committee chair. In 2011 an (*) Amtrak station was named for him. During a 2012 debate, he labeled one of Paul Ryan's assertions "malarkey." For 10 points--name this former Delaware {senator} and current {vice president}.

answer: (Joseph Robinette) Joe _Biden_ (Jr.)
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:03 pm

Here's some mostly-anecdotal experiences with these questions:

That first bonus seems like it straight-up lacks an easy part, which was rather unfortunate. I don't think the geography clue makes the Algeria part easy enough to be really widely converted, and I'm trying not to just generalize from completely blowing that bonus myself--unless you intended Bouteflikas to be the easy part, in which case I am even less sympathetic. I'm a little more willing to accept Boko Haram as an okay (if hard-ish) middle part and I'm certainly happy you made the middle part of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed bonus a little more accessible. I have no idea what SEIU is and was a bit baffled by why there was a tossup on it (which went dead in the room I was in).
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Kyle » Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:10 pm

"The largest country in Africa" + one of the single biggest international news stories of the year to date being asked about just a few weeks after it happened = an easy part at the SCT.

I'm much more sympathetic to the idea that that particular bonus doesn't have a middle part. I knew that In Amenas would be hard-ish when I wrote it, but I discussed it with Jeff and we agreed that people ought to know it because of how prominently it had been covered in the media.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:07 am

Kyle wrote:Andrew changed the Boko Haram middle part of that bonus to Nigeria, but Jeff changed it back to Boko Haram. I sided with Jeff in this dispute. I did so because Boko Haram is in the news all the time and it has been for several years and I think you should know it by now. If you don't, well, I think you should read the news more. Some things are just kind of like that. Some things are noteworthy whether you pay attention to them or not. I wouldn't make something like that the easy part of a bonus, but I really don't have a problem with making it the middle part.
This is perhaps a difference of philosophy, but I tend to think that asking people to identify the place where Boko Haram is from, without additional clues, rewards knowledge of the organization while also remaining empathetic to the trouble that quizbowlers might have in pulling its name. I sympathize with Kyle's point that people should read the news more (or better), but I also think we have to keep questions consistent across categories in terms of the points accessible to the teams that play the tournament. The difference, to me, between "Name Boko Haram" and "Name the country that Boko Haram is from" is only in conversion, not in topic or importance. You still have to know what the organization is to know where it's from. (Admittedly, in this specific case, I kept the context clue about the Hausa language in my revised prompt for Boko Haram, so you could argue that this would allow players to answer "Nigeria" while knowing nothing of Boko Haram.)
One of the things I told Andrew during our email conversation about current events is that you're supposed to get questions right by paying attention to the news. He said that NAQT current events questions in the past have privileged things of fleeting importance which have happened very recently and which have thus given an advantage to anybody who happened to read the newspaper or watch the news in the week before. I agree that this has been a problem, and I tried to avoid it in the SCT. With that said, I told Andrew that I don't have any problem with somebody getting points from current events questions by reading the newspaper or watching the news. That is how it is supposed to work.
I agree, and perhaps I wasn't entirely clear what I meant. What I meant to convey to Kyle was that some of the (unedited) bonuses on politicians seemed to give players who watch the news regularly an easy 30, but made it tough for players who are generally aware of recent events (but don't follow political news daily) to receive even 10 points. I think this is unfortunate, and I'd like to see the easy parts of current events questions reward general awareness of recent events. I'd liken this to making sure that bonuses in science, or lit, or any category, to have an easy part, even for players who are only generally aware of those categories. I consider following current events on a daily basis to be expert-level work in the category of current events, analogous to reading a book or taking a physics class. If you have to do expert-level work in a category just to get 10 points, that seems too difficult to me. So requiring a player to know something like the In Amenas attack to get the easy part seems (to me) to ask more than we ask of players in other categories. (Admittedly, again, the geography clue about Algeria could have been a good enough context clue to make that a true easy part; I can't really say.)
And I continue to find it very bizarre that so many people rush out to read very minor 600-page novels by obscure Nigerian authors in the hopes that that novel might come up once at Chicago Open, but that so few people make a daily commitment to reading about what is going on in the world in order to get lots of points in NAQT tournaments and to be able to hold informed opinions about important events.
I agree that this is somewhat strange, but I also think that lots of quizbowlers (myself included) are generally aware of world events, but don't make a point of remembering the exact name of that Nigerian terrorist organization or that Algerian city with the gas facility. I don't claim that this is a good or a bad thing, just that it's something to consider. Writing current events questions with the goal of rewarding only those who make that expert-level "daily commitment" to following world events seems like the wrong approach. I'll note that, even before I made some of them easier, Kyle's CE questions for SCT were very good at giving everyone who has a modicum of knowledge about recent events a shot at answering at the end (or getting at least 10, for the bonuses).
Andrew makes a good point that people cannot study for current events questions in the same way as other subjects, but I am not convinced that that point has any particular relevance for how we write the questions. What Andrew seems to be saying (and I realize I am badly perverting his message) is that current events questions should be easier than questions in other subjects to accommodate people who study for quizbowl by reading old packets. I don't agree that that is the case.
As you might expect, this isn't quite how I'd phrase it. For one thing, I don't want to be branded as an advocate of the packet method of studying for quizbowl. I haven't attempted to study for quizbowl in any way, other than write questions and go to practice, for most of my career. I think reading through old packets alone is incredibly boring, and besides a short-lived attempt to learn opera and an even shorter-lived (and much less successful) attempt to learn things about religious councils, I've never done it. (Those are also the only times I've made flash cards for anything other than Spanish vocabulary in my life.) I understand that lots of players have succeeded in learning things this way, but I've never been interested in it, and I certainly don't think that quizbowl should cater to it.

I don't think that questions in CE should be easier than in other categories. I think that, in some ways, you're advocating a vision of CE that's harder than other categories in terms of the level of work required to answer questions. In literature, we don't say that "people should read Moby-Dick, and anyone who hasn't read it firsthand doesn't deserve points." Instead, we end tossups with the easiest clues because we know that people who haven't read Moby-Dick can still know things about it, and still deserve a chance to get tossups. The same should be true of CE. What I'm saying is that CE questions can't start with the premise that "reading the news every day is good, so these questions will only be answerable if you read the news every day." No quizbowl categories work like that. People who do that expert level of work in the category should have the tools to answer the questions faster and better, but they shouldn't be the only ones with a reasonable shot at easy/middle parts of a bonus or converting a tossup. That's all I'm saying.
Anyway, I was delighted to have the opportunity to impose my version of current events on your SCT. I didn't get an early start at it because I was between continents, but now that I am settled in here I am ready to do an extra good job on the ICT. I hope that you will all enjoy that tournament. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to reading in this thread whatever anybody has to say about current events from the SCT so that I can hopefully make the current events in the ICT a less frustrating experience for you than previous NAQT events have been.
Lest it seem that I'm shitting on the work you did for SCT, I want to say that I'm definitely not. Yours was honestly the best-edited set of CE questions I've ever seen. Like I said above, I thought your questions did a great job testing for things that were interesting in a way that kept non-experts engaged. I'm really glad you were working on the set.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:33 am

theMoMA wrote:What I meant to convey to Kyle was that some of the (unedited) bonuses on politicians seemed to give players who watch the news regularly an easy 30, but made it tough for players who are generally aware of recent events (but don't follow political news daily) to receive even 10 points. I think this is unfortunate, and I'd like to see the easy parts of current events questions reward general awareness of recent events. I'd liken this to making sure that bonuses in science, or lit, or any category, to have an easy part, even for players who are only generally aware of those categories. I consider following current events on a daily basis to be expert-level work in the category of current events, analogous to reading a book or taking a physics class. If you have to do expert-level work in a category just to get 10 points, that seems too difficult to me. So requiring a player to know something like the In Amenas attack to get the easy part seems (to me) to ask more than we ask of players in other categories. (Admittedly, again, the geography clue about Algeria could have been a good enough context clue to make that a true easy part; I can't really say.)

[...]

I don't think that questions in CE should be easier than in other categories. I think that, in some ways, you're advocating a vision of CE that's harder than other categories in terms of the level of work required to answer questions. In literature, we don't say that "people should read Moby-Dick, and anyone who hasn't read it firsthand doesn't deserve points." Instead, we end tossups with the easiest clues because we know that people who haven't read Moby-Dick can still know things about it, and still deserve a chance to get tossups. The same should be true of CE. What I'm saying is that CE questions can't start with the premise that "reading the news every day is good, so these questions will only be answerable if you read the news every day." No quizbowl categories work like that. People who do that expert level of work in the category should have the tools to answer the questions faster and better, but they shouldn't be the only ones with a reasonable shot at easy/middle parts of a bonus or converting a tossup. That's all I'm saying.
I agree wholeheartedly with Andrew's post, especially the above-quoted sections.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Kyle » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:14 am

theMoMA wrote:Writing current events questions with the goal of rewarding only those who make that expert-level "daily commitment" to following world events seems like the wrong approach.
This was never my intention. But I do think that the converse of this statement is true; in other words, people who make a "daily commitment" to following world events deserve to get 30 points on bonuses most of the time. People who don't do that still deserve to have a very good shot at getting 10 points. I don't think we are actually disagreeing on any of the general points here.

I think our disagreements are about very specific things. I still think that Boko Haram is so well known that it should be an appropriate middle part at the SCT; you disagree and think it is too difficult. I definitely still think that asking "what is the largest country in Africa, by the way it has been the top story in the news a lot very recently" is appropriate for an easy part. But, whereas I thought that people should know about the In Amenas attack because the tournament happened right after it, I now concede that I was wrong to think that people would know about it, and I'm sorry if the middle and hard parts of that bonus were too difficult. (And for what it's worth, Jeff was the one who changed Boko Haram back to Boko Haram after you changed it to Nigeria, not me.)
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:20 am

I guess I should clarify that my purpose for starting this discussion was to talk about some pervading trends in quizbowl CE that you've already combated to a large extent, so we do mostly agree.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:30 am

Kyle underestimated the difficulty of that Algeria bonus by a lot--David and I actually do follow the news every day, but only got 10 because, while very important, that incident didn't really "dominate" the American news in the way he thinks it did. On the other hand, I don't agree at all that looking at the news every day is "expert-level knowledge." Honestly, it's closer to a baseline for what you should be doing anyway to be a moderately-informed citizen. The current events equivalent to reading a book is still reading a goddamn book. If you pay any habitual attention to world current events, you'll run into Boko Haram, and you're likely to run into them enough times to internalize their fairly-memorable name whether or not they come up in packets regularly.*

What sort of irks me about this discussion is the double-standard that's coming into play. To the schadenfreude of many, I'm a bad trash player who doesn't follow entertainment closely. Consequently, I'm not going to get that easy part on Rajon Rondo that my teammates insist is super-basic, and I'm not going to improve at trash much just by playing packets. I have no issue with this, because I accept that quizbowl doesn't need to cater to my needs in a category that I don't have much interest in. Unless NAQT has some statistical data proving that current events is incredibly difficult or something**, the only difference I see between these two noncanonical categories is that trash is a Cool People's Category and current events isn't.

*Coincidentally, Boko Haram has come up several times over the past couple years, though mostly in NAQT sets.
**I understand that NAQT does keep statistical data like this and might be interested to see it.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:05 am

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:What sort of irks me about this discussion is the double-standard that's coming into play. To the schadenfreude of many, I'm a bad trash player who doesn't follow entertainment closely. Consequently, I'm not going to get that easy part on Rajon Rondo that my teammates insist is super-basic, and I'm not going to improve at trash much just by playing packets. I have no issue with this, because I accept that quizbowl doesn't need to cater to my needs in a category that I don't have much interest in. Unless NAQT has some statistical data proving that current events is incredibly difficult or something**, the only difference I see between these two noncanonical categories is that trash is a Cool People's Category and current events isn't.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Cheynem » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:50 am

I found almost all of the current events questions in SCT to be fine--the union tossup seemed too hard, and the Algeria bonus also too hard (I guess I can accept Algeria with those clues as the easy part, but the other parts seem oppressively hard).

For the record, I do think that current events questions do need to present clear easy parts. Statistical data would be the way to go to show if a current events easy part can be a little "harder" than other category easy parts, but if few people are getting them (in comparison to other easy parts), then maybe they have to dial down. Note that I wouldn't make Rajon Rondo an easy part in a trash bonus--that seems hard to me. I'd probably make it Kevin Garnett or Boston Celtics.

This might deserve another thread and I'm surprised I'm the one bringing it up, but I think easy parts in general could stand to be easier at regular difficulty tournaments. VCU Closed occasionally put the threshold of knowledge for the easy part a bit high, and while SCT was better about it, there were still some instances where just a few more clues would have been nice (hard to do in a character limit, timed format, yeah).
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:55 am

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:On the other hand, I don't agree at all that looking at the news every day is "expert-level knowledge." Honestly, it's closer to a baseline for what you should be doing anyway to be a moderately-informed citizen. The current events equivalent to reading a book is still reading a goddamn book. If you pay any habitual attention to world current events, you'll run into Boko Haram, and you're likely to run into them enough times to internalize their fairly-memorable name whether or not they come up in packets regularly.
I don't want to make following the news on a daily basis out to be some kind of Herculean task, or worse yet, some kind of evil. But it is definitely the kind of effort that we do not require in order to get points in any other category. People who do it should be experts in quizbowl current events, and that's why it's expert-level knowledge. I'm not arguing that players who completely screen current events out of their lives should always get 10 points on CE bonuses. But people who miss a particular story or have good general awareness of recent events (without keeping a finger on the daily pulse of the news) should still be able to get 10 points on a bonus or to convert most tossups by the end.
What sort of irks me about this discussion is the double-standard that's coming into play. To the schadenfreude of many, I'm a bad trash player who doesn't follow entertainment closely. Consequently, I'm not going to get that easy part on Rajon Rondo that my teammates insist is super-basic, and I'm not going to improve at trash much just by playing packets. I have no issue with this, because I accept that quizbowl doesn't need to cater to my needs in a category that I don't have much interest in. Unless NAQT has some statistical data proving that current events is incredibly difficult or something**, the only difference I see between these two noncanonical categories is that trash is a Cool People's Category and current events isn't.
Considering the work that went into making sure that there were true easy parts for all the sports and trash bonuses, I think this comment is both unfounded and irrelevant to this discussion. The easy parts of the sports bonuses are: Harry Carey (the most famous baseball announcer in recent memory), Donovan McNabb (one of the best and most controversial quarterbacks of recent vintage), Germany ("Dirk Nowitzki is from this country"), Manchester (the place where a "United" soccer club is from), high jump (from the definition of high jump), Minnesota Vikings (Randy Moss played here during his prime), and "hitting for the cycle" (from the definition).

If you don't know these things, it's because you don't follow sports at all. (Rajon Rondo is a harder answer than all of these answers, so I'm not sure why you chose that example.) The CE equivalent might be not knowing that Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany or that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks (ignoring the question of whether it's "better" to know the current events equivalents of sporting facts; both are already in the distribution, so I don't think the question of which is "better" is relevant). I could go through the considerably longer list of trash bonuses and make similar observations. With very few exceptions, the trash and sports bonuses at SCT were 10/20able for people who are aware of sports but don't follow those subjects daily, just like the CE bonuses.

In short, there was no double standard at SCT, and I'm not advocating one in this discussion. I want the single standard to be that people with general awareness of a topic stand a chance at getting tossups at the end and converting 10 points on bonuses within that topic. That's how it is in every canonical quizbowl category, and that's how it should be for CE, pop culture, sports, etc. I think that the attitude in the past (and in some cases, in the present) has been that it's okay to use current events as a megaphone to chide players for not following the news carefully enough to know three congressmen from Colorado, and I wish that would stop to the extent that it still exists.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:28 pm

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:Unless NAQT has some statistical data proving that current events is incredibly difficult or something**, the only difference I see between these two noncanonical categories is that trash is a Cool People's Category and current events isn't.
We're somewhat behind in compiling these, but we have no evidence to believe that current events is a difficulty outlier.

2011 DI ICT:

current events: 89.3% correct, 24.3% power

pop culture: 88.4% correct, 26.3% power

(note that the power rates for both of these categories are high compared to the rest of the distribution, where they usually settle in around 15-20%; maybe we should consider moving the power marks a shade earlier)
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:29 pm

I fully agree with Bollinger here (in general, I didn't have too much of a problem with the In Amenas bonus because, as Kyle said, I don't see how anyone alive during the month of January couldn't have heard of it). Having some familiarity with world events should be expected of every citizen, regardless of quizbowl. For quizbowl to make an excuse for people being uninformed seems silly - if you don't know who wrote Moby Dick, you deserve zero, just like you do if you never look at a newspaper or television. I don't see why "doing what everyone should to be doing anyway" to acquire cursory knowledge of what's happening around you isn't seen the same way as walking around a library and noticing the spine of Moby Dick.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:33 pm

It's worth noting that I made a lot of alterations to the current events in last year's SCT along the lines of the standards I've discussed in this thread. (I made fewer this year because I thought that most of the questions largely adhered to what I thought good CE questions should look like.) I would venture that current events questions in years past were harder. Whether they were truly outliers compared to the rest of the set, which was generally harder in previous years, I couldn't speculate.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:43 pm

Plan Rubber wrote:I fully agree with Bollinger here (in general, I didn't have too much of a problem with the In Amenas bonus because, as Kyle said, I don't see how anyone alive during the month of January couldn't have heard of it). Having some familiarity with world events should be expected of every citizen, regardless of quizbowl. For quizbowl to make an excuse for people being uninformed seems silly - if you don't know who wrote Moby Dick, you deserve zero, just like you do if you never look at a newspaper or television. I don't see why "doing what everyone should to be doing anyway" to acquire cursory knowledge of what's happening around you isn't seen the same way as walking around a library and noticing the spine of Moby Dick.
Again, this is a misconstrual of what I'm saying. No one is arguing that quizbowl should "make an excuse for people being uninformed," and characterizing what I'm saying in that way is well poisoning at its finest. The argument isn't, and has never been, that people who "never look at a newspaper of television" should receive automatic CE points. Instead, I want to see regular-difficulty CE questions that do what regular-difficulty questions in all other categories do: give people with general awareness of the topic a good shot to get 10 points on bonuses and to answer tossups at the end. People with general awareness are those who follow the news regularly but don't necessarily hear about or remember every event or stow away names for easy quizbowl retrieval.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Cheynem » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:55 pm

I read the newspaper all the time (probably I read the physical newspaper more than many of you, which might explain why I do erratically on current events questions, as the issues of the metropolitan Minnesota area are rarely asked about). I regularly follow/watch the news. I would have done pretty poorly on the Algeria bonus and I did not answer the question on unions.

In general, I don't want to harp on this too much because I thought the current events questions were quite good at SCT, but I do think that some of the people approaching these questions are looking at other category questions in a somewhat odd manner. Matt Bollinger wouldn't be able to 10 a trash bonus where the easy part is Rondo (something that would be okay in my opinion for a trash tournament, not for a wider audience tournament), but I bet he could at least try to 10 a trash bonus where the easy part is the Boston Celtics or Kentucky. The person who only has a basic knowledge of literature can still convert or try to convert a Moby Dick tossup or bonus part because it is one of the most famous novels in American literature and is referenced in all aspects of American culture. I would argue that the In Amenas raid (due to its recency, due to the fact that it got eclipsed in the news by other things, due to the fact that the American coverage of it didn't really hit the key players or names of things aside from a general description) is not as "easy" as Moby Dick or the Boston Celtics.

This is not inherently a problem, I guess, when you consider there are some parts of the distro where the easy part is probably harder than other categories--world lit if you don't use the country as the easy part, social science, philosophy, etc. If current events questions which to draw a line marking the threshold of knowledge, that's okay, but I do disagree with some of the people who are making current events questions seem inherently basic or easy. I would argue they are not (and I powered a few of them and did fine on bonuses).
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:11 pm

theMoMA wrote:
Plan Rubber wrote:I fully agree with Bollinger here (in general, I didn't have too much of a problem with the In Amenas bonus because, as Kyle said, I don't see how anyone alive during the month of January couldn't have heard of it). Having some familiarity with world events should be expected of every citizen, regardless of quizbowl. For quizbowl to make an excuse for people being uninformed seems silly - if you don't know who wrote Moby Dick, you deserve zero, just like you do if you never look at a newspaper or television. I don't see why "doing what everyone should to be doing anyway" to acquire cursory knowledge of what's happening around you isn't seen the same way as walking around a library and noticing the spine of Moby Dick.
Again, this is a misconstrual of what I'm saying. No one is arguing that quizbowl should "make an excuse for people being uninformed," and characterizing what I'm saying in that way is well poisoning at its finest. The argument isn't, and has never been, that people who "never look at a newspaper of television" should receive automatic CE points. Instead, I want to see regular-difficulty CE questions that do what regular-difficulty questions in all other categories do: give people with general awareness of the topic a good shot to get 10 points on bonuses and to answer tossups at the end. People with general awareness are those who follow the news regularly but don't necessarily hear about or remember every event or stow away names for easy quizbowl retrieval.
I think the difference is what we see as the general awareness people are expected to have. You seem to see reading a newspaper/watching TV every day as going above and beyond what's expected. I don't, but I agree that it wouldn't make much sense to write questions that don't let people who do that do well. Similarly, I see "are you aware that there was some big thing at a gas thing in Algeria last month" as about the same level as "are you aware of the existence of a book called Moby Dick and its author called Melville": this should be the basic knowledge required to get points.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:15 pm

The easy parts at DI SCT aren't Boston Celtics or Kentucky (at least, not with all the conceivable clues for those things). As Seth has pointed out, the purpose of the easy part is to distinguish the absolute worst teams in the tournament from the teams in the 10th to 20th percentile, not to just hand everyone 10 points and reduce all the bonuses to 20-point contests. I have been following this philosophy in my own general-audience college tournaments for a little while as well.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Auroni » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:28 pm

To just return to a point made at the very beginning of the thread:
To the first point, when I hear about Boko Haram while listening to the radio, I'm less inclined to remember it in a quizbowl context than something I hear about, say, Kurt Weill on the radio, because the latter causes my quizbowl senses to perk up.
While this is true of me as well, I don't see any reason to take this into account while writing questions. In the past, current events questions have been half-assed and consequently many people don't care about the category. If the point behind spending a lot of effort to produce well-written, accessible, and difficulty-controlled current events questions is to revitalize interest in people learning current events, then it seems silly to want to preserve this distinction between it and other established quizbowl categories.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:52 pm

As somebody who follows the news every single day, and subsequently does well at current events questions at any level, I'm not sure I'd like to define my news reading habits as a minimum standard for getting points in quizbowl on regular difficulty. The amount of people I know who follow the news like I do is extremely small, and most of those people are quizbowl current events specialists or political scientists.

I think quizbowl players know, on average, too little about current events. While I and every other person in this thread would like to see people read the news more, in real life the average quizbowl player does not devote the amount of time to following the news to meet some of the difficulty ideals that are being suggested in this thread. I'm either reading, watching, or listening to some sort of news coverage for a pretty large chunk of time nearly every day, but average quizbowl players who only glance at the news occasionally (maybe once a day or a few times a week) still know things and can earn points for their knowledge if we allow them. I don't really buy that this is demanding less work than other subjects do, for example I can assure you that people who spend at least two hours reading about philosophy every day get more points in that category than I (a person who only rarely does so and usually only in a quizbowl context) do.

We can make CE harder and have regular difficulty questions that are basically only answerable by specialists such as myself. But this is a standard we don't set for any other category in quizbowl, and regardless of the work required to gain the knowledge to meet those standards, it is contradictory to the ideals of making regular difficulty quizbowl questions accessible to regular quizbowl teams.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Cheynem » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:04 pm

I agree that the easy part should not just be "free 10 points for all," but I'm not sure why "Name this team that Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce play for" cannot be a good easy part at SCT or "name this college team that John Calipari coached to a NCAA championship last year." This is probably what you meant by "easiest possible clues"--I was no in way advocating that easy parts at SCT should be "Name this basketball team that plays in Massachusetts" or "Name this college team that plays in Lexington in the Bluegrass State," just as I would not advocate that Algeria bonus give you some easy clue about its capital (I guess that's very easy) or whatever.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Kyle » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:11 pm

Sulawesi Myzomela wrote:We can make CE harder and have regular difficulty questions that are basically only answerable by specialists such as myself.
I hope it doesn't seem like I am advocating making current events questions harder. I am not. A quick perusal of the answer lines for the world current events tossups should remind everybody how much I want everything to be converted by the end: Indonesia, Malaysia, Enrique Peña Nieto, Ukraine, Julia Gillard, the BBC, Ecuador, Russian prisons, Iran, and Argentina. I can't believe that any category would have had a substantially higher rate of conversion overall than those tossups! I think, for the most part, that nobody here is really disagreeing about any big general points. We all want the hard parts of bonuses to reward people who really know what is going on and for the easy parts of bonuses to be easy even for people who barely know what is going on. We are just disagreeing about whether some particular bonus parts were too difficult for the particular tournament in question.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:56 pm

Kyle wrote:I hope it doesn't seem like I am advocating making current events questions harder. I am not. A quick perusal of the answer lines for the world current events tossups should remind everybody how much I want everything to be converted by the end: Indonesia, Malaysia, Enrique Peña Nieto, Ukraine, Julia Gillard, the BBC, Ecuador, Russian prisons, Iran, and Argentina.
So I'm not very good at current events, but what I am a fan of is recent history. And I want to point out that the clues you used in these tossups were super useful for someone with my interests (UNMO for Malaysia, the Jewish center bombing for Argentina, etc). I hope using clues from the last 20 years of history continues to be a thing in CE tossups.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:06 pm

theMoMA wrote:
I don't want to make following the news on a daily basis out to be some kind of Herculean task, or worse yet, some kind of evil. But it is definitely the kind of effort that we do not require in order to get points in any other category. People who do it should be experts in quizbowl current events, and that's why it's expert-level knowledge. I'm not arguing that players who completely screen current events out of their lives should always get 10 points on CE bonuses. But people who miss a particular story or have good general awareness of recent events (without keeping a finger on the daily pulse of the news) should still be able to get 10 points on a bonus or to convert most tossups by the end.
Yeah, I have no problem with that as long as it's not a really huge recent story--I already agreed that the Algeria bonus was overall too hard.
Considering the work that went into making sure that there were true easy parts for all the sports and trash bonuses, I think this comment is both unfounded and irrelevant to this discussion. The easy parts of the sports bonuses are: Harry Carey (the most famous baseball announcer in recent memory), Donovan McNabb (one of the best and most controversial quarterbacks of recent vintage), Germany ("Dirk Nowitzki is from this country"), Manchester (the place where a "United" soccer club is from), high jump (from the definition of high jump), Minnesota Vikings (Randy Moss played here during his prime), and "hitting for the cycle" (from the definition).
I thought your trash bonuses were completely fine, and in fact I based my argument on that fact. What I said was:
I'm a bad trash player [who will frequently zero easy bonuses.] I have no issue with this, because I accept that quizbowl doesn't need to cater to my needs in a category that I don't have much interest in.
My claim, then, is resoundingly NOT that the trash was somehow harder than the current events, or that an easy part on Donovan McNabb* is impossible. My point was that the a priori claim that "current events is harder to convert in a game situation than other categories" because it's non-canonical or "transitory" is silly, since people can and easily do just watch the news to answer those questions. My further point was that the same things are true of trash, and players like me who don't pay attention to it don't answer it, but this forum has no topic about how trash is "difficult to convert in a game setting." In fact, I've seen multiple topics on this forum claiming that current events is too difficult to learn and none in my time making the same claim about trash. That's a double standard.Therefore, I'm not convinced by claims that current events is an intrinsically difficult category and must be made easier.
I want the single standard to be that people with general awareness of a topic stand a chance at getting tossups at the end and converting 10 points on bonuses within that topic. That's how it is in every canonical quizbowl category, and that's how it should be for CE, pop culture, sports, etc.
OK, I agree with this statement, but the premise of your argument was that current events SHOULD have a different metric from other categories. So, I agree (as I did before) that easy parts should usually not depend on knowledge of a single fleeting news story, but I'm no longer sure what your position is.
think that the attitude in the past (and in some cases, in the present) has been that it's okay to use current events as a megaphone to chide players for not following the news carefully enough to know three congressmen from Colorado, and I wish that would stop to the extent that it still exists.
Asking for three congressmen from Colorado would be a dumb idea, and having basic player empathy would tell you not to do that. Still, though it may have been common practice in old NAQT sets I haven't played, I don't remember any recent sets that did anything like that; I'm also not sure what actual questions you're arguing against now that you've rightly praised Kyle for his work. Can you explain what sets you thought had more difficult questions in CE than other categories?

*I believe you that Rajon Rondo is harder than the easy parts you used in your tournament. The thing about knowing no sports is that I don't know which athletes are acceptable easy parts and picked the first player I could think of that I couldn't get a bonus part on.
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Re: Current events discussion

Post by bmcke » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:47 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:So I'm not very good at current events, but what I am a fan of is recent history. And I want to point out that the clues you used in these tossups were super useful for someone with my interests (UNMO for Malaysia, the Jewish center bombing for Argentina, etc). I hope using clues from the last 20 years of history continues to be a thing in CE tossups.
I like this. I normally ignore anything relating to crime or terrorism on the suspicion that it's "fluff news" and that the coverage is disproportionate to how much it affects the world. On the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed bonus I got 10 for Boumediene.

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Re: Current events discussion

Post by Kyle » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:20 pm

bmcke wrote:The airline merger thing got more famous today.
Yeah, that is going to play differently at the MIT site. I blame the snow!
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