Fighting Trash Capture

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Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Cheynem » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:20 pm

Despite a general paucity of trash tournaments, I think Trash Capture is a major thing that really affects small or marginal programs (due to the lack of tournaments, it becomes not so much playing only trash tournaments, but just practicing only on it). I attended a few practices at Minnesota Morris' campus this year and the team basically is an all-trash team; the only thing they've gone to this year has been Bayou a Drank. I don't think this is that uncommon for other programs to just primarily play trash either (i.e.. willing to drive on long road trips to play a trash tournament but not drive a hour to play an appropriate academic tournament).

I wonder if people have any thoughts about how to overcome trash capture--what would you suggest to people who want to change things at a school stuck in trash only mode? Also, what can programs do to make sure they are not susceptible to trash capture? There are some programs where I would say "Oh, they'll never have to worry about that," but I think it's a looming threat for more schools than one might think.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Auroni » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:20 pm

For all my other problems with the UCSD team, the one thing we were able to avoid was "trash capture." I pretty much never read trash packets in practice. The one or two times that somebody did, we read really high quality trash and it was proven that the team was really bad at it, so they begged to switch back to academic.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Bartleby » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:55 pm

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:For all my other problems with the UCSD team, the one thing we were able to avoid was "trash capture." I pretty much never read trash packets in practice. The one or two times that somebody did, we read really high quality trash and it was proven that the team was really bad at it, so they begged to switch back to academic.
Conversely, though, for teams who are good at trash, trash is appealing. My point of view is that people like answering questions on things they know. If your team is comprised of people who know about the types of things that come up in academic quiz bowl, then you're set. If, however, more people know more about pop culture, then that's what they're going to want to play. I am a far superior trash player to academic, but I still enjoy academic quiz bowl because a) it is the same game with different questions and b) I will be able to chip in a couple of tossups per match. For people who have even less academic knowledge than someone like me, but who are good at trash... well, I don't see why they would want to play academic quiz bowl, in much the same way that the players at UCSD didn't want to play trash.*

*I'm talking about cases where people have tried academic quiz bowl, in a tournament setting, and not found it to their liking.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by evilmonkey » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:03 pm

From the outside, I'm not sure there is anything you can do except encourage them to do more academic tournaments.

From my times in leadership positions at Notre Dame and Texas A&M, the single most toxic thing to academic quizbowl is the guy who says "Why don't we do something fun, like a trash packet?" - the implication being that academic quizbowl is not fun. If you allow those voices to prosper, then the new people start to see the academic packet as a "chore" that has to be done before you give them the "fun", an atmosphere that destroys all motivation towards the academic. As a freshman and sophomore at Notre Dame, I was concerned with just maintaining the small numbers we had, and didn't criticize those views. I think that had I not been as insistent about doing academic packets at every practice, the club would have fallen into trash capture. As it was, the atmosphere at practice was becoming increasingly divided. I got a blessing in disguise when Trygve threatened to get all area schools to ban our team from future competition when half our players bailed on TRASH Regionals. While I know now that it would have been difficult to enforce, that threat led me to ban those players who had left. That contingent included some of the more problematic members. After that, I took more of a hard line against trash. This has had a lasting effect on the club: when I mentioned a midwestern trash tournament to the Notre Dame club president earlier this year, he responded "Oh... No one in the club really does that anymore".

When I came to A&M, the majority of the team liked playing trash. I again insisted on the academic packets, but this time, had less of a tolerance for any attitude that insinuated that academic was not fun. One of our guys started with that attitude; I took him aside after a practice and quietly told him that I didn't care if he suggested trash, but that I did not want him to imply that academic was not fun. I have no issues with trash, though I'm possibly worse at it than I am at academic. At the beginning of this year, I made allowances to split one of our practices each week into two rooms, one for academic, one for trash. Without the pervasive atmosphere that "academic is hard and not fun", none of the freshmen have adopted such an attitude. The trash room died quickly; I think it's kind of sad, because I think trash has its place in the quizbowl landscape. I'm just not willing to sacrifice the academic for the sake of trash.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by mhayes » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:25 pm

Cheynem wrote: I wonder if people have any thoughts about how to overcome trash capture--what would you suggest to people who want to change things at a school stuck in trash only mode?
This may seem like an overly simplistic solution, but I think it comes down to just getting *better* at the academic side. People will always have fun playing on something where they can score points.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:35 pm

I don't even think it's that. I think trash has the illusion of accessibility because it's about stuff you don't have to read books and take classes to know about, whereas playing an ACF regionals packet beats your face in repeatedly with stuff that seems so esoteric and academic that it feels insurmountable if you're a lesser player. In real world results, I don't think these teams really do much better at trash than any other kind of quizbowl - they tend to suck all around, it's just easy to trick yourself into believing that trash is fun and easy and everything else is for nerds.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:43 pm

evilmonkey wrote:From my times in leadership positions at Notre Dame and Texas A&M, the single most toxic thing to academic quizbowl is the guy who says "Why don't we do something fun, like a trash packet?" - the implication being that academic quizbowl is not fun. If you allow those voices to prosper, then the new people start to see the academic packet as a "chore" that has to be done before you give them the "fun", an atmosphere that destroys all motivation towards the academic.
This is definitely an attitude to be wary of, whether or not the person is actively advocating for reading trash packets or anything similar. I hate the idea of scaring people away from quizbowl, but at some point you have to wonder if somebody who doesn't consider quizbowl fun has any business being on a quizbowl team.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by RFurse » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:23 pm

Speaking as someone who went to a school (NYU) who went through "trash capture" and back again, I can give some insight.

When I was a Freshman in September 2006, the club was already pretty trash heavy, so I can't speak for what came before, but we still read academic packets every meeting. My first two years had pretty anemic new membership, and no one was particularly great at academic so everyone just kind of coalesced around trash, especially in my sophomore year. At the beginning of my junior year when I became President, all of the old people left, and we got a gigantic group of new people which included people who were good at both, so we were able to focus more on both.

I can't really say more than that, and I don't know if there's any advice in there, but that was my experience. Was the leadership around 06/07 trash heavy? Yes, but it was just a reflection of the small membership that we had. There was a time when an academic tournament was brought up, but no members really expressed any interest (myself included in all fairness.) Once we had a large enough base to draw from, things began to change.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:10 am

It's a problem at my school so I'm all-ears for any recommendations. I really think it relies on a regime change and more than just one person wanting it, though, and I don't see neither of those things happening unless we get some serious quizbowlers in the program these next few years.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:28 am

Become a well-liked Club President and then ban or limit trash by force of will.

But seriously, we have a clause in our club constitution banning the spending of club funds on trash and only allowing trash to be read at practice after a set number of academic packets. Constitutions can't really flat-out stop trash capture, but they're a helpful tool, I think.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by evilmonkey » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:23 am

Horned Screamer wrote:I don't even think it's that. I think trash has the illusion of accessibility because it's about stuff you don't have to read books and take classes to know about, whereas playing an ACF regionals packet beats your face in repeatedly with stuff that seems so esoteric and academic that it feels insurmountable if you're a lesser player. In real world results, I don't think these teams really do much better at trash than any other kind of quizbowl - they tend to suck all around, it's just easy to trick yourself into believing that trash is fun and easy and everything else is for nerds.
I think you're right.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:19 am

Sulawesi Myzomela wrote:This is definitely an attitude to be wary of, whether or not the person is actively advocating for reading trash packets or anything similar. I hate the idea of scaring people away from quizbowl, but at some point you have to wonder if somebody who doesn't consider quizbowl fun has any business being on a quizbowl team.
At this point, trash has been so thoroughly minimized in the quizbowl schedule that I feel it would frankly be appropriate to confront trash-only players and teams and ask them why the hell they're bothering being involved in running a university club where they meet at least once a week just to "prepare" for at most, like, one tournament a year, where they are probably going to do badly anyway. A serious confrontation with these people over the fact that they are wasting their own time to play a game that hardly exists seems to me like something we should pursue. I would love to see teams like UM-Morris or GWU peacefully transition into enlightenment about how to do quizbowl, but if they aren't going to, it would probably be a smarter choice to get their clubs to disband or otherwise lose all of the people who are so misguided and start from scratch, allowing people with fewer preconceived notions (or perhaps high schoolers with the right notions) to build a serious program that plays the tournaments that are actually there for them, rather than letting these delusional attitudes fester and potentially infect other players and programs in the area.

I frankly agree with Bryce Durgin, it would be kind of cool if there were a few well-written trash tournaments a year to mix things up, but at this point it's clear to me that trash turned from a fun diversion into a cancer that has been destroying whole circuits (especially in conjunction with IS set tournaments), and it's best for quizbowl to temporarily nuke the entire endeavor so that we can take a breather, do a little regrouping, and get some more teams off the ground that know what they're doing before we reintroduce trash as a significant supplement to the quizbowl calendar.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:52 am

Horned Screamer wrote:I would love to see teams like UM-Morris or GWU peacefully transition into enlightenment about how to do quizbowl, but if they aren't going to, it would probably be a smarter choice to get their clubs to disband or otherwise lose all of the people who are so misguided and start from scratch, allowing people with fewer preconceived notions (or perhaps high schoolers with the right notions) to build a serious program that plays the tournaments that are actually there for them, rather than letting these delusional attitudes fester and potentially infect other players and programs in the area.
This is right. Ultimately all of this "well, it's what the people want, what can you do" shrugging is ridiculous--obviously the people who DON'T want to join a trash-only team are not going to do so! The attitude that the persistence of trash capture is a democratic process was really prevalent during the heyday of this phenomenon 7-8 years ago, and it was fallacious then for that reason.

If a bunch of people are squatting on the "quizbowl team" slot at a school in order to read Harry Potter theme tournaments and high school questions in practice and never go to anything, either demand they get out or form a second club. No one has the right to effectively bar everyone else at a college from playing quizbowl tournaments by monopolizing the funding or club recognition for "the quizbowl team" and then not doing anything with it.

(I'm surprised to hear that this applies to GWU since, as Charlie pointed out, there aren't any trash tournaments in-semester for them to go to and they are at least coming to MUT at VCU next week, but whatever.)
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:53 am

Some teams seem to go about this about as peacefully as possible-- Delaware has both a real quizbowl team and then a bunch of older hangers-on who seem to play only trash. Dividing the team like that isn't ideal, but may work better than a hostile takeover, and the trash dinosaurs don't really sap much of the budget, considering how little trash there actually is these days.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Cheynem » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:03 pm

I was going to suggest some scheduling reform to aid this, but I'm not sure if it's even necessary. TRASH is dead/dormant, there are hardly any regular season trash tournaments (although I'm still super pissed about the Bayou a Drank mirror scheduled against our WIT mirror), and for the most part trash stuff just ends up getting appended to academic tournaments (so it's harder to avoid) or in the summer (when whatever).

As Charlie says, this is in and of itself the ultimate argument--why would we focus so much on trash when there are no trash tournaments? In effect, then, we're just a club who likes to hang out and read old questions which is probably a fine hobby but should not be the official "quizbowl club" of an university. I wonder if you could persuade trash partisans to start their own club--if you meet like once a week, members of the academic team could probably drop by on occasion, and then they could just read all the trash they like.

From my own experiences, the danger comes when trash capture cannot be stopped right away. You then get the people potentially interested in academic stuff either lapsing into learned helplessness or just abandoning the team altogether. That then builds into what I think happens with trash capture teams a lot: the attraction to hangers-on with no real interest in academic competition at all but who just want to shout DOCTOR WHO once every packet. This then creates a really shitty environment that does not attract anyone not already on board with the trash kool-aid. At this point, I guess the only thing that would work is a complete newcomer either waiting out the trash people or forming a new team altogether.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:11 pm

Cheynem wrote: That then builds into what I think happens with trash capture teams a lot: the attraction to hangers-on with no real interest in academic competition at all but who just want to shout DOCTOR WHO once every packet.
Which is pretty much all trash turned out to be anyway, and why there is so little interest in playing or producing it.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by mhayes » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:14 pm

Cheynem wrote:At this point, I guess the only thing that would work is a complete newcomer either waiting out the trash people or forming a new team altogether.
I don't know what the policies are at other schools, but at ULL, "duplicate" student organizations were not allowed. Of course people can always attend tournaments without being recognized by the university, but it would be almost impossible to get funding or host tournaments.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:13 pm

Yeah, it seems like it would be awfully hard to break out of trash capture once a team goes into it. I guess if I were at a school under trash capture, I would show up to every practice (and maybe schedule extra, purely academic practices), try to get (fun, good) academic packets read as much as possible, recruit new members, persuade current members to go academic, go to as many academic events as possible, etc. I might even look at the team constitution and file a grievance or something if the team was chartered as an “academic team” and is spending funds on trash. At the end of the day, part of the reason why academic won over trash in the quizbowl world is because the academic partisans were more committed and focused. That’s probably how to win against trash capture on your own team.

Of course, the best thing is to avoid capture in the first place. If you’re starting a team, there’s no need to accommodate trash partisans. If you lose members because of it, oh well. Having team charter provisions making your team academic seems like a good idea. Also, having your team named “the Academic Team” might be good. We’ve had people ask at practices if we go to trash tournamnets, and I usually say that, although members of our team occasionally go to trash events, we do it without using team funds. I also note that we’re the “ACADEMIC Team,” so we go to academic events.

Of course, another idea might be to ban reading trash questions at practice. I’m generally cool with that idea, though I personally occasionally read trash packets on slow nights or early on in the recruiting stage. It breaks the monotony, if anything. I think you just have to be careful with reading trash packets. Like, don’t do it more than once in a blue moon and put your foot down if there’s bellyaching for more trash. I guess putting my foot down’s not a problem because I’m noticeably older than most people in the room and might have an air of authority or terrify trash people, or something. And at the end of the day, our program has pretty healthy relationship with trash questions: I usually take players to trash events when they happen (on our own dime) and it doesn't distract from the academic mission of the team.

Another way to avoid trash capture is to read packets that will keep the interest of novices. In my experience, novice players are the main people who really want to play trash. And lots of those players (at least on our team) simply aren’t ready for even ACF Fall-level questions in the first month or so. So I like reading early novice and especially Delta Burke questions during early practices. Those tourneys seem to engage the novices pretty well. And I’m definitely not above reading good high school questions in the early weeks of the fall semester. Eventually, we graduate to ACF Fall and higher, but those packets tend to bore novices and whet the appetite for things like trash when done in excess in the early weeks of the semester.
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Re: Fighting Trash Capture

Post by mastaloo » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:39 pm

Emily Krok wrote:Some teams seem to go about this about as peacefully as possible-- Delaware has both a real quizbowl team and then a bunch of older hangers-on who seem to play only trash. Dividing the team like that isn't ideal, but may work better than a hostile takeover, and the trash dinosaurs don't really sap much of the budget, considering how little trash there actually is these days.
Speaking for a team that has recently exited the trash capture phase, I think the process does take a few years to fully implement a culture change. For us, we transitioned from practicing academic and trash 50/50 to practicing academic almost exclusively over the course of 3 years. Rather than take an authoritative stance, I found it was beneficial to slowly wean the team off trash to the point where the hardcore trash players graduated. That fact, combined with touting only the academic aspects of quizbowl to recruits, solved the problem to an extent.
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