ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Sun Apr 20, 2014 6:29 pm

You're a member of the community, and you are on record as having voiced opinions--hence, "vocal member of the community"!

Although it's much less fun for me to have a reasonable exchange with someone who doesn't take umbrage at my remarks, I will grudgingly agree to continue the discussion in this good-humored manner. In response to your question: Yes, I think people should be free to write on whatever things interest them. If other people also find those things interesting, then great--they'll be inspired to write similar questions in the same vein, and a trend (or even a sea change) will have been started. If other people don't find those things interesting, then nothing will come of it--they won't write similar questions in the same vein, and that will be the end of that.

In essence, this is a game in which we arrange bits of information about things into questions. I don't think there is any a priori difference between various types of "bits of information about things," assuming they are accurate. That is, there is no epistemic distinction to be drawn between the boiling point of chromium and ... um, whatever constitutes a good clue about chromium. The difference is a cultural one: we deem the first clue boring and not worth caring about, unlike other types of clues that we collectively find interesting and worth caring about.

Another way of putting my point, then, is that for a lot of subjects--maybe even for all subjects, though the science distribution is a mystery to me--there are multiple ways of construing the world of clues that are "interesting and worth caring about." Nonetheless, there is a tendency in quizbowl discussion to suggest that the set of things that one personally finds interesting and worth caring about is identical with "the only legitimate way of asking about a given subject." In the case of the film manifesto, for instance, you expressly argue that "All film questions should make use of [the subset of clues that you find interesting]." It's possible that you no longer hold that position, or that you were exaggerating for rhetorical effect; but you are on record (vocally!) as making that assertion.

My own view, obviously, is that that is one way to write good film questions; but you can also write good film questions (by which, again, I mean "questions that someone with a serious interest in film could find interesting and worth playing") without using such clues. For instance, here are two tossups I wrote for my Karlfeldt trash tournament:

One of this director’s final films features a famous long take in which the protagonist tries to carry a lighted candle across a pool. That film, which centers on a writer who travels to Italy to research the life of an 18th-century composer, was Nostalghia, while he went to Sweden to make his last film, which centers on a man named Alexander who sleeps with a witch in order to reverse a nuclear holocaust. In addition to The Sacrifice, he directed a seemingly plotless film centering on a character named Alexei entitled Mirror, as well as a 1966 film whose prologue features a balloon ride, though the rest of the film is set in the 15th century and features Anatoly Solonitsyn as the title artist. FTP, name this director of Andrei Rublev and Solaris.
ANSWER: Andrei Tarkovsky

At one point in this film, Drop Johnson starts screaming hysterically as he watches another man get beaten about the head with a red-hot shovel and shot. Two flunkies, O’Doole and Mayor Dale Levandar, are seen going from office to office, while the unfortunate Mink is killed by a man who passes off Mink’s corpse as his own. In the climactic scene, the protagonist walks into his building, the Barton Arms, at four in the morning, and finds the dead body of Johnny Caspar before shooting Bernie Bernbaum, which he had been unable to do earlier in the film. FTP, name this film set in 1929 in a gangster-run city, in which Leo is played by Albert Finney and Tom Regan is played by Gabriel Byrne, a work by the Coen brothers.
ANSWER: Miller’s Crossing

The Tarkovsky tossup is, I think, the kind of thing you were calling for in your manifesto; the Miller's Crossing one, by contrast, is much more like the kind of "plot summary" tossup that you decried. In my view, both are interesting and "legitimate." And, in general, I think there are lots of subjects in which there are multiple ways of writing interesting, legitimate questions, although you wouldn't know that from reading a lot of quizbowl discussion.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Apr 20, 2014 6:35 pm

Just on a note, Ryan was saying this last night, and I will reiterate: it's very hard to do a packet search sometimes, particularly on packets that are never publicly posted, like ICT. The cynic in me will also note that while they are assuredly available elsewhere, the following 2013-2014 tournaments are missing from quizbowlpackets.com (not counting the stuff that would never get there, like SCT):

2013 Collegiate Novice
2013 Michigan Fall Tournament
2013 DRAGOON
2013 Penn Bowl
2013 ACF Fall
Fernando Arrabal
2014 SUBMIT
2014 Cane Ridge Revival

I have no idea if there are further mirrors or usages of these sets, and I know you could just get them by other means, but this is very frustrating for both writers, editors, and the average teams. Sorry, off topic, rant over.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Apr 20, 2014 7:15 pm

I find dubious at best the assertion that "Van Hove singularities" are a sufficiently well-known thing for me to worry overmuch about pushing it down. The words "flavor tagging" appeared in the square middle of the question, and if you had a deep knowledge of B-mesons, you were welcomed to demonstrate it on the previous clue about the unitarity triangle and the actual description of what flavor tagging was. None of these things were dropped early, in my view.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Apr 20, 2014 7:22 pm

I have a slightly more in-depth response planned, but for now let me just say that I completely agree with Andrew above; anyone should be able to write on the things they find interesting, and there are many legitimate ways of writing good questions about different things. Indeed, it is precisely this kind of development of question writers that is absolutely crucial to the long-term health of the game. Doing away with the notion that an interested generalist can, through the appropriate effort, produce good questions that are enjoyable by specialists is a recipe for disaster.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:30 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Yes, I think people should be free to write on whatever things interest them. If other people also find those things interesting, then great--they'll be inspired to write similar questions in the same vein, and a trend (or even a sea change) will have been started. If other people don't find those things interesting, then nothing will come of it--they won't write similar questions in the same vein, and that will be the end of that.
Is it gauche to quote oneself? Even if it is, I wanted to extend this point a bit further with some tangible examples.

Here's an example of the first phenomenon alluded to in my quote above. Consider the type of literature tossup that consists of "description of lesser-known work by an author; description of another work; titles; description of well-known work; well-known title." To my knowledge, this style of literature tossup was largely popularized by me in the 2000-2005 timeframe. I developed a fondness for this kind of question because it seemed reflective of my own interest in literature--i.e., when I would become interested in an author, I tended to read deeply in and about that author.

I'm not saying that I invented this type of tossup--I'm sure that you could find instances of it that predate my own serious writing. But I thought it was a good way of writing literature questions, and wrote lots of (what I hoped were) interesting, meaty questions after this pattern. Presumably, other people also found this an interesting way of asking about literature, because it caught on and became a standard "template" for literature tossups.

By contrast, here's an example of the second phenomenon alluded to above. Consider the field of the history of science (as it has been represented in quizbowl). I've always been very interested in the history of science, and back in the '90s, that interest translated into a fair number of points. Then the "science questions should only reflect what people learn in science classes" revolution happened, and the history of science was banished from the game. When I returned to quizbowl in 2004, I thought it was a shame that the history of science had been so thoroughly extirpated, and tried to bring it back in a modest way by writing (what I hoped were) a handful of interesting, meaty questions on the history of science. However, nobody else found them interesting (to put it mildly!), and nothing came of it--my attempt to reintroduce such questions to the game was a complete failure, because nobody else wrote such questions (and I decided that it was pointless to continue fighting that fight).

In general, I think this is how the game should work. People should try new things, and if other people find those things interesting and worthwhile, then they will emulate them; if not, not. I think it's fine and good to help people emulate you by posting useful tips about how to write questions the way you yourself write them, or by suggesting new topics that are worth exploring (like the first part of Tommy's film manifesto). However, I dislike the habit of trying to coerce people to emulate you by proclaiming that your way of writing questions is the only legitimate or correct way.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sun Apr 20, 2014 10:15 pm

Just on a note, Ryan was saying this last night, and I will reiterate: it's very hard to do a packet search sometimes, particularly on packets that are never publicly posted, like ICT. The cynic in me will also note that while they are assuredly available elsewhere, the following 2013-2014 tournaments are missing from quizbowlpackets.com (not counting the stuff that would never get there, like SCT):
It's not just that some packets aren't posted. As it stands, the only realistic way to run searches of QB questions is by saving all the packets on your hard drive...and even then, a lot of formatting shit (pdf's and whatnot) really gets in the way of running accurate, comprehensive searches.

Back in the day, let's say 2007, I used to have a completely reliable searchable database on my hard drive - if something had ever come up before, I'd find out. It's now very difficult to do that.

I think this is the single most important project that quizbowl needs - a surehanded way to conduct text searches of every single packet in the last 10 years. This should not be as hard as we've made it.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by jonah » Sun Apr 20, 2014 10:17 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:
Just on a note, Ryan was saying this last night, and I will reiterate: it's very hard to do a packet search sometimes, particularly on packets that are never publicly posted, like ICT. The cynic in me will also note that while they are assuredly available elsewhere, the following 2013-2014 tournaments are missing from quizbowlpackets.com (not counting the stuff that would never get there, like SCT):
It's not just that some packets aren't posted. As it stands, the only realistic way to run searches of QB questions is by saving all the packets on your hard drive...and even then, a lot of formatting shit (pdf's and whatnot) really get in the way.

Back in the day, let's say 2007, I used to have a completely reliable searchable database on my hard drive - if something had ever come up before, I'd find out. It's now very difficult to do that.
I use DocFetcher for this purpose and have previously used Copernic Desktop (but now the free edition isn't powerful enough for my 19 gigs of packets). I recommend those; they do a solid job with PDFs (provided that scanned ones have been OCRed, which mine have) and all other relevant formats.
No Rules Westbrook wrote:I think this is the single most important project that quizbowl needs - a surehanded way to conduct text searches of every single packet in the last 10 years. This should not be as hard as we've made it.
This is probably the main thing I'm planning to work on, uh, eventually, since other people seem more interested in other things.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Charbroil » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:53 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I think this is the single most important project that quizbowl needs - a surehanded way to conduct text searches of every single packet in the last 10 years. This should not be as hard as we've made it.
Wasn't there a pre-programmed Google search of the packets in quizbowlpackets.com available as a link on the hsquizbowl.org website? It seems to have disappeared in the most recent website format redesign.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:08 am

To add a pebble to Andrew's gigantic pile of rocks (sorry, that's the best metaphor you're getting at 1 AM), I'll say that I've long suspected that people over-estimate just how representative their own life experiences are in tournament discussion threads. People will make broad generalizations about how subject x or y is taught, and their expertise is often limited to just the small number of schools they have attended. Often, it focuses entirely on what people learn in school and ignores totally what people learn outside of school, which I'll bet is empirically how most quizbowl points are actually earned.

I think that education is actually significantly more heterogeneous than forum posters think. Objective difficulty/objective importance is thus something I have long been skeptical about.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:47 am

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: In general, I think this is how the game should work. People should try new things, and if other people find those things interesting and worthwhile, then they will emulate them; if not, not. I think it's fine and good to help people emulate you by posting useful tips about how to write questions the way you yourself write them, or by suggesting new topics that are worth exploring (like the first part of Tommy's film manifesto). However, I dislike the habit of trying to coerce people to emulate you by proclaiming that your way of writing questions is the only legitimate or correct way.
I think this is a crucial issue for improving the quality of conversation on the board, though it should probably be split into a separate thread on the expert’s role in quizbowl (how they should influence the canon or drive discussion). This is an issue I feel qualified to address because about three or four years ago myself and a couple other lit players lead a movement that created a “sea change” toward more canonical and easy literature answers across all levels especially hard tournaments. This movement had two stages: the first was a series of violent internet arguments about the literature answer selection of various tournaments (look back at the 2010 CO and 2011 ACF Nats thread). But the second, and more important, part was writing questions people wanted to play and emulate. You need to sublimate your didactic principles into questions. You’re aiming to convert the next generation of writers, who are playing tournaments but haven’t seriously started editing yet, rather than winning an argument with the current generation of editors who already have established opinions.

I think too many young “experts” follow the first, abstract phase without even considering the second, pragmatic side. They tell us social science needs to be completely reinvented to be more “real”, but can’t find a single question in the history of quizbowl that meets their superhuman standard.

To offer a concrete example, I wrote the lit portions for ACF Regs 2011 (and to a lesser extent HI 2010) to push the canon towards tossups on works rather than authors—specifically major works rather than tossups focusing mainly on an author’s minor works. But I also wrote them for both specialists and generalists to enjoy. Evan Adams had a similar goal with VCU Open 2011, which was another important tournament in the easy-answer “movement.” A few years later, the canonical literature paradigm has replaced the Yaphe paradigm, and I’m amused to see that people are finally writing the sort of questions I always wanted to play now that I’m semi-retired.

But I outline this history because I think it illustrates how experts can influence the canon. This current thread illustrates the right and the wrong ways to approach this issue. On one side, Tommy’s film advocacy has found a way to engage people and make them want to write more film questions (and moreover, write more film questions in his preferred style). The issue with the music mafia is that they repel interest in their category rather than excite it. If writing a tournament feels like creating a magazine for a critical reader who will praise some things and criticize others, editing music feels like preparing a tax return for an IRS audit.

This year for ACF Nationals picking a music editor was like a game of Russian roulette—there could be no winner, one could only lose. And poor Auroni—who could not have been more diligent editing music—is having all of his impeccable work in other categories overshadowed by this shitstorm of a discussion, which will not die. Ironically, ten days before the tournament (when we still had five packets to finish) my number one priority as the managing editor was making sure Auroni and Magin scheduled time to go over every music clue to test for uniqueness. All other categories could wait, because I didn’t want our discussion thread hijacked by the music mafia.
Last edited by Magister Ludi on Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:12 am

I've always been about fostering agreement in the community, and I think the one thing we agree on in this case is that the Coral Castle tossup was immaculate. I mean, just immaculate. Chock full of new and fresh clues on the Coral Castle...evocative ones too. I know I felt like I was there when I was listening to Jerry read it.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Kyle » Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:38 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I think the one thing we agree on in this case is that the Coral Castle tossup was immaculate. I mean, just immaculate.
What a great idea for a tossup -- was there a clue in it about how he'll record your answering machine message?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:21 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I know I felt like I was there when I was listening to Jerry read it.
Similarly, I am sure the mellifluous sound of my voice momentarily transported at least a few listeners into a protoplanetary disk.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:21 am

I endorse everything that Ted has said 100% in his post, and it should be a reminder to other specialists to have some empathy when criticizing questions, lest you make editing your category even more unattractive to people.
No Rules Westbrook wrote:I've always been about fostering agreement in the community, and I think the one thing we agree on in this case is that the Coral Castle tossup was immaculate. I mean, just immaculate. Chock full of new and fresh clues on the Coral Castle...evocative ones too. I know I felt like I was there when I was listening to Jerry read it.
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No Rules Westbrook wrote:I know I felt like I was there when I was listening to Jerry read it.
Similarly, I am sure the mellifluous sound of my voice momentarily transported at least a few listeners into a protoplanetary disk.
i could feel the structure formation happening around me
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:22 am

Magister Ludi wrote: The issue with the music mafia is that they repel interest in their category rather than excite it. If writing a tournament feels like creating a magazine for a critical reader who will praise some things and criticize others, editing music feels like preparing a tax return for an IRS audit.
Again, I apologize for doing this. Anyone who knows me at all well IRL knows that I spend unhealthy amounts of time eagerly sharing music recommendations/trying to get people more interested in cool repertoires, so it would be nice to be able to do that in tournament discussions too.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:48 am

Is the set not posted yet? Not meaning to breathe down anyone's neck about it, I want to make sure that I'm not being a dumbass and missing where it is.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by jonpin » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:21 pm

There was a bit of confusion about who had the responsibility and/or ability to upload the set to HSQB/DB. It should be up shortly. By the way, one quick thing and not to keep ragging on one team, but in case anyone was confused: early stat files including the Prelim stats posted on HSQB/DB show Dartmouth with an asterisk as UG-eligible, but we discovered overnight Saturday that one member of the team was in his fifth year of college, and therefore he and the team as a whole were not UG-eligible.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 21, 2014 3:21 pm

Also, that's a really good post by Ted up there.

Between that and Andrew Hart's metaphor that we need to "create a place at the table" for specialists and non-specialists to have input on the content of questions in a realistic manner (one that wrestles with the actual process of editing/writing a tournament, and not someone's subjective vision of what the perfect question for them would be), I think it may indeed be possible to reach some consensus on more critical items than the Coral Castle.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Mon May 05, 2014 9:23 pm

Set still not up?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by pajaro bobo » Fri May 30, 2014 1:41 pm

It's probably pointless to ask about this now, but in the Chinese lit bonus in packet 4 (the second one from Ohio State's packet) is it really OK to just accept just "xiaoshuo" for the third part? I'm not familiar with the term/genre but, by itself, "xiaoshuo" just means "fiction", which seems too vague an answer to accept.
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