ACF Regionals comments

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Birdofredum Sawin
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ACF Regionals comments

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

I don't mean for this to pre-empt whatever remarks other people might have about the question set, which is why I've written this post as a separate thread.

I wanted to say a few things about question writing and ACF, in the aftermath of editing this year's regionals. First, let me say that I appreciate the effort many teams made to submit good packets well in advance of the tournament. We received a number of excellent rounds, both from the usual suspects (Michigan, Chicago) and teams from whom I didn't necessarily expect great questions (Texas-Austin, for example). I'd like to thank everyone who took the trouble to write such good packets.

But to be honest, a number of the rounds we received were simply not usable for regionals, or indeed for any tournament. Some teams failed to follow the distribution. Other teams wrote tossups that were in no way pyramidal. Many teams violated Subash's excellent question-writing tips, forcing us to rewrite their questions completely. (I wrote more than a third of the tossups for this set myself, either out of whole cloth or as a total reworking of a submitted question.) One team even resubmitted its questions from ACF fall, which I only happened to catch because Subash had told me about one of the tossup answers in their packet (which he didn't end up using for that tournament). Most teams failed to follow the formatting guidelines, though it's a simple matter of courtesy to do so.

I don't expect perfection from submitted packets. What I do expect: questions that are formatted correctly; rounds which adhere to the stated distribution; tossups which are structured pyramidally. I don't expect all the clues in a tossup to be ordered from "hardest" to "easiest," but I do expect there to be real clues in some sort of order, which the editors can shuffle around or augment if need be. The amount of work we had to put into this set just to bring it up to minimal standards of acceptability cut into the time which I would have liked to devote to finetuning it. I completely agree with the people who say that the bonuses were too difficult, and if we had had another few days they would have become easier. We simply didn't have the time to rewrite dozens of bonus parts, or to do all the proofreading I would have preferred to do. (By the way, I agree with criticism of the Ibrahim and Austin tossups -- the former should either have had "Abraham" as an acceptable answer or should have been rewritten, while the latter probably should have had no goofy giveaway or at most something like "shares his name with a state capital," which might have jarred some people's memories without giving points to the ignorant. I apologize for both oversights.)

This is the point where I probably should lament the decline of question writing on the circuit. I don't want to indulge in the usual rant, but the game is bound to suffer if question writing doesn't get better. If people don't learn how to write good questions, there'll be nothing left but haphazard invitationals and NAQT, which itself is bound to suffer a decline in quality if competent new writers don't emerge to replace us old-timers as we (if we) drift away. Question writing is an integral part of the game. If you don't write questions, you probably won't improve as a player. If you don't write good questions, tournaments won't be much fun to play.

I don't know what can be done to improve the state of question writing. I'm eager to offer feedback to anyone who wrote a packet for regionals, in the hope that some concrete advice might be helpful. If you didn't write a packet for regionals, but want to try your hand at writing a packet for nationals, please get in touch with me and I'll be happy to work with you on your questions (suggesting topics, improvements, ways to write, etc.). Even if you didn't write for regionals and aren't going to write for nationals, but would like some tips on becoming a better writer, I'd be more than willing to talk to you and offer some pointers.

Andrew
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