2015 SCT general discussion

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2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:22 pm

This is your discussion thread for big-picture issues about the 2015 NAQT SCT (either division). If you'd like to discuss the specific text of a particular question, please use the two threads available for that purpose.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:24 am

Hey, I'd just like to take a few seconds to thank some people whose efforts made the SCT possible this year. John Lawrence and Matt Bollinger were excellent co-editors for the DI set; thanks for giving this NAQT thing a shot and doing great work, guys. Seth Teitler, Selene Koo, and Jonah Greenthal did a bang-up job supervising the science as always. Every SCT benefits from the writing and editing efforts of Jeff Hoppes and Andrew Yaphe, and this year's was no different. Special thanks go to NAQT's SCT-level subject editors, who endured my constant emails asking them to turn around their questions quickly; behind your efforts, we managed to get the set completely written and subject-edited over a week in advance this year, which was really, really great.

Although my involvement with DII was only collateral (because lots of questions were converted), it seemed like a really good set from the four rounds I read, so I want to make sure to thank R. Hentzel, Matt Weiner, and the entire DII crew for putting it together.

One exciting development is that this year's DI tournament featured many questions by several prominent writers who, to my knowledge, haven't written significant numbers of questions for SCT before, including Matt Weiner, Ike Jose, Aaron Rosenberg, and Billy Busse. I was really grateful to have your contributions. I also want to single out Matt Jackson, who wrote nearly 150 questions that went into the set, for his titanic efforts. It was really wonderful to have so many great writers and editors injecting their talent and competence into this set. I think SCT is one of the most interesting and rewarding tournaments to work on, and I'm hoping that many more writers from the circuit will help us write it in the near future! If you're interested in writing for future SCTs, shoot me an email and I can help set you up.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by vinteuil » Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:33 pm

I had pretty mixed feelings about this set. For one thing (I know how precarious it is to say this), it felt very strongly like there was actually more trash, general knowledge, and current events ("NAQT" stuff) than usual, and the trash bonuses were often very difficult for people who don't know 2nd-tier actors, minor sports etc.

There was also a very wide range of writing styles, from what I hope was a general-knowledge tossup on Gresham (that, at least with people I talked to, was very poorly received), to very fine questions from all the writers singled out above—luckily, there were a lot of those questions, which were perfectly lovely to play on.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:31 pm

vinteuil wrote:For one thing (I know how precarious it is to say this), it felt very strongly like there was actually more trash, general knowledge, and current events ("NAQT" stuff) than usual
In the most literal sense, this can't really be true - the distribution is the same as it's been in years past. Can you elaborate on why it felt this way?
and the trash bonuses were often very difficult for people who don't know 2nd-tier actors, minor sports etc.
Can you give some examples of bonuses that seemed "very difficult" to you?
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by vinteuil » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:48 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:
vinteuil wrote:For one thing (I know how precarious it is to say this), it felt very strongly like there was actually more trash, general knowledge, and current events ("NAQT" stuff) than usual
In the most literal sense, this can't really be true - the distribution is the same as it's been in years past. Can you elaborate on why it felt this way?
I should have looked up the distribution before saying this; I forgot that NAQT doesn't count sports as pop culture, making for 2.5 (!) PC/Sports/GK/mixed_impure_academic tossups per packet, (and then 1.3 CE). I guess I just didn't notice it as much in the past—sorry.
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:
and the trash bonuses were often very difficult for people who don't know 2nd-tier actors, minor sports etc.
Can you give some examples of bonuses that seemed "very difficult" to you?
A few had easy and/or middle parts that I think people are a lot more likely to have heard of than know anything specific about (not that people aren't likely to know specific things about them, but that they weren't great easy/middle parts), e.g. Brice/Funny Girl/Streisand, Buckner/Slattery/Cosmopolis (I'm sure different examples of this phenomenon stick out to different people)—these mainly stuck out because other bonuses had definitely easy parts. (I know that it's hard for trash not to be the category that gets the most 0s.)

[EDIT: Chris Chiego has done a much better job explaining the issues with the trash than I ever could]
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Cody » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:22 pm

I didn't have much problem with most tossups, but I was pretty disappointed at the difficulty of the bonuses in D1. There'd be a few bonuses per packet with a combination of an insane part (sometimes with extra NAQT spice), two hard parts, or without a real easy part. They were very much out of line w/ the tossups.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:49 pm

So, I will wander into this milieu to say that I find vague and subjective notions of how much of certain trash, sports, current events, or general knowledge it "felt" like there was in the set to be perfectly worthless observations. As Matt B. said in the the trash thread, the distribution is the distribution. It tells us, with very little wiggle room, how much trash, geography, sports, current events, general knowledge, miscellaneous (mixed with pop culture or sports), or miscellaneous (purely academic) will appear within the set, and within each packet. It tells us these things to a rather granular scale. For example, the tossup on the America's Cup appeared under minor sports, which is a category that makes up, I believe, 1/1 in the entire set.

Because there have only been minor tweaks to the distribution, the amount of current events, geography, trash, sports, general knowledge, and miscellaneous questions has not changed over my tenure as one of the central editors on this tournament. So, again, it is perfectly worthless to say that it "felt" like there was more sports this year, or that there was more baseball, that there were more general knowledge or miscellaneous questions. By definition, there wasn't. It's possible (as Jeff showed in the other thread) for random quirks to push, say, the football questions toward the end of the set. This is random computer variance that, to my knowledge, we can't do anything about (and even if we could, it would be a massive waste of time).

I want to touch on the distribution itself very quickly, because it transitions nicely to my overall point about various categories that NAQT places higher priority on than ACF and circuit tournaments. NAQT college packets have 24 tossups and 24 bonuses. ACF packets have 20/20. Combined, the categories of geography, current events, pop culture, sports, miscellaneous, and general knowledge make up just over a fifth of NAQT's distribution. Factoring in that ACF packets contain many of these categories (with lesser emphasis), almost all of the difference between the 48 questions in an NAQT packet and the 40 question in an ACF packet is the difference between these categories. In other words, in a given NAQT packet, you're getting basically what you'd get in an ACF packet (with a bit more wiggle room for variation between packets), with some additional emphasis on these categories tacked on. Of course, what you're getting in extra questions, you're losing in question length.

Don't get me wrong; I don't begrudge anyone for preferring longer questions or a more academic-focused distribution. For most of my playing career, I certainly did. But shorter questions and a more broad-based distribution are features of NAQT, not bugs. Complaining about what goes into them is, of course, fine. Complaining about their very existence is, to me, a non-starter.

This folds into my final point, which is that these portions of the distribution--geography, current events, pop culture, sports, miscellaneous, and general knowledge--are meant to test wide-ranging knowledge within those categories. Pop culture questions, for example, are not intended to give you points simply for being alive and having interests for several decades. You probably will get questions based on that! Just like you'd probably get questions on literature simply from the books you read. But just like any other category, unless you actively prioritize knowing the subject matter, you're not guaranteed anything. You will actually have to know things about the category--even things you don't particularly care for, and even things that happened before you were born--to get points within it. Again, this is how it goes in every other category.

Now, of course, there are practical considerations at play. By their nature, older topics in academic disciplines endure longer than pop culture topics do. And because this is primarily a game about knowing academic subjects, people tend to know them in broader swaths compared to pop culture topics, which they tend to know more narrowly based on their interests. We have to take that into consideration, because we always try to make sure that the questions are uniform and fair. And of course, there may be some instances where we overshot our difficulty and didn't ask about things that people actually know. That is our fault, and we will try to do better in the future.

But for your part, you might have to face the fact that, even though your team knows a lot about the core academic subjects that make up about 80% of NAQT's distribution, you might just not be very well-versed in the other 20%. Unfortunately, if that's the situation, I don't have much sympathy. This is stuff that's in the distribution, which is posted on the website, and which everyone knows about in advance. If you choose not to care about these topics, either within the confines of quizbowl or in your broader life, that's your choice, but it's not our problem.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Cody » Sun Feb 08, 2015 5:01 pm

theMoMA wrote:But for your part, you might have to face the fact that, even though your team knows a lot about the core academic subjects that make up about 80% of NAQT's distribution, you might just not be very well-versed in the other 20%. Unfortunately, if that's the situation, I don't have much sympathy. This is stuff that's in the distribution, which is posted on the website, and which everyone knows about in advance. If you choose not to care about these topics, either within the confines of quizbowl or in your broader life, that's your choice, but it's not our problem.
It is actually very much your problem. This attitude is responsible for some of the more insane bonuses in SCT. As teams take things a lot more seriously (which has already happened / is happening), they will know much less about these topics, and you do have to accommodate them -- whether you like that or not.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by conker » Sun Feb 08, 2015 5:55 pm

I really enjoyed this year's SCT set on the whole. I liked the creative answer lines (e.g., "anvil" as a musical instrument), and I appreciated that the trash in this tournament were mostly about TV shows that people actually watch (e.g. Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, Community).

[On the other hand, there was yet another question on the show Hannibal, after one at ACF Regionals. I don't know anyone who watches this show, and both times I heard the question, a team just guessed based on "cannibal". This show seems a bit overrepresented, IMO.]
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by hydrocephalitic listlessness » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:17 pm

conker wrote:[On the other hand, there was yet another question on the show Hannibal, after one at ACF Regionals. I don't know anyone who watches this show, and both times I heard the question, a team just guessed based on "cannibal". This show seems a bit overrepresented, IMO.]
Hannibal is one of the most critically acclaimed shows currently airing on television, and, while not as watched as a show like Community, is certainly not too niche to be tossed up. It's possibly a little unfortunate that it came up at both Regionals and SCT, but I'd chalk that up to chance.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by kayli » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:34 pm

How do the trash advocates reconcile the oft touted principle that trash exists so that bad teams have something to look forward to with the questions on the Americas Cup and the Cavaliers-Wizards "rivalry"?

I mean, is it possible to get rid of trash questions before ICT or should we brush up on tertiary sporting competitions?
Last edited by kayli on Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:35 pm

Putting aside that contention which I think is half specious, both of those topics are eminently gettable by any person or team regardless of overall quizbowl skill.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by kayli » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:43 pm

What does overall quizbowl skill even mean here? If you mean an understanding of literature, science, history, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, then I contend that these are precisely the skills we should be testing in an ostensibly academic competition and that anything else should be anathema.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:43 pm

The NBA is a "tertiary sporting competition" now?
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:54 pm

I've certainly made my share of NAQT-related complaints in my time, but come on, do you really think stamping your feet and demanding the immediate and total removal of trash questions is going to accomplish anything?
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by kayli » Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:57 pm

No but sailing is, and the Wizards-Cavaliers rivalry is super unimportant for almost anyone who watches the NBA casually. The broader point is that trash advocates often claim that it serves a utilitarian role in the distribution either to highlight important cultural phenomena which have yet to make their way into fine art or to provide lesser teams with an opportunity to answer some soft balls against better competition, but in reality trash questions tend to do neither and instead focus on niche subjects of interest to only a few people.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by kayli » Sun Feb 08, 2015 7:01 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:I've certainly made my share of NAQT-related complaints in my time, but come on, do you really think stamping your feet and demanding the immediate and total removal of trash questions is going to accomplish anything?
I think this is a question of existential importance for any serious academic competition. If we want trash to stick around, then we need questions which are either more relevant or less difficult (hopefully both). I mean how much longer are we willing to brook this nonsense in presumably competitions?
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 08, 2015 7:03 pm

The America's Cup has quite a bit of cultural significance, and if you watch the NBA, you could figure out the Cavs/Wizards question even if you didn't realize it was a distinct rivalry. Anyway, I don't quite agree with that trash dichotomy because the other purpose of trash questions besides "cultural significance" and "soft balls for bad teams' (both somewhat specious arguments) is that trash questions, as part of the distro, should be on interesting, accessible topics within popular culture--an extremely small amount of minor sports and a particular major sport topic that doesn't appeal to you seems perfectly acceptable here. I don't pretend to defend these questions specifically, but quibbling over the answerlines seems silly. You can argue against trash in general being in quizbowl (which is unlikely to change anyway), you can argue for better trash questions that use better clues or more accessible clues or what have you, but starting from a sort of specious dichotomy of the "goals of trash questions" is not a sustainable argument.

Also, I assume Kay is trolling as his wont, but I am curious if anyone with meaningful opinions has ideas on the relevancy or difficulty of these questions.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by kayli » Sun Feb 08, 2015 7:14 pm

I'm not really trying to quibble over specific answer lines. Rather I want to argue against trash at least in ICT and against the specious arguments for the inclusion of trash specifically because these are the arguments that are trotted out every time anyone deigns suggest for its elimination. Furthermore, I'd argue that what is culturally significant is highly specific to the circumstances in which we were raised and this is reflected strongly in types of trash questions being asked as seen in this tournament most recently and others broadly. I mean, come on, I'm pretty sure that the Undertaker has been asked about more than Muddy Waters at this point.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by touchpack » Sun Feb 08, 2015 8:25 pm

theMoMA wrote: I want to touch on the distribution itself very quickly, because it transitions nicely to my overall point about various categories that NAQT places higher priority on than ACF and circuit tournaments. NAQT college packets have 24 tossups and 24 bonuses. ACF packets have 20/20. Combined, the categories of geography, current events, pop culture, sports, miscellaneous, and general knowledge make up just over a fifth of NAQT's distribution. Factoring in that ACF packets contain many of these categories (with lesser emphasis), almost all of the difference between the 48 questions in an NAQT packet and the 40 question in an ACF packet is the difference between these categories. In other words, in a given NAQT packet, you're getting basically what you'd get in an ACF packet (with a bit more wiggle room for variation between packets), with some additional emphasis on these categories tacked on. Of course, what you're getting in extra questions, you're losing in question length.
Sure, you do theoretically get about the same amount of "ACF-like" content in a FULL packet, but how often do moderators actually have time to finish an entire packet? In my experience, even at the top bracket of ICT, with the best teams and the best moderators in the country, it's very rare to finish all 24 questions; 21-22 questions is more normal. So you actually DO lose out on some of the academic content you would get from ACF.

But I'm not posting to argue about trash or current events or whatever--I'm posting because I don't think the amount of time allotted is appropriate for 24/24 packets. As I've posted about before, moderators have made mistakes that changed the outcome of national championship tournaments because it's impossible to moderate at the required speed to get through nearly all of the packet without making errors. (Again, I would like to emphasize that I do not blame the individual moderator(s) for making mistakes, but rather the format, which does not allow them the amount of time they need to avoid making mistakes) Would it really hurt all that much to add just 1 minute to the beginning of each half? This would only add ~30 minutes to the ICT. If that 30 minutes is a dealbreaker, then I would suggest reducing packets to 20/20 (while keeping the NAQT weighting the same in terms of proportions or maybe changing it a little bit if the no-trash lobbyists win).

To summarize, the benefits of lengthening matches:

-Allows excellent moderators to finish entire packets, reducing packet-to-packet variability in questions heard
-Less-excellent moderators can slow down their pacing a bit to make less mistakes in pronunciation or answer-line parsing.

Drawbacks:

-Adds 30 minutes to the SCT/ICT. (I don't think this is a significant drawback, but if others disagree, simply reducing the packets to 20/20 eliminates this drawback while reducing the workload required of the writers.)
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:28 pm

That's a fair point, Billy. I personally would like to see some movement on the college clock rules toward something that better allows all tossups to be heard (but keeps the pace of the game flowing). It's something I'll make sure we discuss this offseason.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Ike » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:49 pm

I want to touch on the distribution itself very quickly, because it transitions nicely to my overall point about various categories that NAQT places higher priority on than ACF and circuit tournaments. NAQT college packets have 24 tossups and 24 bonuses. ACF packets have 20/20. Combined, the categories of geography, current events, pop culture, sports, miscellaneous, and general knowledge make up just over a fifth of NAQT's distribution. Factoring in that ACF packets contain many of these categories (with lesser emphasis), almost all of the difference between the 48 questions in an NAQT packet and the 40 question in an ACF packet is the difference between these categories. In other words, in a given NAQT packet, you're getting basically what you'd get in an ACF packet (with a bit more wiggle room for variation between packets), with some additional emphasis on these categories tacked on. Of course, what you're getting in extra questions, you're losing in question length.
Theoretically, I agree with this, but I think what's also true is that NAQT allows in more marginal topics into its academic questions. When Chris Chiego and others complain about NAQT trash, what I think they're also frustrated about--but haven't articulated, is that there are academic questions on more fringe topics. For example in science, there were questions on cement and herbicides, which are not really encountered in an academic setting that one associates with chemistry or materials science 300 level classes or below (this is an arbitrary point of reference.) Similarly in literature, there were questions on Rumpole of the Bailey and Riders of the Purple Sage. I'm not saying that these questions are illegitimate, I'm saying that you normally don't see them in an mACF tournament because the purists that edit for these tournaments (like Ted or Eric) would vigorously object, and thus it feels like there is more trash.
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Sun Feb 08, 2015 10:05 pm

I thought the science in the set was quite good. There were a lot of clues that were very well thought out and it's a shame that they're wasted on a timed format
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:47 pm

Ike wrote:Similarly in literature, there were questions on Rumpole of the Bailey and Riders of the Purple Sage.
Yeesh, I hope Rumpole of the Bailey wasn't in the literature distribution!
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Re: 2015 SCT general discussion

Post by setht » Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:15 pm

I would like to join Andrew in thanking all the writers and editors who chipped in on the sets. I thought Andrew did an excellent job coordinating the editing of the DI set, and I was very glad to have John and Matt as guest editors. I was also quite happy to have the DII set in R. and Matt Weiner's capable hands.

I also want to echo Andrew in praising Matt Weiner, Ike Jose, Aaron Rosenberg, Billy Busse, and Matt Jackson for writing lots of great questions. I was thrilled to see so many questions coming in from recently retired circuit luminaries. I hope we will continue to get a big boost from this sector of the community in future years.

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