2015 SCT: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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2015 SCT: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

I want to start the annual discussion about the clock and I want to also address the unique challenges that it causes.

Unlike most people who seem to pontificate on this issue, I actually don't have much of a problem with the clock, and in fact would like it to stay. I think the combination of the NAQT short-question format, powers, and the clock actually work well together create a really unique and fun experience. Some of the few times I've achieved Csíkszentmihályi-style flow in quizbowl is playing SCT or ICT questions on the clock, really fast, against good teams (ex. against, but not limited to, Yale this weekend); as someone whose only other way to do this is pipetting, I appreciate the opportunity twice a year. Furthermore, I think the abandonment of the clock-killing neg and the increase in time for the halves pretty much corrects all the flaws I saw in the system before, where the clock added an excessive amount of gimmickry.

However, I think the clock (and relatedly, short questions) add(s) some unique challenges from the position of a writer and editor. Any suboptimalities in a question are magnified severalfold when they're being read at high speed, with two good teams, and with fewer characters to work with. I think this means that you have to have an extra level of empathy with the player, who is forced to perform the usual quizbowl cognitive gymnastics of hearing complex pieces of information, parsing them, recalling their associations, etc at what could be several times normal speed. This, to me, means at least two things:

1. There are certain types of answerlines and clues that do not work at higher speed. There are a few categories of this:
-Things like rhythm and score clues in music questions are much harder to parse.
-Computational bonuses are much more difficult when the moderator can't slow down. I know the formula C =\frac{\kappa \epsilon _{0}A}{d}, as does anyone who's taken AP Physics, but I couldn't even hear that the question wanted to double the linear dimension of the plate; in an ACF-type setting, if the question were well written, it would tell the moderator to slow down.
-That style of question that Yaphe loves so much where you common link a bunch of books based on a shared word in the title becomes much more aggravating and trivial-sounding than it already is. You really shouldn't do this anyway, for reasons bashed out elsewhere, but it's doubly frustrating in this setting.

2. There needs to be even tighter editing of pronouns and referents (these are things that should also happen in ACF questions).
-Using specific pronouns is important. Calling "clear and present danger" a "test" then a "concept" is unnecessarily confusing; I wanted to buzz on "imminent lawless action" with something like "restrictions on free speech" because it followed the word "concept". Had you instead used the word "test" throughout, this would have been more fair. There are fewer clues, and they are read to you faster, so confusions like this become magnified.
-The order of a given sentence becomes much more important when there are more buzzer races and everyone's on edge. My go-to example for this set will be the [otherwise excellent] tossup on Uruk, whose leadin I will reproduce here:
2015 SCT wrote:A text that recounts a series of diplomatic exchanges between a king of this city and the "Lord of Aratta" contains an account of the "{confusion of tongues}." Enmerkar was the legendary founder of this city,
Consider the beginning of that second sentence while playing; I've heard the word Enmerkar (who I knew during play was Lugulbanda's predecessor), but I don't know what it relates to. The sentence could finish "Enmerkar founded this city", "Enmerkar attacked this city", "Enmerkar had sex with every woman in this city", etc, etc, but I've already heard the nucleus of that clue without knowing what it wants. That question would be better if the sentence went "The legendary founder of this city was Enmerkar", or even "The legendary founder of this city had several correspondences with the "Lord of Aratta" in a text that contains an account of the confusion of tongues; that founder was Enmerkar". It really breaks the flow of the game when you have to wait for the necessary part of the clue, and the adage that you should get the pronoun out as early as possible applies to each clue in isolation, not just the first one.

If there are other things people think are worth pointing out, I would love to hear them.

Note that there are also things outside the purview of editors that are magnified by the clock that cannot be changed. For example, in the aldol condensation tossup this weekend, I heard clue in the leadin as the "Henner reaction" rather than the "Henry reaction"; that's not the question's fault, so I have no complaint about it. But saying that moderators will mispronounce things is no reason to not improve practices in the ways I've outlined above.
Last edited by Sima Guang Hater on Mon Feb 09, 2015 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Cheynem »

I agree with Eric on most of these things, as I think the clock in abstract lacks problems, but it aggravates issues that come up in in-game situations and speed. As a reader, there are little aesthetic issues that emerge--the page stuck for a seconds when flipping to the next one, I lost my place on the laptop, my scorekeeper asked who got the tossup, I want to take a drink of water, even doing scorechecks (yes, I know the rules on that)--that by themselves are minor, maybe a second here and there, but can add up. Yes, you can always stop the clock, but this is cumbersome and time wasting in itself.

I see the perceived benefits of clocks--it cuts out the jibber jabber (seriously, quizbowlers even on a clock are the worst at this--shut the hell up, people) and it ensures that the slow readers don't drag the tournament down with them. However, I'm unconvinced of those benefits at college. A lot of high school tournaments use NAQT format without the clock and nobody dies. At ICT, I believe it's possible, at least at DI, to get enough quality readers that surely they can get through 24 or so questions in 24-25 minutes.

What I might see, which someone else has suggested, is tacking on 1 or 2 more minutes to each half. It ensures that the jibber jabber is hopefully quelled and it prevents the idiot who takes 40 minutes to read from sinking the whole Bismarck, but it also gives good readers a little bit of leeway when aesthetic quibbles emerge (or if there's clues that need to be read clearly), and it also lowers the stress on other readers. At the very least, I wonder if we could see some experimentation with this at perhaps DI ICT, the most ultra specialized of NAQT tournaments, where you have generally quality readers and teams and you're not trying to placate teams who want to be out of there by 3 PM.

Note that I don't see this as one size fits all. HSNCT most assuredly needs clocks, and I'm willing to consider some SCT's using them. But some of this all comes down to a proper training of players and staff.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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The below items all presume that eliminating the clock is off the table for SCT/ICT, which is probably (head-scratchingly) still the case even though this discussion happens every year and NAQT's key constituency requests that it happen over and over and over to no avail.

> A proposed modification to NAQT rule F.4, which I will Just Throw Out There to be discussed/supported:
my beautiful dark twisted fantasy wrote:"When the clock sounds the end of time, the half or game shall end with the conclusion of the current tossup-bonus cycle, or with the tenth tossup-bonus cycle of the half, whichever comes later."
> It is additionally worth considering how much of the animus against the clock is motivated by the 2-second recognition rule on tossups rather than the presence of a timer at all. I suspect that a world in which players have 3 seconds to answer tossups -- or even 5, as is the standard at every other tournament teams practice for all year -- would be far less frustrating to play on the player side, though of course that trades off with bad moderators completing more cycles per game.

> It's been discussed on the boards here a decent amount, so with-it readers are doing this already to avoid making snap errors of the form that A Certain Perennial NAQT Playoff Reader constantly makes, but it should really go in the official instructions that NAQT makes hosts read out that moderators should STOP THE CLOCK whenever they are uncertain about anything.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Cheynem »

Ah, my friend, but you DO have three seconds to answer on tossups, at least that's what R. Hentzel told me.

Note: I'm not being facetious here; I'm told this is an actual rule change.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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Cheynem wrote:Ah, my friend, but you DO have three seconds to answer on tossups, at least that's what R. Hentzel told me.

Note: I'm not being facetious here; I'm told this is an actual rule change.
Hosts this Saturday wouldn't have seen as much if they tried to check http://www.naqt.com/rules.html. Having up to date rules in public visible places is Important!
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by theMoMA »

I'd be interested to hear if people have proposals for the clock, especially anything that would guarantee that a game would have all 24 tossups heard but wouldn't be too unwieldy and would still preserve the fast-paced nature (and reasonable ability to anticipate game times) of NAQT play.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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theMoMA wrote:I'd be interested to hear if people have proposals for the clock, especially anything that would guarantee that a game would have all 24 tossups heard but wouldn't be too unwieldy and would still preserve the fast-paced nature (and reasonable ability to anticipate game times) of NAQT play.
Tell moderators to read quickly and continue to provide 5-line tossups which are already substantially shorter than the standard regular-difficulty event? Is this really such a difficult knot to untie?

We're getting to a point where there are more competent staffers in, and involved retirees floating around, the quizbowl community than ever. Given that most DI fields are still in the single digits across the country, it's not out of the question that the 2-6 DI moderators required at any given site can't just be sought out for maximum moderator skill, then be told to read as fast as they can without sacrificing clarity or accuracy as indeed they do at untimed events. I suspect, like Mike, that rounds would only take 4 to 5 extra minutes at max given the brevity of the NAQT tossup and relative succintness of its bonuses, and given that we had sites getting through 12 rounds by 4:30 PM last Saturday (speaking only for Columbia, but I imagine other sites were similar) you'd only be tagging on an hour to an otherwise very quick day. I would be totally fine with adding an hour to a tournament if it meant that subdistributional issues from only getting through five-sixths of a packet went away, and I got to hear more questions in a format and style that only comes around once or twice for the entire year, for the same amount of money.

EDIT: To be slightly less subtle: Editors and writers of the SCT (I was not the former but was among the latter group this year) should also like a clockless, 24-tossup college game since it means more of their hard work, creative ideas, etc. can get shown to more teams.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, I firmly think this is not going to tack on too much unwieldy time or drag down "the fast-paced nature" (which is built more into the set up of the questions themselves) at any college tournament, especially ICT which has 1. good teams, 2. generally good readers, and 3. lack of teams who are going to freak out at a 4 PM finish instead of 3 PM. SCT, aside from perhaps some fringe corners of the circuit with very inexperienced readers and teams, is probably also in the same camp. In that case, I think it comes down to circuit building than the need for a clock.

To sum up, I would like to see 12 minute halves or no clock at all especially at ICT and presumably at SCT, or at least see some experimentation to show much time we're going to be adding on.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Ike »

That style of question that Yaphe loves so much where you common link a bunch of books based on a shared word in the title becomes much more aggravating and trivial-sounding than it already is. You really shouldn't do this anyway, for reasons bashed out elsewhere, but it's doubly frustrating in this setting.
I don't see how this has anything to do with the clock. It appears to me you just don't like this style of question. If you're saying that your adrenaline levels are higher on the clock, and your prone to getting more frustrated, then that's silly, because you highlight that as a plus in your post above.
There needs to be even tighter editing of pronouns and referents[/b] (these are things that should also happen in ACF questions).
-Using specific pronouns is important. Calling "clear and present danger" a "test" then a "concept" is unnecessarily confusing; I wanted to buzz on "imminent lawless action" with something like "restrictions on free speech" because it followed the word "concept". Had you instead used the word "test" throughout, this would have been more fair. There are fewer clues, and they are read to you faster, so confusions like this become magnified.
I agree with this. Another example was the poor usage of the word "figure" in the sentence "Half of one of these figures is traced out by a Hohmann transfer" in that ellipse tossup. A player buzzed in and said "orbit" and I prompted him to death until he gave the correct answer because I knew as a moderator he had demonstrated clear knowledge. I think an editor / writer should choose the pronoun that requires the least amount of mental gymnastics without trivializing the question and use it - in this case, saying "Tracing out half of this shape" is suitable.
Consider the beginning of that second sentence while playing; I've heard the word Enmerkar (who I knew during play was Lugulbanda's predecessor), but I don't know what it relates to. The sentence could finish "Enmerkar founded this city", "Enmerkar attacked this city", "Enmerkar had sex with every woman in this city", etc, etc, but I've already heard the nucleus of that clue without knowing what it wants. That question would be better if the sentence went "The legendary founder of this city was Enmerkar", or even "The legendary founder of this city had several correspondences with the "Lord of Aratta" in a text that contains an account of the confusion of tongues; that founder was Enmerkar". It really breaks the flow of the game when you have to wait for the necessary part of the clue, and the adage that you should get the pronoun out as early as possible applies to each clue in isolation, not just the first one.
I disagree. Once you know the question is asking for a city, it is entirely okay to write something like "Lord Stretzman attacked this city" and not "This city was attacked by Lord Stretzman" I also disagree that you should rewrite questions in the passive voice to emphasize what the core of the clue is; as long as you make sure the question makes sense on a syntactic level and is easily parsed, you've done a good job. There is no such thing as writing quizbowl questions for the "necessary part of the clue;" if you choose to buzz without hearing the full syntax of a sentence that's your prerogative.

None of these reasons strikes me as compelling to remove the clock. I think this post does highlight that one thing that NAQT writers and editors can do better is consider what pronouns are good for timed play - consider whether "This action," "This act," "An instance of this act" or "The performance of this act" is a suitable pronoun for writing a tossup on, say, "invading Poland." I generally prefer "This action" for an answerline that isn't repeated "the 1999 invasion of Poland" and "An instance of this action" when you're describing the 1999 invasion of Poland for an answer of _invading Poland_. (I'll probably write about this on another post.)
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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On the topic of staff, I neglected to mention above that most people who are fast readers are also good at quickly scorekeeping for themselves. Eliminating the clock and just having 2 to 6 very good staffers in each region do all of Division I moderating/scorekeeping, one per room, greatly alleviates the staffing crunch (to the tune of not needing at least 2 to 6 scorekeepers). The current need for scorekeepers in every DI room is a big imposition on teams which makes many reticent to host SCT, and provides NAQT a lot of frustration and trouble every year ensuring that every site is properly staffed. In the medium term (say, over the next 5-6 years), you'd see a lot more schools become willing to host Sectionals even in a "lean year" where their club only has a single-digit number of members, because more schools would be able to obtain enough staffers to make a site happen. And this would in turn allow regional sites to rotate more and not fall on the same schools over and over.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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Cheynem wrote:Ah, my friend, but you DO have three seconds to answer on tossups, at least that's what R. Hentzel told me.

Note: I'm not being facetious here; I'm told this is an actual rule change.
This was (mistakenly) announced at the North SCT. The rule has not been changed and two seconds remains in effect nationwide.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Important Bird Area »

Clock proposal status: the 2015 ICT will retain ten-minute halves.

We will reconsider clock policy for the 2016 SCT and ICT over the summer.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by theMoMA »

I would support 12-minute halves if such a thing comes to a vote. With NAQT's length limits and reasonably short bonus parts, a tossup/bonus cycle every minute is just about right. I think that straddles the line nicely between "keeping NAQT fast-paced and games of approximately uniform length" and "making sure that 24 tossups are read in just about every round."

I would also support (if this isn't already available) allowing SCT sites to choose to run off the clock, either because clocks are difficult to procure, or for reasons related to staff. The clock seems much more reasonable at ICT (which has a crack moderating crew who should be able to get through a tossup/bonus cycle per minute with relative ease, and a need to standardize round lengths) than at every SCT (where staffers might be stretched thinner and TDs might reasonably choose to deemphasize uniformity of round length in favor of hearing more questions).

And yes, to be clear, this is something that I would hope to discuss over the summer, not before the upcoming ICT.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Important Bird Area »

All SCTs are currently timed.

Not speaking for NAQT:

I personally have advocated for untimed SCT for years now (primarily because of the extra difficulty of staffing timed tournaments).
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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bird bird bird bird bird wrote:
Cheynem wrote:Ah, my friend, but you DO have three seconds to answer on tossups, at least that's what R. Hentzel told me.

Note: I'm not being facetious here; I'm told this is an actual rule change.
This was (mistakenly) announced at the North SCT. The rule has not been changed and two seconds remains in effect nationwide.
Image

Serious proposal: Actually adopt this change!
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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Ukonvasara wrote:Serious proposal: Actually adopt this change!
I would also support this, and will make sure that it's discussed this offseason.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by setht »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:-Computational bonuses are much more difficult when the moderator can't slow down. I know the formula C =\frac{\kappa \epsilon _{0}A}{d}, as does anyone who's taken AP Physics, but I couldn't even hear that the question wanted to double the linear dimension of the plate; in an ACF-type setting, if the question were well written, it would tell the moderator to slow down.
I wrote the capacitor computation bonus, and I set it up with computation parts because I felt the material (how do capacitors behave) is worth testing (and is generally under-asked in quizbowl), the barrier to answering the question correctly is knowledge about how capacitors work rather than mental math, and I couldn't think of a clean way to cover the same material non-computationally. Evidently there was in fact a second, unintended barrier to answering the question correctly: catching all the relevant words while a moderator reads at high speed.

To be honest, I would like to continue mixing in conceptual/computational questions in the science distribution—I think it's an excellent antidote to doubly-eponymous bowl, among other things—but obviously I'll need to take special care in accounting for reader speed.

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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

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setht wrote:I wrote the capacitor computation bonus, and I set it up with computation parts because I felt the material (how do capacitors behave) is worth testing (and is generally under-asked in quizbowl), the barrier to answering the question correctly is knowledge about how capacitors work rather than mental math, and I couldn't think of a clean way to cover the same material non-computationally. Evidently there was in fact a second, unintended barrier to answering the question correctly: catching all the relevant words while a moderator reads at high speed.

To be honest, I would like to continue mixing in conceptual/computational questions in the science distribution—I think it's an excellent antidote to doubly-eponymous bowl, among other things—but obviously I'll need to take special care in accounting for reader speed.

-Seth
It was certainly strange to hear myself reading the actual words "Pencil and paper ready," which I haven't heard in a college quizbowl context since, I think, a bonus at the 2011 Division II ICT about what would happen if you had a spherical planet and variables got altered in various ways. It's probably a good rule of thumb that since computational math per se is over in college quizbowl, questions with a "conceptual"/"computational" part need to be deducible in 5 on-the-clock seconds without any reference to pencil or paper, and shouldn't be there at all if they need that warning prefixed. NAQT has occasionally had instructions to "[pause]" as well, which might be abusable to ensure that teams get all the info they need without clock-speed moderation getting in the way (though, on that point, see all of the above about why the clock should go away anyway).

There was a bonus part on "[it is related to this other quantity] squared" in another physics bonus which I think worked better along these lines.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I really like the idea of bonuses that test things like (hypothetically) "to calculate the energy of a capacitor, one can multiply voltage times what single quantity squared?" The issue with making these types of questions computational (i.e. needing a pencil and paper or fast mental math to work out) really is that players often miss part of a question, especially in a fast-paced NAQT format. If a moderator isn't clear or reads too fast, it's not exactly like a case interview where you can get other person to repeat the numbers or the quantities being asked for, or a test where you can just read it over again on the paper.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Lighthouse Expert Elinor DeWire »

I think the appropriate knowledge can also be tested by saying something like "What is the new <value> if <parameters> is/are increased/decreased by a factor of <x>" rather having to have specific numbers calculated.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Excelsior (smack) »

While the "pencil and paper ready" questions were unexpected, I didn't mind them content-wise (after all, they were eminently doable without pencil and paper). However, in a timed tournament, it is really important to have a moderator instruction before the question saying something like "pause the clock and tell the team to ready pencil and paper". Obviously, no team in a college tournament in this day and age expects to need pencil and paper, so they have to shuffle through their belongings in hopes of finding a shard of graphite and a chip of wood. This takes up time.
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Re: A Hot Take: Horologium Delenda Est?

Post by Eddie »

The United Stats of America wrote:I think the appropriate knowledge can also be tested by saying something like "What is the new <value> if <parameters> is/are increased/decreased by a factor of <x>" rather having to have specific numbers calculated.
I think this is a good idea. What about saying something like "Consider two capacitors, each with capacitances c. What is the value of..." and asking for each of the combined capacitances instead of their difference to avoid an ugly and inconvenient answer like 2c - 2/c?
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