George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Old college threads.
Locked
User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

This is the General Discussion thread for problems relating to Oppen. Stephen Eltinge wrote the physics, other science, and half of the trash. Mike Cheyne wrote the sports questions. I wrote everything else.

I want to start this thread by apologizing about not honoring the following promises that I made when announcing the set:
This tournament will be easier than Nationals difficulty (or Nats minus), will consist of 15 packets, and will be produced entirely by the two of us. An excellent reference set for this tournament's difficulty is Minnesota Open 2010.
To make that happen, we promise that at least 40% of the tossup answerlines could uncontroversially appear at ACF Regionals, and at least 15% of the answerlines could fly even at ACF Fall.
This set was hard. This set was far too hard, much harder than I envisioned, and these are the reasons why. First, I could not pace myself very well, and was writing 10-14 questions every day for the month leading up to the tournament. This meant that I could not efficiently playtest except in the select few areas that I knew people who weren't playing were good at. This resulted in many bonuses that were too hard even for ACF Nationals, because for many of the topics I was writing about, I had no idea how hard the hard parts actually were. Secondly, writing a lot of questions every day meant that I did not have time to go back and fix old subpar questions. I will not defend the set's difficulty, and I urge future enterprising quizbowl editors to actually assemble an editing team, and not greedily take up editorship of the vast majority of the set. It's not good for your health, and it's not good for the audience of the set at large.

I would like to graciously thank Stephen Eltinge, not only because he actually met the actual difficulty mark that I had called for, but also because he sacrificed the entire Friday before the tournament compiling the packets. Mike Cheyne helped relieve some of my burden of set production by writing some very interesting, difficulty-appropriate sports questions. I want to thank the inestimable Joelle Smart for helping me make the biology as good as I could make it, by pointing out several subpar clues that pointed to different answers. Lastly, I would like to thank my music playtesters, Aaron Rosenberg and Eddie Kim, for sitting down with me and making sure that all of my clues meant something and pointed toward the answer.

Use this thread to talk about trends in the set, and use the other thread to talk about how specific questions can be improved.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
vinteuil
Auron
Posts: 1386
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

Music-wise, I thought that this set was a major improvement on last year's nationals, inasmuch as there were no outright lies (as far as I could tell), and the clues were usually specific/unique enough to be buzzable. A lot of the questions were even pretty enjoyable, so that's also a big plus.

Actually, I think the biggest problem was the same as everything else: there were a few tossups ("Drumroll" symphony and Lassus comes to mind) where they were so hard that I seriously question if the field had more three or four clues worth of knowledge about them (not that they're not important or famous! But we try not to write tossups on EVERY organic reaction, even if they're incredibly important/famous, if we think that the field might not know more than four clues about them).

On a few other questions (although, again, this was not a major problem, so kudos to Auroni), there were descriptions that were a little too "thin" to be buzzable/identifiable (e.g. "Nacht und Träume," which more or less boiled down to "do you know the key of this song," since it's hard to turn "two title things" into a good mental search criterion. Then again, our moderator botched this, so maybe there was another clue that I missed).

I would recommend, as John always does, going overboard (rather than accidentally skimping) on detail, just in case. I don't think this was really limited to the music; there were two bonus parts on "postmodernism" that gave perfectly good descriptions (or even definitions!), but that just weren't "thick" enough to lead teams to the actual answer, at least at our site.

It "felt" like there was a lot of cosmology and astrophysics in this set, but I could be wrong. Same with pretty hard algebra (e.g. that representation theory bonus where you more or less had to have taken a class on that to get more than 10), although I appreciated the inversion of the standard algebra-analysis balance (I could be completely wrong about this too, and I'll try to come up with a better explanation for why it "felt" this way when I see the packets).
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I realize that having played this tournament on a stacked team in a stacked field will probably skew my impression of it. Overall, I had a super time; the questions were pretty hard, but that's what I expected, so I felt like I was properly calibrated in my expectations. Still, I can see how this tournament would be an ordeal by fire if played by a team that came expecting answers that might appear in Regionals or Fall.

The quality of the physics/other science was pretty high, but it did seem to me to be noticeably easier than the rest of the questions. Just thinking about, say, that tossup on the Hamiltonian, it was very straightforward and well written but also relatively easy in both answerline and clue content. There's nothing wrong with that, but it did seem like the physical science tossups were disproportionately easier. I note in passing that the math content seemed very heavily weighted towards topology; I'm not sure if that's just my impression, but I did feel like more often than not math bonuses were topology-flavored.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

vinteuil wrote: It "felt" like there was a lot of cosmology and astrophysics in this set, but I could be wrong. Same with pretty hard algebra (e.g. that representation theory bonus where you more or less had to have taken a class on that to get more than 10), although I appreciated the inversion of the standard algebra-analysis balance (I could be completely wrong about this too, and I'll try to come up with a better explanation for why it "felt" this way when I see the packets).
I'll second the impression on astro. That representation theory bonus was just incredibly rough; I'm not sure who was expected to get 30, or even 20 on that.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Anyone seeing this: I will read a late packet from the set at 5 PM PST in #oppen on IRC.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
Cody
2008-09 Male Athlete of the Year
Posts: 2331
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:57 am
Location: Richmond

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Cody »

I mean the set was far too hard but my biggest problem with the set is the out of control length; like every tossup is 10+ lines with power. And the bonuses were longer, including a truly unnecessary 12-liner and many 4-line prompts! While at least decently proofread, it was a truly horrendous experience reading this set.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16. ACF Treasurer ‘19-20.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
Quizbowl at VCU

User avatar
Jem Casey
Wakka
Posts: 121
Joined: Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:15 pm
Location: New Hampshire

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Jem Casey »

I enjoyed this tournament, particularly the lit, which had a lot of interesting, accessible, and rewarding early clues despite the difficulty of the answers.

On the other hand, one of the set's more frustrating aspects was the number of tossups that lent themselves to frustrating buzzer-races on the giveaway. Obviously this is a vague and unhelpful criticism, but I really didn't enjoy the "Tanuki" TU (which was more of a video game speedcheck than a myth question), the Don Quixote TU (did anyone buzz before "windmills"? Did anyone not buzz there?), and the "Blindness" TU (this question on "name that condition that Borges had" decided one of our games), to name a few. While some of this stuff is unavoidable at high-difficulty tournaments, I suspect that many of the more unworkable answer-lines would have been revised if there'd been more of an editing team behind the set, as Auroni said in the first post.
Jordan Brownstein

User avatar
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Auron
Posts: 2109
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:53 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea »

I got to play with a pretty good open team and had a good time playing this tournament doing so. In particular, I had a great time playing the world history questions, which did a great job of taking a natural step beyond standard canonical answers and checking if people really knew their stuff as opposed to simply having a general overview of what was going on (in particular, I was excited to hear the questions on Khalid ibn al-Walid and Muhammad of Ghor). I'm certainly inspired to go back and learn a bunch more stuff about Asian history after this tournament. I did think that African history was a bit under-asked, though this could just be a by-product of the fact that I only heard the first twelve packets.

I think the primary frustration at our site wasn't the fact that the set ended up a lot harder than advertised - people adjusted themselves to that throughout the day - but that the questions were very long, and the rounds dragged on a lot since people weren't getting a lot of early or even middle buzzes for the most part. This had major effects on how the tournament ended up playing out: Harvard might have gotten to play a full tournament and make their 7PM train if the tournament wasn't mostly ten or eleven-line tossups and even longer bonuses. Our team might even have been able to play a disadvantaged final against them, assuming that they would beat the shorthanded Columbia team instead of forfeiting. I'm not sure getting a 7PM train is wise for a quizbowl tournament that was announced to have at least twelve rounds, but it was frustrating regardless.

EDIT: I'd also like to offer praise for this tournament's current events. It stuck to things that people would know from staying generally tuned-in to the goings-on of the world, but used some good clues to test people who had dug into some real-world ramifications.
Will Alston
Bethesda Chevy Chase HS '12, Dartmouth '16, Columbia Business School '21
NAQT Writer and Subject Editor

Adventure Temple Trail
Auron
Posts: 2617
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:52 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

Thanks to Auroni, Stephen, and Mike for putting this very entertaining tournament together. My major complaints -- about deceptively-advertised overall difficulty, trash, absurd bonus part length, and single-author overexertion -- have all been brought up already by other people, so I need not repeat those. I do think that insofar as this tournament was intended to be "Nationals prep" for good college teams, or a friendly introduction to [EDIT: hard] quizbowl for dedicated younger players, it did not work on either of those scores.

Some auxiliary/new comments:

>Some of the jokes just weren't that funny. I am known now for my low tolerance for quizbowl "meta" jokes about quizbowlers in question text, but even beyond that I think a lot of the length resulted from the piling on of unnecessary and sometimes bland jokes about "much like Doug Graebner" etc. etc.

>A writing tip, which I really had to drum into myself during the Regionals writing process earlier this year: There is no need to cram every cool thing about the answer line into a question. In fact, a good question usually has to omit many exciting, cool, funny, or intellectually stimulating things about the answer in order to be short enough for play. You can cut some of your darling clues without doing violence to the topic itself. For one thing, people who are interested enough by the clues that are there may well be inspired to pick up the book/reaction/historical figure you're describing, and learn the cut clue on their own, making it unnecessary to teach every single interesting thing that comes to mind. For two, most people who are excited enough about writing questions to want to include everything about a broad topic into a single question are going to have writing careers which are longer than one tournament. If it doesn't fit in this time, you can hold onto the cut clue for use one, two, three, or even 5-7 years down the line in another question, and it will one day see the light of day. Taking a longer perspective makes it feel less UNJUST if you can't fit in that amazing second clue this one time. There will be many more chances to unleash it upon the quizbowl world at some point down the line.

>Some of the extremely hard tossups would have benefited from the thought of "does this need to be a full tossup, or am I fine just keeping two lines of knowable clues from this and putting them in a replacement tossup on an easier answer line?"

>I do want to commend Auroni for consistently going the extra mile to try out interesting new answers or exploring old topics in non-hackneyed ways. While some of these questions were kind of clunky or hard to get early (e.g. "urine test") and one or two ended up unworkable as written ("ecofeminism"), I think it was overall a good thing for a whimsical tournament such as this one that many of the choices were both risky and ambitious. In particular, I think the current events and geography ideas in this set were often willing to be "Interesting" in ways that they often are not at other tournaments. That said, some of the geography clues ended up being kind of trivial or bad in the attempt to say something unique (e.g. "mildest climate on Earth" in the whale-spotting-off-Africa bonus?)

>I am frankly confused by how you couldn't expect that this tournament would be harder than ACF Nationals, Auroni. You're in your sixth or seven year of serious quizbowl writing/editing now, and have worked on several hard tournaments of varying shades, including most recently ACF Nationals 2014. Did these questions really feel easier than the questions you wrote for Nats as you were writing them, and does it really require a playtester to determine whether that's true as you go? If so, I'm pretty surprised, and not in a positive way.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: I'm not sure getting a 7PM train is wise for a quizbowl tournament that was announced to have at least twelve rounds, but it was frustrating regardless.
Yeah, don't do this! Assume the worst about when quizbowl tournaments will end. It's much better to be stuck dawdling around Penn Station for a few hours than to have to bail on a tournament before it ends. I'll never forget thinking we had planned so well getting a 9:30 PM train back from the Minnesota Open site I played at Penn in 2011, only to have to literally dash out the door and run to the station at 8:50 PM immediately after winning the finals (no handshakes or anything) in order to make it home. Besides, it's often possible to move up one's ticket to an earlier train.(That said, I don't know what effect the calamitous weather up in the Northeast has been having on the train schedule, or what other trains were available in this instance).
Last edited by Adventure Temple Trail on Mon Feb 23, 2015 5:14 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Matt J.
ex-Georgetown Day HS, ex-Yale
member emeritus, ACF

Try my original crossword puzzles

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Auroni wrote:Anyone seeing this: I will read a late packet from the set at 5 PM PST in #oppen on IRC.
This is happening now.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
Auks Ran Ova
Forums Staff: Chief Administrator
Posts: 4076
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:28 pm
Location: Minneapolis
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Jem Casey wrote:the Don Quixote TU (did anyone buzz before "windmills"? Did anyone not buzz there?)
Yeah, Bernadette buzzed on "Kitri"--it's a pretty important ballet.
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

Jason Cheng
Rikku
Posts: 361
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:23 am

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Jason Cheng »

Jem Casey wrote:I enjoyed this tournament, particularly the lit, which had a lot of interesting, accessible, and rewarding early clues despite the difficulty of the answers.

On the other hand, one of the set's more frustrating aspects was the number of tossups that lent themselves to frustrating buzzer-races on the giveaway. Obviously this is a vague and unhelpful criticism, but I really didn't enjoy the "Tanuki" TU (which was more of a video game speedcheck than a myth question)
Out of the four rooms at our site, I believe this was gotten just out of power in one room, while I negged around "Awaji Island" because I couldn't remember the name of "those raccoon spirits with giant testicles." Our moderator that round also noted that he knew the second and third clues after reading the tossup.
Jason Cheng
Arcadia High School 2013
UCSD 2017
PACE
http://www.socalquizbowl.org

User avatar
theMoMA
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5701
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:00 am

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

I enjoyed this tournament, and I'm glad it existed. That said, I think it lacked refinement. I've always thought that quizbowl writing should be done aspirationally: these are the great ideas I have, and I'm going to try them out to see how it works. This tournament certainly wasn't shy about its aspirations. But I've also come to realize that, after this initial aspirational stage, quizbowl writing must be revised and edited pragmatically. This was the major shortcoming of Oppen.

There was enough raw material here for a well-done event, and some percentage of the set was already up to that standard. But there were large swaths that needed to be revised downward in difficulty, several tossups (as others pointed out) on things like "Blindness" or "ecofeminism" that were not very well thought-out in terms of playability, and a little too much identifiable Guptiana for my tastes. Again, these questions were suitable raw material for a good event--they'd work as themes, clues, or general ideas--but they needed some pragmatic, this-is-the-way-quizbowl-works revision to get there. Take the theme and make it simple, basically.

Honestly, the biggest problem for me was (as Cody, Matt Jackson, and I think Matt Bollinger have pointed out) the excessive length of the questions. It's great that you found lots and lots of clues, but you really bashed the players over the head with them, and it wore me down. (I think I scored about 40 total points in the last 4 rounds out of sheer exhaustion.) Setting a practical length limit and sticking to it is really a helpful skill, especially when the questions shade difficult.
Andrew Hart
Minnesota alum

User avatar
Ike
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Ike »

I enjoyed most of this tournament. There were a few trends I wanted to point out though.

I think a lot of the questions in this tournament suffered from poor wording or using vague predicates. The postmodernism example is being beaten to death in some other thread, but it's not good to say something to the extent of "Wallace is the most famous member of this literary movement." - Why doesn't this apply to Thomas Pynchon or Don Delillo, who are both clearly masters of postmodern fiction and potentially more famous than DF Wallace? Similarly, it's unfortunate to use the wording "Haraway's Cyborg manifesto is often read as a response to this movement," - I'm looking at a source right now that discusses how that very same manifesto is a response to Andrea Dworkin's radical feminism. A third example that JL and I were discussing was a question's insistence that Verdi was using tone clusters, but the concept of a tone cluster didn't even exist until the 20the century...it would have been nice to say something to the extent of "Professor X was the first to argue that Verdi used one of these in composition Y." I think a good fraction of this tournament's problems could have been eliminated with clue-wording that removes vagueness.

I also think that there were too many tossups on things that don't play well because they don't have good gradations of knowledge. I like the idea of asking about George Steiner, George Saunders, Monica Ali, Orlando Di Lassus, and Tanukis, but I don't think you're really distinguishing between various grades of knowledge. I'm also hesitant to include answers like "The Magus" or "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" because I think there is a chance that those played well, but I'm not really sure if I think so.
Ike
UIUC 13

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Ike wrote: I also think that there were too many tossups on things that don't play well because they don't have good gradations of knowledge. I like the idea of asking about... George Saunders, Monica Ali... "The Magus" but I don't think you're really distinguishing between various grades of knowledge.
(Assuming that you're evaluating the tournament as what it actually was, a CO minus difficulty level event), why not? Those two authors wrote some widely-read contemporary fiction. Saunders has many stories that you could buzz on, and lots of people have read the books Brick Lane and The Magus. I'm having trouble evaluating how your argument is any different than "many of those answers were too hard" -- there's clearly different levels of knowledge you could have about them.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
vinteuil
Auron
Posts: 1386
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

Auroni wrote:
Ike wrote: I also think that there were too many tossups on things that don't play well because they don't have good gradations of knowledge. I like the idea of asking about... George Saunders, Monica Ali... "The Magus" but I don't think you're really distinguishing between various grades of knowledge.
(Assuming that you're evaluating the tournament as what it actually was, a CO minus difficulty level event), why not? Those two authors wrote some widely-read contemporary fiction. Saunders has many stories that you could buzz on, and lots of people have read the books Brick Lane and The Magus. I'm having trouble evaluating how your argument is any different than "many of those answers were too hard" -- there's clearly different levels of knowledge you could have about them.
Actually, I think that Ike is right about there being a difference between these two things. That is, there are things that are (a) "too hard," which means that people are unlikely to have heard of them; then there are (b) things that people are unlikely to know a large number of clues about. Obviously, things that are too far in (a) are automatically in (b) (e.g. Monica Ali, who I'm sure people read and is famous, but has only been a hard part a few times—and, as far as I can tell, Brick Lane has never been an answerline!).

I'll stick with the Lassus question, since that's the one over-the-top question I have any personal expertise in. There are a few problems with Lassus as an answerline:
  • Most obviously, although he's an incredible and incredibly important composer, very few people have heard of him. Maybe he's not quite in (a) for this difficulty level, but he would be anywhere else. He's definitely in (b).
  • Worse, Lassus doesn't really have a "most famous piece" that you can expect people to know (imagine what quizbowl would do if Palestrina hadn't written the Pope Marcellus Mass!). Rather, Lassus is probably best-known for being a ridiculously prolific ("over 100 Magnificats") late-sixteenth-century composer who worked in Munich, which, as a giveaway, might scare people off by being/"sounding" rather non-specific (sorry if I'm overstating this point. Even sorrier if these details were in the actual question and I just don't remember/didn't hear them).
  • Expanding the above, the most famous Lassus pieces—"Timor et Tremor," the Lagrime di San Pietro, the Prophetiae Sibyllarum, the Psalmi Davidis Poenitentiales, the Matthew Passion, and (more in quizbowl, really) "super flumina Babylonis"—have a lot of parity in terms of famousness (I'm sure I've left some good/famous pieces out, but these came to mind). That is, I would expect people with some exposure to Lassus to know one of those titles/pieces, but I couldn't be sure which one, which makes pyramidality a total nightmare.
  • I'm pretty sure this is a very general problem with (b), e.g. all of those authors that people read more or less "a novel" by, but it's not really clear which is most famous (to take a more famous example, this was a lot of people's comments about tracks from XX, and tends to be a nightmare problem with indie/alternative albums in general).
  • Clue ordering problems aside, you can expect people with "second-level knowledge" of Lassus (or people who love the xx, etc.) to know ALL of those titles, so that there's no good way to differentiate between them without a ton of hard clues. Similarly, you can't differentiate between the "first-level knowledge" people, because it's not clear which piece you should be giving deep clues about. Again, this is a general problem.
  • So, this question, despite the distinct possibility that at least one person in the field (guess who!) deeply cares about the topic, mostly boils down (in rooms where two people know the answer) to a title-drop buzzer race if there are two people with "second-level knowledge" (or between two "first-level" people who know the same title), or a giveaway buzzer race for two people with "heard of" knowledge, or (most likely) goes dead.
  • I could probably have skipped this whole list and just repeated that a lot of things only make good bonus parts, no matter how many clues about them there are, because of the kinds and quantities of clues people are likely to know. Apologies for the length.
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

User avatar
Ike
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Ike »

Auroni wrote:
Ike wrote: I also think that there were too many tossups on things that don't play well because they don't have good gradations of knowledge. I like the idea of asking about... George Saunders, Monica Ali... "The Magus" but I don't think you're really distinguishing between various grades of knowledge.
(Assuming that you're evaluating the tournament as what it actually was, a CO minus difficulty level event), why not? Those two authors wrote some widely-read contemporary fiction. Saunders has many stories that you could buzz on, and lots of people have read the books Brick Lane and The Magus. I'm having trouble evaluating how your argument is any different than "many of those answers were too hard" -- there's clearly different levels of knowledge you could have about them.
I think "lots of people" is a pretty ill-defined here. I was in a room with Chicago, and Rob did have a pretty late buzz on Brick Lane, and in our room no one buzzed on The Magus until godgame. I hear that's also what happened with The Magus in Penn versus UVA.* I'm just not that convinced that so many people have read The Magus. I'm not being facetious by asking this, but how many people at the Maryland site, or really at all sites combined, do you think have read the entirety of the Magus, or even at least 100 pages of it? I think that number is smaller than 3, and if that's your definition of "lots of people", I'd urge you to reconsider so that next time you also use clues from The French Lieutenant's Woman as well with a solid John Fowles TU.

To be completely fair, I don't think anyone would be complaining if it were just a problem with The Magus tossup, there were a lot of TUs on canonical answerlines that were mystifyingly hard. That RL Stevenson TU, for example, used only clues from his poetry then went smack dab into a Treasure Island clue that a lot of people in the popular consciousness would recognize! For full disclosure I buzzed on "this be the verse..." so I didn't hear that cliff, but why you chose to write entirely on RL Stevenson's poetry when you could have constructed a much better tossup on RL Stevenson where you use 3-5 lines of his poetry and the rest on the plots of his novels is baffling. I'm not sure if you're actually thinking "lots of people read RL Stevenson's poetry" but it isn't true enough to warrant a tossup on RL Stevenson to be written like that.

*Fun Fact: From my understanding, no one in that UVA-Penn game has read The Magus (I might stand corrected.) But, Eric Mukherjee has seen some amount of A Dog With a Blog. Since more intellectually oriented people in that game had seen Dog With a Blog then read The Magus, then there was nothing wrong with TUing Dog With a Blog.
Ike
UIUC 13

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

I wrote that RL Stevenson poetry question because I was under the impression that A Child's Garden of Verses is something people read, but if nobody buzzed on those clues, then it was just a bad idea.

EDIT: Obviously I'm not omniscient, and I have no way to know in advance who playing a tournament I wrote has read what, but The Magus has plenty of Goodreads and Librarythings hits, and has made the Modern Library Top 100, and Brick Lane has plenty of those first two things, and is a popular (and controversial) contemporary novel you might see at bookstores (I even saw it at a hospital volunteer coordinating area once, hardly a place of literary sophistication). Therefore, for this difficulty, I was comfortable tossing them up.
Last edited by Auroni on Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
Auks Ran Ova
Forums Staff: Chief Administrator
Posts: 4076
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:28 pm
Location: Minneapolis
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

For whatever it's worth, I could theoretically have buzzed earlier on that Brick Lane tossup, but I was pretty surprised by the idea of it coming up at all, so I waited a while to be extra-sure.
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

User avatar
theMoMA
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5701
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:00 am

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Ukonvasara wrote:For whatever it's worth, I could theoretically have buzzed earlier on that Brick Lane tossup, but I was pretty surprised by the idea of it coming up at all, so I waited a while to be extra-sure.
Same. I honed in on that as a likely answer pretty quickly, but just waited until it said "namesake Bangladeshi neighborhood" or whatever to make sure. I thought it was a good idea for a tossup, if maybe a bit surprising for the pre-advertised difficulty. I'm not sure why people are so up in arms about the tossups on Stevenson's poetry or The Magus; the latter has been tossed up quite a bit, I seem to recall, and the former is a good idea, although it maybe could have chosen to substitute one of the early clues for another late-middle clue about non-poetry stuff.
Andrew Hart
Minnesota alum

gyre and gimble
Tidus
Posts: 723
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:45 am

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

Auroni wrote:I wrote that RL Stevenson poetry question because I was under the impression that A Child's Garden of Verses is something people read, but if nobody buzzed on those clues, then it was just a bad idea.
I got this question at "india-rubber ball" because I'd read that book in 4th grade and our teacher had us memorize "My Shadow." (It's My, by the way, and not The.) So yeah, I was also under the impression that people read A Child's Garden of Verses. Then again, isn't that, like, a book for children? I don't know what the theory or positions are on children's literature coming up in quizbowl but I certainly didn't expect to be buzzing on that clue.
Stephen Liu
Torrey Pines '10
Harvard '14
Stanford '17

User avatar
Ike
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Ike »

Heh, I mean I'm the only one "up in arms" in this thread. My general point is that I think there were too many tossups that were top heavy, didn't play well or were otherwise really hard. To be clear, I'm not saying "don't tossup The Magus, Brick Lane, or RL Stevenson's poetry," I'm just saying that in some rounds, all the tossups seemed excessively hard, I personally wouldn't have included so many of these tossups and would have included more tossups on "core things." Perhaps my point is being muddied by using specific examples; I'm just saying "for every tossup I include on Brick Lane, I would include one on Tender is the Night" instead of Benjamin Button and a Brick Lane TU.
Ike
UIUC 13

User avatar
vinteuil
Auron
Posts: 1386
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

I like Ike's point about having a few more easy/late middle clues (god knows that I'm not the best at this, as evinced by ACF Fall, but...). If nothing else, I think the extreme difficulty of some answerlines is an argument in favor of shorter, not longer tossups (if Rob and Andrew were getting the Monica Ali tossup that late, and it went dead in so many rooms, I'm not sure what the first X lines were really doing).
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

User avatar
Auks Ran Ova
Forums Staff: Chief Administrator
Posts: 4076
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:28 pm
Location: Minneapolis
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Not that I want to make this exclusively about where I buzzed, but if you're looking for data points the clue that ended up confirming it for me enough to buzz was the mention of Germaine Greer's name.
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

User avatar
vinteuil
Auron
Posts: 1386
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

Ukonvasara wrote:Not that I want to make this exclusively about where I buzzed, but if you're looking for data points the clue that ended up confirming it for me enough to buzz was the mention of Germaine Greer's name.
I'm not 100% sure what I'm trying to say (although, I think it's more or less Ike's thing about "good distribution of buzzes"), but my more general point was what I made above—there are objectively fewer levels of knowledge about this topic in quizbowl than something like Dickens, where you could have a hypothetical 100-line tossup that distinguishes between 100 different levels of knowledge that the field has (and thus completely avoids buzzer races).

My train of thought (more or less obvious):
  • The point of pyramidal clue ordering is that people who know more buzz first.
  • The point of having n clues is to distinguish between ~n levels of knowledge about a subject, to avoid buzzer races (i.e. the situation where the team that got the points did not know any more than the other team).
  • If there are fewer than n levels of knowledge that individual people have, then it's useless to have that many clues.
  • Not that there can't be infinitely many clues about something, but we all know that knowledge of clues isn't independent; if somebody can recognize a memorable quotation from the book that's never shown up in a review etc., they can likely remember all the other memorable quotations, and nobody with less knowledge can, so it's useless to have a zillion quotations.
  • Nobody likes sitting through lots of unanswered question.
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

The Magus is a perfectly fine question for a tournament of this level. It was nailed in our room against my team, I forget by whom. Stevenson's poetry, on the other hand... I'm not sure who reads that.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

Adventure Temple Trail
Auron
Posts: 2617
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:52 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

grapesmoker wrote:The Magus is a perfectly fine question for a tournament of this level. It was nailed in our room against my team, I forget by whom.
By J-Brownst.
Matt J.
ex-Georgetown Day HS, ex-Yale
member emeritus, ACF

Try my original crossword puzzles

User avatar
theMoMA
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5701
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:00 am

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

vinteuil wrote:[Y]ou could have a hypothetical 100-line tossup [on Charles Dickens] that distinguishes between 100 different levels of knowledge that the field has (and thus completely avoids buzzer races).
That's just not true. Anywhere from zero to eight players, inclusive, could know a particular clue, no matter how long the tossup is.

I think this misconception that it's possible to construct a "perfect" tossup that completely avoids buzzer races underlies a bizarrely deterministic outlook of quizbowl, which proceeds as if you can exactly predict how many people will buzz on each clue. I see no evidence to support the possibility of such fine-grained measurement; as Mike Cheyne said in the other thread, I think decisions about pyramidality are our best guesses, and nothing more, and that's totally fine.

But other seem to disagree. As we see after every tournament, people have different knowledge, but they tend to universalize their experience. For example, it's entirely possible for a person to know the second clue to a tossup but not the third, and despite the fact that this may be a personal rather than universal phenomenon, many people seem to take this to mean that the second clue was a "clue drop" that broke the question's pyramidality. As is probably clear, I think the term "clue drop" has reached a critical mass of uselessness, previously achieved by "transparent," and should be dropped from our vocab.

More broadly, I disagree with the implied premise of Jacob's argument that every tossup must have a perfectly linear probability density function of buzzes to be a good tossup. First, I suspect that very few questions have anything resembling a linearly increasing frequency of buzzes to the giveaway, because negs concentrate buzzes at the back end, and in any event, writers tend to overestimate how many of the clues people know, and the game encourages risk-aversion. Second, part of the fun of a harder event is tossups on harder answers, and those might have buzzes condensed toward the back end of the question because people are less familiar with the answers, but that's ok! It keeps things interesting, introduces new material, and keeps players honest.

In sum, I think that it's fine for there to be some variance in buzzing-frequency distributions across an event, because (1) it's only our best guess, so acting like pyramdality is some super-scientific process is just not justified; (2) forcing everything into a perfect straitjacket, even if possible, would eliminate difficulty variance in tossup answers, which often serves to keep players honest; and (3) it's simply more fun to have a wide-ranging set of answers and question types, especially at an open tournament.
Andrew Hart
Minnesota alum

User avatar
vinteuil
Auron
Posts: 1386
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

theMoMA wrote:
vinteuil wrote:[Y]ou could have a hypothetical 100-line tossup [on Charles Dickens] that distinguishes between 100 different levels of knowledge that the field has (and thus completely avoids buzzer races).
That's just not true. Anywhere from zero to eight players, inclusive, could know a particular clue, no matter how long the tossup is.

I think this misconception that it's possible to construct a "perfect" tossup that completely avoids buzzer races underlies a bizarrely deterministic outlook of quizbowl, which proceeds as if you can exactly predict how many people will buzz on each clue. I see no evidence to support the possibility of such fine-grained measurement; as Mike Cheyne said in the other thread, I think decisions about pyramidality are our best guesses, and nothing more, and that's totally fine.

But other seem to disagree. As we see after every tournament, people have different knowledge, but they tend to universalize their experience. For example, it's entirely possible for a person to know the second clue to a tossup but not the third, and despite the fact that this may be a personal rather than universal phenomenon, many people seem to take this to mean that the second clue was a "clue drop" that broke the question's pyramidality. As is probably clear, I think the term "clue drop" has reached a critical mass of uselessness, previously achieved by "transparent," and should be dropped from our vocab.

This is fair. I wasn't really taking into account "more than one way of learning about a topic," but people definitely get history buzzes from literature etc. etc.
theMoMA wrote: More broadly, I disagree with the implied premise of Jacob's argument that every tossup must have a perfectly linear probability density function of buzzes to be a good tossup. First, I suspect that very few questions have anything resembling a linearly increasing frequency of buzzes to the giveaway, because negs concentrate buzzes at the back end, and in any event, writers tend to overestimate how many of the clues people know, and the game encourages risk-aversion. Second, part of the fun of a harder event is tossups on harder answers, and those might have buzzes condensed toward the back end of the question because people are less familiar with the answers, but that's ok! It keeps things interesting, introduces new material, and keeps players honest.

In sum, I think that it's fine for there to be some variance in buzzing-frequency distributions across an event, because (1) it's only our best guess, so acting like pyramdality is some super-scientific process is just not justified; (2) forcing everything into a perfect straitjacket, even if possible, would eliminate difficulty variance in tossup answers, which often serves to keep players honest; and (3) it's simply more fun to have a wide-ranging set of answers and question types, especially at an open tournament.
I don't know that I was intending to argue for a uniform distribution of buzzes (which, I agree, is totally impossible), but I still have no idea what the point of the first few lines is if nobody buzzes on them. I understand that the first half of a question at this difficulty is more or less a hopeful "somebody miiight know this," but I'm not sure I see the point in too much of that.
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

vinteuil wrote:I don't know that I was intending to argue for a uniform distribution of buzzes (which, I agree, is totally impossible), but I still have no idea what the point of the first few lines is if nobody buzzes on them. I understand that the first half of a question at this difficulty is more or less a hopeful "somebody miiight know this," but I'm not sure I see the point in too much of that.
For hard tournaments, it's half the fun. Yeah, someone might know it, even if most people don't. And if you're that person who knows it, damn do you feel good.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Irreligion in Bangladesh
Auron
Posts: 2076
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2004 1:18 am
Location: Winnebago, IL

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh »

grapesmoker wrote:
vinteuil wrote:I don't know that I was intending to argue for a uniform distribution of buzzes (which, I agree, is totally impossible), but I still have no idea what the point of the first few lines is if nobody buzzes on them. I understand that the first half of a question at this difficulty is more or less a hopeful "somebody miiight know this," but I'm not sure I see the point in too much of that.
For hard tournaments, it's half the fun. Yeah, someone might know it, even if most people don't. And if you're that person who knows it, damn do you feel good.
Not only that, but those first few lines should be there to explain why you should care about this thing in the future. As a player who had all of 10 correct tossups, I had a blast listening to some of the stories and anecdotes in the early halves of (history and lit, in particular) questions, and I look forward to reading up on some of the mountain of things I heard about. And powering the Hamburg question on the John Lennon toilet seat clue made my day.

You could probably do a bit of the same with 8 lines as with 10, and you probably wouldn't want it to bleed to 12, but there's definitely a point to having a chunk of moderator lecture at the start of each question. (It's certainly more fun than what top-tier HSers are doing to the leadins of regular difficulty high school questions.)
Brad Fischer
Head Editor, IHSA State Series

Winnebago HS ('06)
Northern Illinois University ('10)
Assistant Coach, IMSA (2010-12)
Coach, Keith Country Day School (2012-16)

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Can an admin make this discussion forum public now that there's no further tournaments using it? I have uploaded the set to the db and am awaiting approval.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I know this discussion has largely focused on the flaws people have found in the set, which is usually what happens, but I do actually want to emphasize that I thought this set had a ton of really good, fun questions and was overall very enjoyable to play.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
vcuEvan
Auron
Posts: 1086
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2004 5:49 pm
Location: Richmond VA

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by vcuEvan »

grapesmoker wrote:I know this discussion has largely focused on the flaws people have found in the set, which is usually what happens, but I do actually want to emphasize that I thought this set had a ton of really good, fun questions and was overall very enjoyable to play.
I second this.
Evan Adams
VCU '11, UVA '14, NYU '15

User avatar
Sima Guang Hater
Auron
Posts: 1863
Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 1:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

vcuEvan wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I know this discussion has largely focused on the flaws people have found in the set, which is usually what happens, but I do actually want to emphasize that I thought this set had a ton of really good, fun questions and was overall very enjoyable to play.
I second this.
That uterus question was boss.
Eric Mukherjee, MD PhD
Washburn Rural High School, 2005
Brown University, 2009
Medical Scientist Training Program, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, 2018
Intern in Internal Medicine, Yale-Waterbury, 2018-9
Dermatology Resident, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2019-

Member Emeritus, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer, NAQT, NHBB, IQBT

"The next generation will always surpass the previous one. It's one of the never-ending cycles in life."

User avatar
Gautam
Auron
Posts: 1413
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 7:28 pm
Location: Zone of Avoidance
Contact:

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Gautam »

Thanks to Auroni et al for putting together this tournament. Questions were pretty good for the most part. I liked the tossup on Dance. There were bunch which could have been easily reconstructed to allow more middle clues/less difficult answerlines. Those tossups on "Shakti", myogenesis, "Sao Paulo the state" and "urine tests" for instance could have been on any of Lakshmi/Durga/Parvati, "muscle," "Sao paulo the city," and "urine," respectively. The "urine test" in particular was super confusing; it could easily have been rewritten on "this substance."

Also, I agree with MJ above. I'm really surprised that Auroni, who has a solid resume of working on a variety of tournaments, missed the advertised difficulty level by quite a bit and was caught unaware. I can understand this happening early in an editing career - it happened with Minnesota Open 2008 me and my co-editors. But it would be inexcusable if I made the same error for CO 2014.

Also I'm probably in the minority here, but I don't find super hard tournaments all that enjoyable anymore. I much rather prefer playing regular-to-regular-plus difficulty. The stated goal of answerlines being accessible, etc. was a major reason why I chose to attend this tournament, so I'm a little disappointed. I'll take Auroni's apology here. But I hope that Auroni (and other future editors) can commit to a vision and go that extra mile to make sure the difficult realities of tournament production don't interfere in the execution of that vision.

Nitpicks:
* antifungals tossup could've used "not antiretroviral therapy, but..." somewhere in there. I thought the Cytosine deaminase clue was pointing towards APOBEC, the thing my college roommate was trying to crystallize for a whole year. Alas.
* The Beatles clue in Hamburg might be a little misplaced. Andrew took the plunge on this one, but I was really confused about why that was in the first few lines.

-Gautam
Gautam - ACF
Currently tending to the 'quizbowl hobo' persuasion.

gyre and gimble
Tidus
Posts: 723
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:45 am

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

I just read through ACF Nationals 2014 again recently, and I'm just gonna say here that George Oppen was certainly not beyond Nationals difficulty as far as tossups went. I think the bonus conversions were lower on this set than on Nationals, so maybe there was an issue there, and this set was probably harder than something like Cane Ridge Revival, but I didn't think it was a whole lot different from past Minnesota Opens. Claims that this was "CO-minus" or whatever seem pretty exaggerated.
Stephen Liu
Torrey Pines '10
Harvard '14
Stanford '17

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 3028
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Urbana

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Gautam wrote:
Also, I agree with MJ above. I'm really surprised that Auroni, who has a solid resume of working on a variety of tournaments, missed the advertised difficulty level by quite a bit and was caught unaware. I can understand this happening early in an editing career - it happened with Minnesota Open 2008 me and my co-editors. But it would be inexcusable if I made the same error for CO 2014.
I should clarify what I meant here. I did not have enough time to polish and revise all my questions as I wrote them, and had I been able to do so, I would clearly have noticed that many were too hard and edited them down in difficulty accordingly. Because there were many subjects that I hadn't written/edited so extensively before at a high level, I had to use guesses for the difficulty on many of them, which is why I couldn't tell, on the first pass, that they were beyond Nats difficulty without playtesting.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
Ike
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm
Contact:

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Ike »

gyre and gimble wrote:I just read through ACF Nationals 2014 again recently, and I'm just gonna say here that George Oppen was certainly not beyond Nationals difficulty as far as tossups went. I think the bonus conversions were lower on this set than on Nationals, so maybe there was an issue there, and this set was probably harder than something like Cane Ridge Revival, but I didn't think it was a whole lot different from past Minnesota Opens. Claims that this was "CO-minus" or whatever seem pretty exaggerated.
I thought this tournament was definitely harder than all the nationals, except for 2011 and 2009, that I played. I don't think it was as hard as CO, so I would characterize Matt Jackson's rating as accurate. I don't know why you're saying "maybe there was an issue" with bonus conversion - the bonus conversion was definitely lower.

Either way - Matt's post was intended to warn people that this was definitely not Regs+ - I think a lot of teams got smashed by this set, and I agree with Gautam that editors should try to stick to their intended difficulty.

Yeah, I also agree with Evan and Jerry, this tournament was pure fun for me -- I would repeat the tournament experience over again, and you know what Auroni, if you want to keep on writing hard tournament, I will definitely keep playing!
Last edited by Ike on Mon Mar 09, 2015 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ike
UIUC 13

Adventure Temple Trail
Auron
Posts: 2617
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:52 pm

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

Ike wrote:Either way - Matt's post was intended to warn people that this was definitely Regs+ - I think a lot of teams got smashed by this set, and I agree with Gautam that editors should try to stick to their intended difficulty.
I presume you meant "definitely not" that?
Matt J.
ex-Georgetown Day HS, ex-Yale
member emeritus, ACF

Try my original crossword puzzles

User avatar
AKKOLADE
Sin
Posts: 15293
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 8:08 am

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by AKKOLADE »

Shouldn't this have been an Appology?
Fred Morlan
PACE President, 2018-19
International Quiz Bowl Tournaments, co-owner
University of Kentucky CoP, 2017
hsqbrank manager, NAQT writer (former subject editor), former hsqb Administrator/Chief Administrator, 2012 NASAT TD

User avatar
Ike
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm
Contact:

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Ike »

Matthew Jackson wrote:
Ike wrote:Either way - Matt's post was intended to warn people that this was definitely Regs+ - I think a lot of teams got smashed by this set, and I agree with Gautam that editors should try to stick to their intended difficulty.
I presume you meant "definitely not" that?
Oops, - yes. The historical record will be edited shortly.
Ike
UIUC 13

Magister Ludi
Tidus
Posts: 677
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:57 am
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

theMoMA wrote: Honestly, the biggest problem for me was (as Cody, Matt Jackson, and I think Matt Bollinger have pointed out) the excessive length of the questions. It's great that you found lots and lots of clues, but you really bashed the players over the head with them, and it wore me down. (I think I scored about 40 total points in the last 4 rounds out of sheer exhaustion.) Setting a practical length limit and sticking to it is really a helpful skill, especially when the questions shade difficult.
In Auroni’s defense, it’s easy to understand why a writer might go overboard on leadin clues given quizbowl’s discussion culture, especially considering something like John Lawrence’s critique of last year’s ACF Nationals. This thread is probably not the perfect place for this topic, but I don't read a lot of board discussion nowadays so this will have to do. You don’t get any praise when you control line length for tossups, but you get butchered—absolutely fucking ripped apart, limb from fucking limb—when an expert decides you misplaced an early clue in a tossup on an easy answer. We give mixed messages on the board. On one hand we attack Auroni for writing overly long questions while simultaneously in the same thread Jacob Reed calls for more detailed clues. There’s absolutely no awareness of the practical impossibility of meeting these competing demands.

I bring up the John Lawrence example because it illustrates a general point. In last year’s ACF Nats thread, John launched a merciless critique of the set that spent one sentence praising the “conception” of the set and nine paragraphs listing criticisms. (For example, he was disappointed for answering the Tess Durbeyfield tossup on the third line three of a nine-line tossup in an uncontested buzz, because he felt the clue required superficial reading death.) At the end of his takedown, he adds “let me emphasize” that he thought the set represented a good direction for future editing. No. Nine paragraphs speak for themselves about what John wanted to emphasize.

I know it’s a petty narcissistic example. But petty narcissism is the dominant tone of the board, which creates a larger problem. Quizbowl approaches discussion threads as reviewers rather than critics. Reviews relate the subjective reactions of one’s personal experience, while criticism offers a detached analysis of larger general trends. The Lawrence post is the perfect example. I responded to his critique with a long post outlining my editorial philosophy and methodology for Nats, calling for a discussion that would examine the experimental ideas in the whole set rather than focus on the technical flaws of individual questions. I tried a lot of formal innovation in the set—experimenting with how we ask questions rather than what we ask about—and was hoping to spark some ideas about different ways to frame questions in a way to reward different types of legitimate knowledge. But, John didn’t respond. We can elaborate endlessly on small question flaws but can barely muster a sentence analyzing a successful question. You never see long multi-post exchanges examining the specific reasons why a good question was good. Tournament discussion is a culture of fear.

Now, I don’t think Oppen was a great set and agree with Andrew Hart it suffered from a lack of refinement. Particularly, I think Auroni lacked the depth to pull off some of the more ambitious answer-lines. That being said, I think it would be more productive to focus critique on refining the concept of creativity rather than attacking bad individual questions.
Ted Gioia - Harvard '12
Editor ACF, PACE

User avatar
ThisIsMyUsername
Yuna
Posts: 808
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:36 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

I have retired from individual tournament discussion, but in as much as this seems to be a broader ideological critique, and one specifically aimed at me, I think that this merits comment. However, this post is all that I intend to write in response, as I can't imagine that another extended forum exchange between us could possibly lead to a point of reconciliation.
Magister Ludi wrote: In Auroni’s defense, it’s easy to understand why a writer might go overboard on leadin clues given quizbowl’s discussion culture, especially considering something like John Lawrence’s critique of last year’s ACF Nationals. This thread is probably not the perfect place for this topic, but I don't read a lot of board discussion nowadays so this will have to do. You don’t get any praise when you control line length for tossups, but you get butchered—absolutely fucking ripped apart, limb from fucking limb—when an expert decides you misplaced an early clue in a tossup on an easy answer. We give mixed messages on the board. On one hand we attack Auroni for writing overly long questions while simultaneously in the same thread Jacob Reed calls for more detailed clues. There’s absolutely no awareness of the practical impossibility of meeting these competing demands.
First, it is worth correcting this point. Many people seem to believe, as Ted suggests, that the call for detailed lead-ins is fundamentally irreconcilable with the call for sane tossup length. This stems from a basic misconception that the buzzability of a clue is mostly a function of the difficulty of the thing being described in the clue, when in fact, the degree of detail and clarity with which the thing is described will play a very large role in how buzzable the clue is. People operating under this misconception seem to believe that more clues will automatically lead to finer graduations of knowledge, and therefore to a smoother pyramid. But this is true only up to a point.

At some point, in order to fit an additional clue into a tossup, I will need to trim details from other clues to free up some room. Sometimes, the details that I'm cutting are merely fat worth trimming, and I've improved the tossup through this process. But sometimes, these details that I trim may actually be vital to the buzzability of those other clues; and thus by adding another clue, I've actually made the early clues less buzzable: by watering them down to a state of opacity or insufficient evocativeness, and by clustering the buzz-points later. It is thus sometimes (though not always) the case that a pyramid can improved by cutting one sentence and using the space granted by this to flesh out the remaining lead-ins and middle clues.
I bring up the John Lawrence example because it illustrates a general point. In last year’s ACF Nats thread, John launched a merciless critique of the set that spent one sentence praising the “conception” of the set and nine paragraphs listing criticisms. (For example, he was disappointed for answering the Tess Durbeyfield tossup on the third line three of a nine-line tossup in an uncontested buzz, because he felt the clue required superficial reading death.) At the end of his takedown, he adds “let me emphasize” that he thought the set represented a good direction for future editing. No. Nine paragraphs speak for themselves about what John wanted to emphasize.

I know it’s a petty narcissistic example. But petty narcissism is the dominant tone of the board, which creates a larger problem. Quizbowl approaches discussion threads as reviewers rather than critics. Reviews relate the subjective reactions of one’s personal experience, while criticism offers a detached analysis of larger general trends. The Lawrence post is the perfect example. I responded to his critique with a long post outlining my editorial philosophy and methodology for Nats, calling for a discussion that would examine the experimental ideas in the whole set rather than focus on the technical flaws of individual questions. I tried a lot of formal innovation in the set—experimenting with how we ask questions rather than what we ask about—and was hoping to spark some ideas about different ways to frame questions in a way to reward different types of legitimate knowledge. But, John didn’t respond.

[...]

Now, I don’t think Oppen was a great set and agree with Andrew Hart it suffered from a lack of refinement. Particularly, I think Auroni lacked the depth to pull off some of the more ambitious answer-lines. That being said, I think it would be more productive to focus critique on refining the concept of creativity rather than attacking bad individual questions.
Ted's rhetorical stance here recalls a standard "heads I win, tails you lose" strategy for suppressing criticism. Here's how you play this game: When someone complains about misplaced clues in a tossup, you ask them whether they suffered a buzzer-race against a good player as a consequence of the clue in question. If they did, you then suggest that their complaint is overly colored by subjective personal experience, and is not being argued from sound abstract, impersonal principles; and then, you dismiss their complaint. If they did not, you then suggest that they are complaining about some abstract, invented problem that they can't demonstrate had any negative impact on a match; and then, you dismiss their complaint.

Here's another even easier variant of this game: When someone criticizes your tournament, you check to see if their post focuses on particular questions or if it argues mostly from broad principles. If it does the former, you deem those questions to be "individual questions" (automatic outliers, rather than possible evidence of larger problematic writing trends), and you accuse the critic of missing the big picture; and then, you dismiss their complaint. If it does not, you accuse them of talking in vague, impressionistic generalities that are not backed up by particular questions (which here are treated as necessary evidence to establish larger problematic trends); and then, you dismiss their complaint.

If you read through Ted's post carefully, you'll catch three out of these four tactics being employed. You'll also find a surprising accusation that my original complaint about his Literature in the ACF Nationals 2014 thread focused on individual questions at the cost of talking about larger trends. In fact, all of the complaints about individual questions were folded into numbered points, each addressing a different larger technical question of tournament philosophy. (The post may be found here: http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... 80#p280579) Ted patently ignored and did not respond to any of these points in spite of his claim that he was "calling for discussion". These points represent the heart of my critique of that tournament and explicitly employ many of the guiding principals of my editing philosophy, with which Ted chose not to engage.

Perhaps, the most fundamental difference between us, Ted, is that you place much higher value on concept and I place much higher value on execution (which you dismiss as "technical" matters). This stance is evident in the very thesis of your post, and in your vehement attacks in past on tournaments CO 2010 and THUNDER II that had structurally sound questions that played well for their audiences, but whose idea of canon you found dangerous.

Ted, I think your claim that ACF Nationals 2014's literature questions "employed a lot of formal innovation in the set—experimenting with how we ask questions rather than what we ask about" is not sound. While there were good concepts for questions aplenty, I can't point to a single instance of a new way of asking about things that had not already been done by Magin, Evan, Will, you in your earlier work, or me, and been executed quite a bit better in those other instances. But even if had those things been genuinely novel (e.g. even if I'd never before heard a bonus part asking me to finish a quotation from a poem), they would have been less formative of my experience of that tournament than the basic fact of whether the questions were well-structured, distributed buzzes well, rewarded teams' actual knowledge well on bonuses, etc.

To give an example from Oppen, I very much liked the tossup on "Addie's coffin". I thought it was a creative answer-line on a well-trodden topic, and I thought the clues were well chosen. I would have enjoyed a well-executed tossup just on As I Lay Dying slightly less, but I still would have enjoyed it very much, because it's hard to write a good hard tossup on an easy answer-line like this, at a tournament in which very many people might be expected to have read the book. But I would take a well-executed As I Lay Dying tossup over a structurally-flawed "Addie's coffin" tossup any day. I enjoy cool answer-lines, but finding good clues and putting them together well is worth so much more to me.

You actually illustrated this point very well once, Ted. We were at CO 2011 together, and you remarked that the tournament was obviously being very well-received by everyone in the room, even though all of us were quite opposed to all of Ryan's philosophical spoutings on the forums, and argued with him often. As you noted, whatever our objections to Ryan's conceptual apparatus, he fundamentally knew how to execute, and that made it one of the best hard tournaments of that era. That tournament seems to be praised still primarily for its technical soundness.
We can elaborate endlessly on small question flaws but can barely muster a sentence analyzing a successful question. You never see long multi-post exchanges examining the specific reasons why a good question was good. Tournament discussion is a culture of fear.
For all my critical responses to your post, I do think that this point about our community being stingy with praise stands. I am certainly aware of how much I myself have contributed to the negative culture that exists. And I have apologized for it on numerous occasions, and I am willing to apologize for it again. But I hope you have enough self-awareness to realize that you are one of the most vitriolic tournament commentators this board has seen in recent years, with more hatchet jobs to your name than any of us. I know of other people besides myself who find it ironic that you are the one condemning the "culture of fear". In all these years, I have never heard you even once own up to your pivotal role in creating the culture that you now decry or apologize in any shape or form.

The one difficulty is that, in the current climate, it seems strange to write a lengthy post in a tournament discussion positively dissecting good questions, and I think that may remain so. I think the "Praise Song" and Top 10 lists have been really good at channeling that stuff. (By the way, Ted, even though you don't visit the boards often, I hope you did read this: http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... 46#p266459. Though I still hold last years' Lit as my least favorite I've played at a Nationals, I also routinely speak of your Regionals 2011 Lit editing as the best regular-difficulty Lit editing I've played.) I would be very happy if a tournament-focused "praise song" became a yearly feature rather than something we do only in response to a crisis: if we just got together at the end of the season and talked about our favorite questions, clues, innovations, etc. that happened that season, so they don't get lost in the bustle of normal discussion.

One olive branch: I have no interest in continuing a conversation with you about Literature via the forums, as nothing in our previous discourse leads me to believe that this could be done productively. However, once this year's ACF Nationals is done, I would be happy to talk with you about these matters via Skype or in person (should you manage to attend CO). If you want to each go through a series of literature questions we wrote and talk about how we chose the answer-lines and clues that we did to make our ideas clearer and/or (as a less narcissistic exercise) go through questions by other editors that we liked and discuss why we liked them (perhaps recording the conversation to be shared), I'm quite willing to do such a thing. That might be a productive way to espouse our views without more exchanges of polemic.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” - G.K. Chesterton

User avatar
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Auron
Posts: 2109
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:53 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea »

I don't think the ideas of having more detailed, descriptive clues in tossups is necessarily irreconcilable with having sane tossup lengths. Frankly, at hard tournaments, it's pretty rare for most people to have knowledge of the leadin material in most tossups, or even early-middle clue material in them. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to have a tossup on something hard like the Filiki Eteria or Viracocha that uses only six or seven well-chosen, descriptive clues that ends up coming out to eight lines or so. For explorations of more "canonical" topics, this could possibly trigger more buzzer races due to people having deeper knowledge of the subject, but I still think a good writer can pick clues for an answer like Charles I such that people aren't buzzer-racing until near the end because they only have superficial knowledge.
Will Alston
Bethesda Chevy Chase HS '12, Dartmouth '16, Columbia Business School '21
NAQT Writer and Subject Editor

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I didn't really anticipate having to relitigate 2014 ACF Nationals almost a year later, but I didn't then, and don't now agree with John's critique, which struck me as very idiosyncratic. I responded to some of his points in that thread; instead of rehashing that debate, I want to instead reiterate my call for a quizbowl pluralism. There are many ways of writing good questions and many ways of producing good tournaments. Some of those ways are going to be more aesthetically pealing to some people than others, but that doesn't make them wrong or bad. Oppen had some clunkers here and there, but it also had a ton of fun questions. This set's main fault was that it was too hard for most of its intended audience (though not the part that gathered in College Park), but it was still pretty good overall.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Ike
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm
Contact:

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Ike »

grapesmoker wrote:I didn't really anticipate having to relitigate 2014 ACF Nationals almost a year later, but I didn't then, and don't now agree with John's critique, which struck me as very idiosyncratic. I responded to some of his points in that thread; instead of rehashing that debate, I want to instead reiterate my call for a quizbowl pluralism. There are many ways of writing good questions and many ways of producing good tournaments. Some of those ways are going to be more aesthetically pealing to some people than others, but that doesn't make them wrong or bad. Oppen had some clunkers here and there, but it also had a ton of fun questions. This set's main fault was that it was too hard for most of its intended audience (though not the part that gathered in College Park), but it was still pretty good overall.
To be fair, I find it strange that Ted opened the litigation. In fact, I find it kind of strange that he decided to relitigate nationals overal. Contra Ted, I thought Oppen was mostly good -- I don't think "Auroni lacked the depth to pull off some of the more ambitious answer-lines," I just thought the set had some really hard answer lines on things that people don't know a whole lot about -- more so than I preferred.

I'm reading John's post as follows: It's impossible to complain to Ted about something that you didn't think played poorly. Ted's lit was good, but not The Artwork of the Future, and had been done by others before, and Ted's theoretical underpinnings are bizarre. I agree with all of that: I can't think of the last tournament Ted praised for its great lit, even though there have been many tournaments that had had great lit: I think Yaphe, Jerry, Ted, Evan, Auroni, Rob, Will, John, Hart, etc. all have valid and great approaches to lit --though I much prefer some over others; and I'm not really sure if I agree with Ted's theoretical underpinnings, but whatever, he ends up producing good questions anyway.

Also, guys, there's more to a tournament than its goddamn lit. I know it's easy to pick on Auroni because you don't like his tastes or whatever, but you should also remember he did a pretty good job with the myth, chem and bio and I don't hear anyone complaining about the history outside of a one or two clunkers. I also think his painting was mostly good, and the philosophy and SS were solid to really good as well. It sure would be nice if people took a generalist's approach to evaluating a tournament for a change!
Ike
UIUC 13

User avatar
Captain Sinico
Auron
Posts: 2842
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Champaign, Illinois

Re: George Oppen: An Apology, and General Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico »

Having just straight up walked into this tournament off the street knowing nothing about it other than time and location, I though it was a lot of fun (and negging!) Perhaps if I'd expected something easier, I'd be disappointed by how hard it was (hard, but not that hard,) but I don't think anyone can say this was a bad set, for what it was.

Thanks for putting this together, homie!
Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
Alumnus, Illinois ABT (2000-2002; 2003-2009) & Fenwick Scholastic Bowl (1999-2000)
ACF
IHSSBCA
PACE

Locked