2015 STIMPY: General Discussion

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Bloodwych
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2015 STIMPY: General Discussion

Post by Bloodwych »

Post any general comments you have about the set here.

I don't have much to comment on the set myself, so I'll leave overall judgment to the hoi polloi. I'd like to thank all of the editors for pitching in and sticking with me through the set; I had a great time working with them as they were very communicative and finished their categories in good time. I will list who wrote and edited what below (to the best of my knowledge; remind me if I left something out, editors), if you're interested.

Chris: Literature, SS, Philosophy, Other, Visual Arts, some Mythology
Jordan: non-World history, Literature, Mythology, Visual Arts, Other Science
Dan: World History, Religion
Brian: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Other Science, some Philosophy
Jacob: Auditory Arts, Other Arts, Other Science, pitched in on the other Science categories as well, Literature
Grace: Other Arts
Sohan: Mythology, Physics
Ophir: some SS, Other Science

I'd like to thank Ophir especially for staying up late with me on Friday night to improve the copy editing of the set (it was still pretty bad, sorry about that) and finish some unfinished questions.

One of the only things that absolutely bothered me about this tournament was the bonus difficulty. We resolved to make the bonuses easier than SUBMIT last year, but it appears that that wasn't the case. Any comments to improve in this respect are greatly appreciated.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Mnemosyne »

From the perspective of a team who normally just breaks 10 PPB, I thought the bonuses for this set rocked. I felt like the 10s and 20s were significantly easier than the other tournaments from this year. I don't have much to say about the hard parts though, for obvious reasons.
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Jem Casey
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Jem Casey »

Thanks for playing STIMPY! First of all, I'd like to laud Chris for his work as head editor. In addition to flawlessly handling the set's logistics and keeping the rest of us on track, he fought in the trenches as well, diligently writing lots of quality questions in several categories that no one else wanted to handle. Great job, dude.

Here are a few unnecessary words on my philosophy and goals for the categories I worked on. I did almost all the American and Euro history, with a few questions from Jacob and Dan, while Dan did his typically excellent work on the World. In my stuff, I tried to focus the clues on memorably-named organizations, events, slogans, policies, documents, etc, on interesting anecdotes from primary sources, and on practices, customs, and rituals. Obviously, so-called "evocativeness" can't be a goal of history clues in the same way that it should be for literature and fine arts, but I don't see why clues shouldn't be about things that are easier to remember, more interesting to listen to, and more rewarding to buzz on. That's why there aren't many answer-lines on specific events (e.g. the Gaspee affair or, like, any battle) in the set, or other things which are difficult to write about from a larger historical perspective; if an answer-line could only be clued with the names of minor historical figures and places which you can only read about in local history books and on Wikipedia, I didn't write it. I'd be glad to get feedback on how reasonable these standards are and how successfully I implemented them.* Additionally, I realize that a lot of my questions had a perhaps undue focus on clue density and concision; if all the Naming of Things got too frenetic, exhausting, context-less, or confusing, please let me know.

Chris and I split most of the lit writing. I think we both tried to produce the sort of tossups which John Lawrence and others have advocated much more eloquently elsewhere, tossups which focus on major works over minor ones and amusing, memorable plot clues over lists of character names.

*Clearly, I wrote some pretty lame clues and tossups for this set, and I'm not claiming that clues like "One side of this war received supplies from an allied country through the dummy companies HISMA and ROWAK." from the Spanish Civil War tossup are some sort of ideal.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

Hey guys! I really enjoyed working on this set—the Maryland crew was very competent, professional, and fun to work with, and made editing a breeze. I'd particularly like to thank Brian, who was very patient with me in my first-ever college science editing job. If there's anything you didn't like in other science or biology, that's almost certainly me, not him.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ike »

Okay, so I think there were a couple of things problematic about the set:

The first was that there really wasn't a clear concensus on what you guys wanted a medium bonus part to be. I think making peptidoglycan a medium part given "bacterial cell walls" is a bit easy, but if you're going to do that, you can't all of a sudden decide that the variational principle is a medium part. On the one hand about half of the bonuses were as difficult as occasionalism, but then there were a lot of bonuses were a high school / early college knowledge of eigenvalues was a medium part. I personally prefer the slightly harder bonuses for regular difficulty, but it's something you should have normalized across all editors.

The other part that I want to discuss is the rise of the "trivial" easy part. By "trivial" easy part, I mean a bonus part that doesn't reward knowledge of the subject at hand. Asking who designed "Fallingwater" is a fine easy part. Asking what do you call the complex that includes the NYC Twin Towers isn't, because no one is going to know that through "architecture" knowledge - they'll be getting it through "common sense." To provide some more examples: the matrix bonus part is okay, since you actually have to know some math to get it. The myth bonus part on the moon when you're giving "Luna" isn't. No one actually knows who Luna is, and you're just giving points away for teams using their "quick thinking skills" and deducing Luna = moon. Yes, an easy part should be easy, but you shouldn't be insulting a team's intelligence by making it so easy that there's no team who is not going to convert your easy part - 90% of teams should be converting easy parts, but not 100%.

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Re: General Discussion

Post by Bloodwych »

You're absolutely right. I think a lot of that stemmed from a desire to make stuff easier in general that went way overboard. (In reference to your second point; I can't say much about the science.)
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Re: General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

Ike wrote: The first was that there really wasn't a clear concensus on what you guys wanted a medium bonus part to be. I think making peptidoglycan a medium part given "bacterial cell walls" is a bit easy, but if you're going to do that, you can't all of a sudden decide that the variational principle is a medium part. On the one hand about half of the bonuses were as difficult as occasionalism, but then there were a lot of bonuses were a high school / early college knowledge of eigenvalues was a medium part. I personally prefer the slightly harder bonuses for regular difficulty, but it's something you should have normalized across all editors.
I was definitely on the "easier" side for bonuses and tossup answerlines (and I think Sohan and Brian might have been on the harder side, if that explains something about the science). In general, I think that it's pretty OK to have middle parts that ask for a not-completely-trivial fact from linear algebra (e.g. the part on "roots of the characteristic polynomial" from Cayley-Hamilton and eigenvalues—it's not like saying "eigenvalues have this property" is extremely helpful by itself in that context, given how many properties they have!)—sort of following along from the "regular difficulty definitely doesn't need to be harder, and could probably stand to be more like MUT" discussions.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ike »

I agree with the fact that Regular Difficulty should be made easier. I do like the fact that you and the some of the set's editors chose to stray away from the Penn Bowl side of the reg difficulty coin. If you want to go down that route though, you have to go for it on all bonuses and not just your categories. Here's something else to consider - if you choose to make medium parts much easier, you absolutely cannot make top parts impossible. Consider an elite team like UVA. They're scoring 23-24 ppb right now - which means that they are getting about 1/2 of the hard parts (assuming they derped on some of the medium parts.) And let's say you significantly adjust all bonuses so that a team now score's 17ppb instead of 13ppb. If you're making bonuses much easier by making middle parts easier, you have to compensate so that great teams can have significantly higher ppb - like 27-28ppb, otherwise you're increasing variance in a nutty fashion.

I rarely, call out a set for inconsistent bonus difficulty, since knowledge bases can never really be partitioned into three distinct quanta (e.g., easy - medium - hard) but I think this tournament suffered from just not deciding what was a medium part, or really, what bonuses were meant to achieve. I just want to make it clear, I'm not calling out the set for one or two difficulty outliers - though that Malebranche bonus easy part is not easy at all, and that bonus should be changed to have a true easy part- I'm discussing the general trend.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

Mnemosyne wrote:From the perspective of a team who normally just breaks 10 PPB, I thought the bonuses for this set rocked. I felt like the 10s and 20s were significantly easier than the other tournaments from this year. I don't have much to say about the hard parts though, for obvious reasons.
Personally I thought some of the bonuses were tough, we had way many more bagels than we normally do (5 this tournament as opposed to an average of 2 per tournament). I thought the tournament had quite a few tougher middle parts, but my teams tend to suck at converting bonuses at Maryland tournaments for some strange reason.

The tournament was very well written and one of my favorite sets this year. Thanks for writing/editing!
Jake Sundberg
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Re: 2015 STIMPY: General Discussion

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I'm strongly inclined to agree with Ike in that this tournament's bonus difficulty was consistently quite variant and with Chris that things ended up harder than ideal. I don't think it lacked a philosophy, though - playing the set, it seemed like there was a real effort to make relatively easily gettable middle parts, but this definitely wasn't consistently achieved. In addition, hard parts were very hard a very high percentage of the time across all categories, and I think that this presents a real problem. I don't think it's as much of a variance problem, since games of quizbowl are almost always won on tossups and not bonuses, but if you know a lot about a subject, you should be rewarded for it. As mentioned, there were also a few bonuses that just straight-up didn't have an easy part - the occasionalism bonus was mentioned, and I'd add to that the naturalism bonus, the fluids bonus with "vorticity/vortex" as an easy part (as I said at the tournament site, would it really have hurt to say something like "tornado" there?) and I think a few others that I noted.

This was different from the tossups in the set. Most of the tossups seemed to follow a fairly consistent philosophy: difficult first few clues, reasonably generous powers, and a conscious effort to have lots of well-known, buzzable clues after power in tossup - something that I really appreciated, and which I think a number of other tournaments of late have lacked. In general, I would perhaps advocate for a shift in the direction of using even easier clues outside the first line of a tossup for "regular" difficulty, but this set's tossups were very much a step in the right direction in terms of middle-late clues.

I think your history tossups did exactly what they aimed to do, Jordan, and it played out pretty well - they felt right in step with the rest of the set. Unlike Dan's world history, though, your bonuses were sort of in line with the rest of the set in that they frequently used very hard third parts.

EDIT: I should add, I did appreciate the lack of questions on specific incidents/events, where you often get clues on minor details (X general moved into Y city during this particular coup/revolution) that don't matter in a broad context. Thanks a lot for that.

I am bad at literature and powered exactly zero literature tossups at this tournament since the questions consisted of actual substantive clues about plots. This is probably a good thing.
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Re: 2015 STIMPY: General Discussion

Post by UlyssesInvictus »

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:I am bad at literature and powered exactly zero literature tossups at this tournament since the questions consisted of actual substantive clues about plots. This is probably a good thing.
And conversely, I liked the lit a lot for this reason, since my substantive buzzes felt really rewarding. OTOH, there were definitely places that felt like difficulty cliffs of "figure-it-out," sort of like the criticisms of Nanook of the North in the other thread. I remember "Lady with the Dog," for example, basically being me thinking "I have no idea what's going--oh, they're talking about story with an affair with Russian names."

That's probably just selection bias, though, I liked the lit in general.
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