PB2016: Epistle to the Sons of the North

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PB2016: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Oct 23, 2016 3:37 pm

Dear Canadian Writers of Penn Bowl,

Thanks for being completely and utterly useless.

OK, that's not entirely true. You weren't entirely useless - you did do some work, in the sense that Chelsea Clinton did some work for CNN when she was paid $600,000 per year for being a correspondent twice or something. A non-zero number of you, however, contributed more in the way of Harambe memes (peace be upon him) than actual questions. I think Harambe PBUH himself would have been more useful in the production in this tournament than many of you. Frankly, if I were directing a tournament in Canada I wouldn't have a huge problem with some of you playing this tournament, because I wouldn't be surprised if some of you knew none of the answers in this tournament are besides the one or two you wrote.

I would like to address the major part of this letter to the most prominent Son of the North who worked on this tournament - Patrick Liao. An unnamed member of the Penn team, with whom I stayed up with until 5:30 AM working on the set, made the following observation [paraphrased]: "Patrick is a head editor in the sense that he is an editor with a head." This was even better than someone's accidental misspelling of "Trail of Tears" as "Trial of Tears" at a similarly early time in the morning, which coincidentally provides a perfect subtitle for this tournament.

Patrick, you were initially made head editor of this tournament. After a couple of other writers expressed their concern with you doing basically nothing by the beginning of October, you agreed to limit your role to editing history. On Friday night, it was determined that you still had not edited any history, so Chris Chiego and I stepped in to edit all of the American and World History, respectively, in a single night. After we finished, we determined that not all of the European history was done, so I had to step in and edit a lot of that as well, as well as write two European history questions from scratch (besides the several I had already written) at 7:30 AM because there were still things that needed to be replaced.

We left a single world history question for you to edit (the Gang of Four tossup) and you managed to leave that question with a lead-in that completely failed to distinguish the answer from "Chinese army", which I had to accept when a certain tall Jewish individual from New Hampshire buzzed on that clue.

Your gross and inexcusable incompetence is worse than Charlie Dees going AWOL on DEES, because at least Charlie had the decency to admit that he wasn't going to be able to finish the tournament, three weeks in advance. That was enough time to assemble an editing team that could get the job done. Your failure to admit that you would be unable to execute the tasks you had commited to ended up costing several people the entire Friday night's worth of sleep before the tournament.

I would like to make a brief exception in this note for Faheem Pahlwan, who wrote several decent painting questions and responded to feedback - working with you was a pleasant experience and I appreciate it.

This note is not meant to place the entire blame for the tournament's deficiencies on the Canadians. Nobody is completely faultless. But the Penn writers of this tournament, though perhaps somewhat inexperienced in their writing and ungenerous in their cluing, wrote their questions. By the hundreds. They willingly stepped up and wrote questions in categories they had very little knowledge of to make up for none of you doing your job and writing history, religion, and other categories.

There is a reason people don't take Canadian quizbowl seriously. It's one thing to want to play the game for fun and not try particularly hard to study or improve - that's a lot of people who play quizbow, and that's understandable. It's another thing entirely to sign up to work for the fall's premier regular tournament, then to completely abdicate your duties.

I doubt any of you will do much reflection on this, but if you do, I hope that whenever you try to work on a serious quizbowl tournament again that you actually commit to writing, learning, and actually doing work.

Sincerely,

Someone who cares

P.S.
To the Penn writers: thanks again for demonstrating dedication and determination to execute your tasks in the face of adversity. A lesser group than you would have given up, backed down, and failed to deliver entirely. As a team, we may not have delivered a good product - we may not have even delivered a complete product on the due date! But at least we delivered something. In particular, I'd like to thank Paul, because it's rare to find someone who knows how to pick good music clues as a completely fresh writer. I hope you try your hand again at some point in the future.
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:39 am

There's a non-zero chance that the people you addressed this to will not read it in the private forum (yes, I realize you spoiled some answerlines).
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Victor Prieto » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:16 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Your gross and inexcusable incompetence is worse than Charlie Dees going AWOL on DEES, because at least Charlie had the decency to admit that he wasn't going to be able to finish the tournament, three weeks in advance.
This actually didn't happen. Three weeks before the first mirror, Brian and I made the decision to bring in outside people after Charlie failed to respond to several strongly worded emails. Up until this point, Charlie had repeatedly assured us that there was nothing to be concerned about, which I described here.

Did a similar situation happen here? Did Patrick and other Canadians make repeated assurances that they were going to follow through, but then not do so? I'm just surprised that it went until Friday night before action was taken to save the tournament.

If Patrick Liao/Toronto really promised to produce a quarter of the set (history + religion + assorted stuff), strung along fellow editors until the last minute, and didn't do anything whatsoever, then I strongly sympathize for the Penn writers. Honestly, it sounds like it was a miracle the tournament came out as well as it did.
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:36 pm

There were almost no history questions written for months aside from a few things that had been sitting around for a while and some assorted European history I wrote. The Canadians said they would help with various categories, including history (which was our most important need - Eric, Patrick and I could probably each write an entire history distribution, but we were too occupied to do it entirely ourselves). This did not happen, and a lot of inexperienced Penn writers, or more experienced ones with limited history knowledge (i.e. Jaimie, JinAh) put some questions together at the last minute. The world and American history were the results of Chris and my frantic attempts to assemble something usable the night before the tournament - literally, the entire history distribution was edited the night before, and some of it was not even edited.

There was no systematic process for claiming or assigning questions, which is probably the root source of a lot of the problems being mentioned here. This probably had something to do with the fact that the actual history editor did absolutely nothing about the lack of history questions. Still, it's worth pointing out that none of the Canadians who were on the project actually contributed anything substantial, aside from maybe Faheem (who wrote 10 or so questions). The most experienced non-Patrick Canadians - Jay Misuk, Rein Ostason, and Aayush Rajasekaran (the former of which is, to my understanding, a fairly strong history player) each contributed one question or fewer (according to the spreadsheet)! Meanwhile Lam, who didn't really sign up to write much, actually ended up writing over 50 questions, including a lot of the history that other people hadn't written on Friday night. They almost all had to be edited a fair amount, sure, but (by himself) he wrote way more than all of these Canadian slackers combined. He is a true Stakhanovite and proletarian hero.

Even if they didn't make real, hard promises to write, the fact that none of these Canadians did jack is worth calling out. You sign up for a project as important as this one, you better write some stuff - especially if you've been playing this game forever and know a thing or two about questions. They could have at least written the kind of crap that goes in VETO every year, and that might have at least been somewhat helpful. They couldn't even do that - shame on them for making hard-working Penn people suffer for it.

There were also severe problems with the science, which Eric can speak to, but at least Eric followed through and actually edited the science, unlike Patrick, who did not edit all of the history and couldn't even finish half of it.

EDIT: Also, even if my memory of DEES is incorrect, at least Charlie apologized for what happened - I am skeptical as to whether such an apology will be forthcoming for this set. As for outside help, I suggested bringing some in several times, but the people doing most of the work on the tournament repeatedly resisted my suggestion to do this and continued to put faith in Patrick (who had barely done anything) and Eric (who was very busy with his thesis).
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:24 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:55 pm

With all due respect for Patrick, who is a very nice guy and good player, this is not the first time he has fallen short on tournament responsibilities, so I don't see how Penn people could have been THAT surprised.

I was asked a few weeks ago to work on Penn Bowl, specifically for the Christianity. I don't remember being asked about history.
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Taper or die. Can you do any less? » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:08 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: The most experienced non-Patrick Canadians - Rein Ostason, Jay Misuk and Aayush Rajasekaran (the former of which is, to my understanding, a fairly strong history player)
Your understanding is woefully off. Rein is garbage at history.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: ...these Canadian slackers...
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: ...none of these Canadians did jack...
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: ...shame on them...
Sorry, who are you, and why are you heaping shame on me like Ciara heaps Nicki Minaj features onto her albums?
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:19 pm

The post originally had Jay first. I will rectify this.
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:57 am

It's come to my attention that a screenshot of this thread's original post was posted in a Canadian quizbowl groupchat before Penn Bowl was played in Canada, which meant that a question had to be replaced. Apparently, these Canadian writers not only can't be trusted with writing questions, they can't be trusted with question security either!
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by cruzeiro » Mon Nov 07, 2016 11:30 am

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:It's come to my attention that a screenshot of this thread's original post was posted in a Canadian quizbowl groupchat before Penn Bowl was played in Canada, which meant that a question had to be replaced. Apparently, these Canadian writers not only can't be trusted with writing questions, they can't be trusted with question security either!
For the record, this wasn't done by one of the writers - it was done by another individual over the express opposition of the writers for the exact reason of question spoilers being in the initial post.

Anyway, on the actual topic of this thread, may I kindly ask the question - why was this a surprise?
Cheynem wrote:With all due respect for Patrick, who is a very nice guy and good player, this is not the first time he has fallen short on tournament responsibilities, so I don't see how Penn people could have been THAT surprised.
Toronto wrote a set this past winter (so your erstwhile writers minus Patrick, dealt with above, Jay and Aayush) - the "Toronto Hybrid Competition". It did not go well:
Calculus? wrote:Hi everyone,

Thanks so much to all of you who attended the tournament this weekend. I know there were definitely some things that needed to be smoothed out, and I apologize for my absence for most of the day, but the staffers who were there powered through it and did a great job with what was available to them. We hope to have most of the problems ironed out shortly so that the set can be sent out for mirrors. If you have any questions/comments/suggestions about how the tournament went please feel free to post here or contact us.
[emphasis is mine]

Those things that needed to be smoothed out included packetizing (at a minimum - I don't recall if there was any actual question writing going on) during the tournament. The editing itself was quite minimal, per asking a few of the teams how much their packets had changed from their submissions.

So there was a promise made to iron out the set for mirrors - well, there was one mirror, three months later. The reaction at that mirror:
sonstige wrote: So my general approach was going through each of the 10 packets I received from Toronto, at first screening for things that were overly Canadian, then realizing that I needed to screen for content that would be playable in Orlando as an answerline in general (based on my completely subjective judgment), before making editing cuts based on how well-written and difficulty-appropriate the original questions were. Some were largely fine as-is (Aayush's packet, in particular, stood out as having a decent amount of usable material). Others...not so much (but they were mostly good attempts!).

From there, I re-arranged the salvageable questions to get to as many complete packets as I could, before writing my own material or soliciting other Florida-based folks to help contribute until I had 11 complete packets. Could the final results of this effort have been better? Sure. However I was given a little less than 2 weeks to re-work an entire set while also producing an 11th packet. But I was reasonably happy with what I ended up reading to teams. Note that I had asked Toronto for the set months before my tournament (still well-after the set was first played), and was given repeated assurances the set was being worked on...only, that never seemed to have happened.

My advice to Toronto is this: if you're going to allow mirrors for a set, and make promises that the set will be heavily edited, then please make sure said set is close to perfection. Beyond the typos and formatting issues, there were some big problems with question length, clue order, phrasing ripped nearly verbatim from Wikipedia, and, amazingly, clue accuracy.
Needless to say, there were still problems. Which begs me to ask the question again - why is what happened with Penn Bowl a surprise?

This isn't to excuse what happened at all - it shouldn't have happened and it reflects poorly on Canadian quizbowl (yet again, and I wish this would stop happening) - but if there's this history of flakiness already, it begs the question of why people are surprised that the same kind of issues that people have had in the past recurred for this tournament.
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Re: Epistle to the Sons of the North

Post by Jason Cheng » Mon Nov 07, 2016 2:37 pm

Even if it shouldn't have been a surprise, the fact that a large number of people committed to completing a sizeable portion of a large project over the course of half a year and proceeded to do (apparently) almost none of is pretty rantworthy. Should the writers have trusted the people mentioned here to get timely, high-effort work done? Probably not, if what you're saying is true. Do the writers get to still be surprised (or at least shocked and full of rage) when those people, who I assume firmly committed to doing that work, does none of it without any formal notice? I think so, and I wholeheartedly support it.

I think this thread is more of a venting of frustration by the people who ended up having to cover the workload of others who said they'd do it, regardless of whether or not they should have expected to do so--which, as you said, isn't really an excuse anyway.
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