2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Old college threads.
gyre and gimble
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

I thought the visual arts in this tournament weren't that much harder than in other open-difficulty sets (if it was harder at all, on average). I think it was a little heavy on the "art history" aspects, in the sense that there were a bit too many context-based clues relative to visual clues. I don't think "art history" questions should be written like history questions with art clues, which a good chunk of this tournament's tossups felt like; instead, they should still primarily draw material from visual, or at least "primary-source" elements of art. For example, the Theo van Gogh and Charles Saatchi questions had very little visual cluing. (Note that this isn't a difficulty complaint! I sat on van Gogh until close to the giveaway, but that's just because I don't know much about van Gogh's life, which is the subject of a huge amount of study. And I was able to power Saatchi without getting confused.) As another example, the St. Paul tossup felt very dependent on knowledge of "what random Italian church a certain painting is located in."

All that said, I really enjoyed the visual arts at this tournament, which had plenty of fine ideas. Maybe it's just that the topics lined up well with things I like, but I powered more visual arts here than at WAO. I say that not to brag (well, maybe a little) but to illustrate that sometimes a set of 15 tossups will randomly skew in a way that does or doesn't favor any given player's knowledge base, and that that doesn't necessarily mean the tossups were difficult to power.

I especially liked the questions on women in surrealism (before deciding not to edit painting, I actually wrote and scrapped a nearly-identical tossup for Regionals because it was too hard; also it's awesome that you clued Kay Sage) and Satan (Pandemonium is probably my favorite painting at the Louvre, and will probably be yours, whoever is reading this post, after you look at it).
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Knickerbocker glory »

I've been largely silent in this discussion thread up until now, due in part because I've just been so busy in the past two or so weeks, but also because I felt much of the criticism has been difficult to respond to without appearing defensive.

Anyways, I'll take the time now to respond to as many parts/posts/people as I can in this brief 15-minute study break I'm giving myself from my midterms:
too many questions focused on biographical or anecdotal aspects of their subjects, instead of events of broader social/cultural/political importance or interest
I am working on this. I wish I had time to polish my questions more, if not for the sudden time crunch that seemed to take me and some of the other editors by surprise in February.
occasional bonus parts that felt balls-hard in a trivial sort of way (Operation Lalang, Operation Agatha, and that Oates quote come to mind)
Operation Lalang and Operation Agatha definitely are important things. They were on the harder side of things, for sure, but I felt that they were underasked about—Operating Lalang and Operation Agatha are important things in Malaysian and Israeli history, and I tried to write the bonus parts with enough context and explanation so that players could realize that they were worth asking about.

I agree that the Oates quote was punishing, especially to get all ten words right. I remember a player giving seven words correct but botching the last three while I was moderating at the Berkeley site, so I unfortunately had to not give the points to him. I probably should have written the bonus part so that players who knew who Oates was or the context of the quote (Scott's failed expedition) could have gotten points without remembering the exact quote.
tossups that have "been done" and just weren't interesting this time around, such as William Bligh, expulsion of Jews from Spain, and abolitionism in Britain.
I thought I was being original, then I came around to aseeming my clues after I finished the tournament to see the hitrate of my tossups. To my dismay, there were many repeats which I thought were fresh ideas—for example, in Chicago Open 2016, there was a tossup on the expulsion of Jews from Spain whose answer before the powermark was remarkably similar, including the same two clues. I can pretty much chalk this up to two reasons: 1. I don't read many old packets very much, so I don't really know what's come up before, and 2. I've only been playing college quiz bowl for two years, and I don't play that many tournaments a year, so what I've heard is limited to pretty much tournaments I've attended. To be fair, I did think these tossups were good ideas when I did write them, but as with anything, the third or fourth time they come around, it just isn't as good.
to be clear, not all of these were hard in a good way; Dzungar genocide and Bayonet constitution probs weren't
There were a few tossups I wrote which were intended to be experimental, things outside of the canon. The Dzungar genocide was one of them. The Dzungar genocide is an important topic in genocide historiography, being one of the earliest genocides. It's also important in Chinese history since it was part of that massive expansionist push by Qianlong that doubled the size of Chinese territory. I hoped that players—much like myself—would have discovered the Dzungar genocide independently (i.e. outside quiz bowl) and greatly enjoy the tossup. I did get a lot of "whoa, never expected that answerline to ever come up" reactions in person and online after the tournament, and I was greatly pleased since I accomplished my goal of rewarding players who had real knowledge. There were many other tossups like this—for example, noted real-knowledge player Sameer Rai first-lined Li Si, Sayyid Qutb, and I think Tang Dynasty and Abbasid Caliphate (off anecdotal evidence—the first two buzzes I personally saw).

Speaking of the Dzungar genocide,
Some of these were ridiculous tossup ideas—sure, it's probably possible to know the first few lines of the Wall Street Bombing or Dzungar genocide TU, but did you really think those tossups were the best use of X lines to differentiate teams based on knowledge?
See above about experimental tossups. Even if they weren't, for a tournament of this difficulty, the vast vast majority of teams won't be buzzing in on power, but would you consider the first 3-4 clues wasted? In ACF Nationals, even in the finals round, most tossups were at least half or 2/3 finished before anyone buzzed. We're not expecting teams to duke it out on the first few clues, but as long as clues legitimately allow for the possibility of someone with deep knowledge of the subject to get a solid buzz, I don't consider those clues as wasted.

I think I've addressed the most salient points in my blocky, unfocused post above. I'd like to close on a positive note, though. I'd like to thank Auroni Gupta and Ike Jose for being willing to playtest a hundred or so questions over the course of six months, offering useful and constructive feedback, and being cool people all around. Eddie Kim and Andrew Wang are very cool people too. I had a lot of fun writing this tournament and I learned a lot too. This was my first non-NHBB high level quiz bowl writing endeavor, and sometimes I felt a little out of my depth while writing, but my co-editors helped me get through it. You guys are the best.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

Could you post the Jews being expelled from Spain tossup? I wrote the one for CO 2016, and I'd be interested in comparing.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by vinteuil »

So, my other commitments have caught up with me, and I don't have time/energy for a big long post about this tournament, which probably wasn't super-necessary anyways. Instead, I'll try to give a short summary of my frustrations, and a few positive points that haven't been brought up yet.

But first—
Auroni wrote:Jacob, I'll extend you the benefit of the doubt and reply to your post is if it was made by someone without known preconceived judgments about my writing and editing.
I really, really appreciate the conciliatory tone Auroni, Bruce, and Ike have taken, as exemplified by this statement from Auroni (and him actually sticking to it in his post). Ike hit the nail on the head in his most recent post—I was frustrated by a number of things at this tournament, and chose to take those out too personally on the editors in my post. I apologize for doing that, and will try to focus more on the questions themselves in future tournament discussions.

At any rate, a lot of my frustrations go away when I (personally) reconceptualize this tournament as "nats" difficulty with no "minus," especially given the lack of an absolute difficulty standard. Auroni is absolutely correct that difficult answerlines were well-balanced by accessible ones, and Jordan is absolutely correct that the vast majority of the difficult answerlines I pointed out (and was reacting to) were exceedingly real.

My biggest remaining frustration is what I was pointing to with my comments about middle clues. I have to say that I'm still a little bit concerned by how leadin-heavy and middle-clue light many of these tossups were. (The science seemed uniformly to have this problem, and I think the stats really do bear me out here. This isn't to say that the bio and chem in particular weren't full of flavorful, real, exciting questions.)

To take that Indonesian Muslims question: I freely admit that I don't know that much about this subject, and I'm excited by the opportunity to learn what look like a lot of interesting and important facts from this question. Still, there are at least a couple of middle clues available that the question didn't use (see, e.g. Matt Jackson's 2014 ACF Nationals question on the same topic), which I think would smooth the question out difficulty-wise near the end. (I understand that their addition means taking out some of the exciting and interesting early clues and adding in stuff that's already been done before.)

That said, I should explicitly repudiate my implication that the editors made a conscious decision to write this way. Again, I was frustrated (and a little confused) by what seemed like obviously fixable problems—but of course, I've made my share of poor editing and writing decisions (that remain unfixed—Mary Douglas tossup at "~regular-ish~" difficulty...) before, and I should have thought more about how those happened before chalking it up to some nefarious anti-middle-clue scheme on the editors' part.

All right, now for some positives. As I said before, this tournament did a very good job at making a case for its distribution—what I meant by that is that the subdistributions ranged from very good to near-perfect. I also appreciated the creative use of the "other" distribution, with a focus on unexplored, interesting, and nontrivial/ultra-"trashy" topics (even if I disagree with the editors on the difficulty of some of them). Moreover, I thought that the "borderline" content (genre fiction, the other arts tossup on 50s music) was tastefully executed, with an eye to "academic" rather than "trash" engagement; certainly, these questions fit very well in tone and content with the rest of their distributions. Ike's length cap was very welcome, even if it did seem to depress power rates, and I appreciated the overall very well-executed art-history slant of his questions in that category (although that's personal taste). And overall, as I think we've all come to expect from Auroni, his questions were full of underexposed and real-world-studied/known information, presented in a way that makes it clear why it should be exposed further and why it's "real."