TRASH structure

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Mr. Kwalter
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TRASH structure

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

So, personally, I know that the problem I had with the TRASH set was not as much answer choice as question structure. Instead of posting comparative stats that may or may not mean anything and making generalizations about TRASH focusing on quickly-cancelled tv shows and minor albums from 80s one-hit wonders, why don't we talk about the structure of the questions, as that rather than what was asked is what bothered me. While I really enjoyed Andrew's attempt at "ACF trash" at this year's Chicago Open, I recognize that the ACF question style is not for everyone and thus shouldn't necessarily be imposed on TRASH; but at the same time there were problems with the way the questions were written that to me were major enough to cause problems. An example that stands out in my mind is the following tossup from TRASH regionals:

Andre "Freeze" Francis is a 20-something hustler and street lieutenant of the 22nd Street D-Boys, a well-established gang with a greedy philosophy. Freeze is trying to get out of the game, stay down with his crew and avoid a third strike. But when best friend Calderon turns on him, Freeze must get revenge, save his only son from a life of crime and survive several deadly shootouts. Along the way, Freeze faces off with Detective Lester Williams and his deadly partner, Maria Mendoza, as well as a legion of haters. All of this can be found in, for ten points, what 2005 Eidos Interactive game, whose graphic display of violence on cops and innocents has warranted complaints from Washington?
Answer: 25 to Life

Personally I have never heard of this game, so I don't know that much about it, but I would guess that (like most worthwhile video games) anyone that has ever played it would most likely remember the main character's name. This tossup tells a story, but that story will never be heard if a player in the match has played the game. The real impetus behind this question, however, was probably the newsworthiness mentioned in the giveaway, meaning that basically, this tossup could be reduced to:

Andre "Freeze" Francis is a 20-something hustler and street lieutenant of the 22nd Street D-Boys. All of this can be found in, for ten points, what 2005 Eidos Interactive game, whose graphic display of violence on cops and innocents has warranted complaints from Washington?

Basically, two levels of differentiation. I'm not saying the tossup should be 10 lines long and full of ridiculous obscurata; rather, I'm merely suggesting that instead of giving the most salient detail of the game in the first line then giving clues that almost nobody that didn't know the first clue would benefit from until the giveaway, one might change the tossup so it's more pyramidal. I know this is only one tossup, but it is not alone. It is the philosophy behind this question and others like it that brings out the annoyance in players like me. I and many others get upset when a question doesn't give me a chance to beat the other team through deeper knowledge of the subject being asked, and questions like the one above don't.

On a related note: yeah, I'm an ACF editor, and some of the other ACF editors have publically expressed their dislike or something stronger for the TRASH set, but it doesn't mean we disrespect TRASH and its writers. The one thing that stands out in all of the internal discussion I've had with ACF editors about TRASH is a universal desire for TRASH questions to be more pyramidal and to test knowledge in a more differential manner. It's not "man, I hate TRASH and the people who write for it" or "TRASH should be just like ACF." Everone I've spoken with just wants to make TRASH and thereby quizbowl better in his own way, and maybe that way is different from yours but it doesn't mean it's better or worse. So stop assuming we're elitist bastards that sit around in coffee shops all day discussing ways in which we can conspire to juxtapose ourselves with an "inferior" being just to make ourselves look better. It's damn insulting to us and especially me (who originally conceived the partnership) as people. If you want to talk about the difference in question philosophy between TRASH and ACF-style tournaments, the floor is yours.
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Post by csrjjsmp »

Well, first of all, nobody has ever played 25-to life, it hasn't been released yet. I haven't been following it too closely, and am hardly an authoritative voice on the subject, but it may help to know that you can choose to play as either a gangster or a cop; the so-called "main character" is indeed central to the story, but as far as I know, you create your own character, not play as Freeze. So the question may be bad or not, I really don't have enough knowledge to say, but it's not as if they put Solid Snake in the first line of a Metal Gear Solid tossup.
I had no idea about the political controversy, but might have been able to make a guess based on the description of the game, but that's probably just me.
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Eric makes some good points which ought to be considered (rather than drowned out in a barrage of ad hominem nastiness). First of all, let me point out that unlike most people on this board, I've actually written the lion's share of a trash tournament (this summer's Richler Open). I wouldn't have invested the substantial amount of time required to write that many trash questions if I had nothing but contempt for pop culture. In fact, I enjoy both pop culture and (good) questions about it. But most of the TRASH sets I've seen are full of poorly-written and -edted questions.

To see what I mean, consider the following tossups:

In its opening episode, we learned that one of the main characters got a 174 on his LSAT, which he anticipates will get him a “full rideâ€
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Post by plujan »

Helloooooooo, straw man!

This is getting a little ridiculous. Just to see if I was still sane, I looked through the first packet from this year's TRASH regionals. Surprisingly, I did not locate a single tossup whose pyramidality I found lacking. Yes, there are some of the "his father was a stonemason and he enjoyed algebra in high school" type-clues, but in no case can I find a clue which looks like it's too early. (Maybe you could make an argument for tossup 11, saying that the clue in the first sentence is too well-known. It isn't to me, though. I definitely found it pyramidal.)

In other words, I think that this ridiculous generalization from two objectionable tossups to "TRASH questions in general" is simply unwarranted by the data.
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A Player's Perspective

Post by Kilby »

First off, thanks to Mr. Kwartler for pointing the "double standard" thread in the direction it should be going... saying "TRASH is tooo hard!!!" and arguing over who was annoying at the tournament isn't going to solve any problems.

--

The biggest issue people seem to be having is pyramid structure. I agree that TRASH doesn't always nail that structure, but the criticisms that all the toss-ups are in an "inverse-pyramid" style is bogus. Here are some examples from the TRASH Regionals from this year. I'll explain them in terms of what I thought playing the questions:

- Round 3, TU 3, Bud Selig: Although it mentions Herb Kohl early (so that gets your mind going through people from that region), the third sentence mentions buying the Seattle Pilots... which triggered the reaction in my mind that the Pilots became the Brewers, Selig owned the Brewers, BUZZ! The only clues left at that point are Brewers owner and MLB comissioner.
- Round 4, TU 3, Creep: This was my favorite toss-up of the tournament. It opens saying that three songs with this title were on the Billboard charts in '93-'94. "The first, penned while its writer was a student at Exeter, tells the story of a drunken student trying to attract a woman; it launched its band to success, and they later referred to it as their "iron lung," as early audience only wanted to hear this song." Radiohead was notorious for its dislike of "Creep" and titled a track on their second album The Bends called "My Iron Lung," which is supposedly about that song. That's a great way to present a clue. The question goes on to mention the Stone Temple Pilots and that the third one, about adultery, won an R&B Performance Grammy. It then gives the names of Radiohead and TLC.
- Round 8, TU 6, Rosebud: It mentions Speilburg buying this thing, that Richie's middle name on the Dick Van Dyke Show was this, eventually gets to mentioning RKO... again, this is where my mind deduced RKO -> Citizen Kane -> Rosebud. The question goes on to say it was made of wood... it would have been probably better to leave out a clue about what Gore Vidal claimed the source of the name was, because after that Herman J. Mankiewicz is mentioned and the final clue about Citizen Kane comes up.

Those are all examples of where the questions followed the pyramid and, by that process of deduction, I came to the right answer.

On the other hand, here are some badly written toss-ups:
- R10, TU14, The Home Depot: The opening clue states its founders were Bernard Marcus and Arthur Blank. This is a bad opening clue because Arthur Blank owns the Atlanta Falcons, so anyone who follows the NFL to some extent could probably nab that one early (of course it was a buzzer race in my room as the Falcons play within an afternoon drive of all of the players in the room). After that, though, the question is fairly pyramidal, starting with a clue about their company museum, next hinting at their Olympic sponsorship, and eventually getting to the fact they sell home improvement goods and have orange signs.

The rest of the questions I am going to be critical of all have the same attribute: the current events opening clue (this was mentioned by someone in the "double standard" thread). Here is how to do it right:

- R13, TU1, Kanye West: "2005 has been a busy year for him, as he founded his own lable, "GOOD Music," announced plans to release his own clothing line, and appeared on the Philadelphia bill of Live 8." Those are good opening clues as they weren't overly publicized in the media.

However, here is how not to do it:
- R12, TU1, Paul Thomas Anderson: "This man was hired to be the insurance-required backup director to Robert Altman for the film version of A Prarier Home Companion." If you even slightly keep up with entertainment news, this was all over blogs and in the mainstream entertainment media. I got beat to this question on a buzzer race even though I'm a huge PTA fan and can pretty much recite tons of obscure biographical information about him. This was one of the questions I felt I got robbed on.

I really think that unless the current event is obscure, it should not be the lead-in, but rather, be one of the middle clues.

--

There is one other aspect of TRASH that I have found lacking. I love video games and video game questions, but there have been a couple of problems with them at this tournament and in the past. The biggest one is that TRASH often makes factual errors in video game questions. The aformentioned 25 To Life toss-up about a game not yet released is an example. Another example is the Double Dragon toss-up (R7, TU 18): "In a 1993 crossover game from Tradewinds, characters from this 1987 classic joined forces with characters from Battletoads." The name of the company was Tradewest and that clue was a buzzer race (we were playing an all-undergrad team in that game)... getting the company named tangled up in my mind distracted me from starting to go through Tradewest games that I knew of and probably cost me the question. Another instance is at TRASHionals 2004 where there was an audio toss-up on "Parappa The Rapper." I buzzed in and said "Parappa The Rapper," even spelling Parappa, only to get a neg. It turns out the answer was "Parappa The Rappa." Sitting at home the after the first day's play (the tourney was in Chattanooga), I was wondering what the actual name of the game was. Realizing I owned the game, I found my copy of "Parappa The Rapper." The point of all of this is that TRASH doesn't have a great track record with accuracy in video game questions.

--

In spite of these shortcomings, I still have lots of fun playing TRASH and I think that's why I'm forgiving as to the technicalities of the game. I'd probably have even more fun if TRASH improved on their questions, so maybe improvement can be made. I hope some of this analysis from a player's point of view is helpful.
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Re: A Player's Perspective

Post by insaneindian »

Kilby wrote:- R13, TU1, Kanye West: "2005 has been a busy year for him, as he founded his own lable, "GOOD Music,"
sorry for the sidenote, but i was amazed when the team playing against us got it right here :shock:
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Post by Rothlover »

I do not have the question set in front of me, but I do have all the answers written down, as well as my own recollections (flawed as those can be.)

There were several linked tossup sets that were, at best, asinine. The aformentioned Ubisoft one, tossups on both the Hitchcock "Spellbound" and the spelling bee doc of the same name (sadly lacking quizbowl's own Sudheer/Christine) and on the aristocats and (wait for it...) the ARISTOCRATS! See, the aristocats tossup actually was good, but I almost got it entirely off this logic: "I often accidentally say aristocats for aristocrats, this seems like something TRASH might exploit, therefore it could be that," but the aristocrats tossup was wholly unjustifiable. It actually started off "A family walks into a talent agency..." See, like, I'd just seen that movie (which is why we played one tournament as Aboriginese Spermatazoa), and its probably not good to write a tossup on the joke/movie that starts off how the joke starts off. It happens to be both lazy and it rewards people who just happen to know there is a joke that starts off as such, as opposed to people who might know a couple of things about it. As Andrew basically says, if you are going to start off a question that way, why not make it, in its totality: "A family walks into a talent agency, so begins, FTP, what legendary joke, subject of an NC-17 2005 documentary, and not to be confused with something that already came up at this tournament."

There was also the Logan's run tossup that started off "from ages zero to six, the crystal is white." That question would reward someone who knew that there are crystals in Logan's Run, and would take a risk on a Logan's Run tossup from a national organization mentioning said crystals as the start, as opposed to someone who has seen the movie four times, and read the novel (yes, I am quite the kool kidd,) and talking with some other people at the event, I knew this to have occured. Same went with the Bud Selig tossup that gave his birth and middle name at the start. The Nolan Ryan tossup that mentioned Jim Fregosi in the second line for those who couldn't fraud it off "A Texas-linked baseball figure who debuted in 1966," The 1918 Red Sox question that started off almost the same as a 1918 Sox question from regionals two years ago, and other than the manager's name didn't substantially differentiate from the 1923 Yankees (which I'd imagine is a reasonable tu answer choice at a regional, though I certainly could be wrong, and anyone who doesn't know Miller Huggins was their manager would deserve the -5 I guess.) The tossup on "The contest," that started off with "an issue of Cosmo" or something, The dippin' dots question that started off with how they are made through freezing with liquid nitrogen or something, and these are just tossups from packets two and three other than the Sox tu. If I had the packets, I'd note things more coherently, but yeah, I'd say there is something to this whole apyramidal accusation.

Dan
Again, not wanting to insult or offend any TRASH members directly (just scrutinizing them the same as I would any academic question set), or 9 of the 11 teams at the NE regional who made the event enjoyable, as well as BU for putting on another smooth tournament.
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Post by Kilby »

I don't think the toss-ups with the same answer but are completely different topics are necessarily bad. It would have been better to write questions on something else, but as long as there is no clue in common, it should be fair game.

I agree that the Aristocrats toss-up could have been so much better... either a history of the joke or details of the making of the film would have been better beginnings and would not have been too difficult to write. It was a buzzer race in my room.

I didn't know that Bud Selig's first and middle name would be a giveaway for anyone... I'd like to know if anyone got that toss-up in the first sentence.

The Dippin' Dots toss-up (R2, TU8) begins: "Invented by microbiologist Curt Jones in 1988, it is made by a flash-freezing process. Produced domestically in Paducah, Kentucky, it is not available in grocery stores, which lack the necessary sub-zero storage." I think at that point, a quick-thinking player can link together frozen-food not widely available in grocery stores and could pull Dippin' Dots. The rest of the question mentions it is sold in malls, amusement parks, etc., and then mentions its shape as a selling point, finishing with the "ice cream of the future." To me, this seems fairly pyramidal. I do think that, like many of the other toss-ups that players are crying non-pyramidal, they are just easy and are being gotten very early.

I'll refrain from commenting on the other things Dan mentions (I'm not very knowledgeable about the those things). (BTW, as you might guess, I have the question set (except for round one, which I misplaced), so if anyone needs me to post a question for examination, I can do that.)
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Post by Rothlover »

Kilby wrote:
I didn't know that Bud Selig's first and middle name would be a giveaway for anyone... I'd like to know if anyone got that toss-up in the first sentence.
From the people I talked to, some dude on NYU B got it off that (NYU B being the stronger team at this event,) as well as Delano Barnes. Of course, both are very good trash/TRASH players, but at least three out of the five rooms having that go after the lead-in, is pretty weak, especially considering it was on a pretty pointless clue (other than rappers and Vampira-esque figures should a person's name be coming up as a non-post-FTP clue?)
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Post by Matt Weiner »

Rothlover wrote: the aristocrats tossup was wholly unjustifiable. It actually started off "A family walks into a talent agency..."
At this point in my game, all six players tried to buzz, my teammate won the race, and after I noted that everyone in the room was buzzing on the opening clue, someone on the other team said "maybe they shouldn't write questions that way." This person is nowadays exclusively a player of trash tournaments and is in no way known as a complainer, and probably won't voice his concerns online for that reason, but I want to make it known that it's not just so-called "high-level ACF people" who have a problem with horifically lazy question writing.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

So after all the rancor, I now want to offer some constructive suggestions on how TRASH questions can be improved. A comprehensive plan for managing difficulty, first.

Difficulty problems seem to be largely a function of asking questions on niche topics that people either are huge fans of or don't care about at all. Country music, NASCAR, trash literature, minor sports, and old TV shows that aren't re-run might be important to some people and can come up in other ways, but they make bad subjects for tossups or entire bonuses. Instead of this:
Name these NASCAR drivers who broke records in September 2005 for 10 points each.
Which a great bulk of people, even at a trash tournament, can't hope to get any points on, why not:
Name these athletes who broke records in September 2005 for 10 points each.
With two parts on baseball and football, and a third part on a reasonable NASCAR driver. That way the NASCAR fans get their question, but the large number of players who only follow the three major sports aren't left out in the cold.

But bonus difficulty evens out over time. The larger problem was overextension of tossup answer space. I suggest that 18 or 19 tossups in each round be dedicated to the mainstream core of trash topics, which I will define as:
*Sports: Major league baseball, pro and college football, and pro and college basketball of the past 5 years
*Movies: Movies that were in the Top 10 weekly box office at some point in the past 10 years
*Music: Mainstream rock, college rock, and mainstream rap of the past 10 years
*TV: TV shows that aired for at least two full seasons on a broadcast network within the last 10 years
*Games: Popular games of the past 5 years (my own dedication to old games notwithstanding)

Hockey, soccer, individual sports, minor league sports, offbeat sports, arthouse movies, alternative genres music, older film and TV, all of this stuff is great for the third part of a bonus or that extra 1-2 tossups in a round, but by and large the available answers in these categories just aren't accessible to a general-interest player. If you can write a good question on the obvious exceptions (I don't think Brett Hull is really harder than Roger Clemens, or A Clockwork Orange harder than Sin City) than by all means do so, but to go into the same level of detail on something from a less-followed sport or older decade of film as on current material will continue to exclude the casual players.

Overall, real people and titles of works, which have better giveaway clues for non-fans, should be emphasized over names of characters (often only knowable if you regularly watch the particular media) and dry meta-information such as record labels and video game publishers.

The second pillar besides difficulty is question content. Looking to recent ACF sets for a distinction between helpful and unhelpful clues might prove rewarding. "Born in PLACE on DATE" is always a boring clue and often a useless one. Stuff like "open from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday" in the Hello Deli tossup just smacks of putting in completely useless clues to stretch out a too-short question. Every clue should be uniquely identifying, helpful to making the bridge between having factual knowledge and correctly answering the question, and not encourage guessing. Just general principles of good question-writing should be at work; the best model might be the Chicago trash set (minus the amusing references to present players), which applies ACF structure to trash content.

Threading through both of the two major issues above is the issue of chronology. There needs to be a major emphasis on the period of 10 to 1 years ago and a de-emphasis of very recent or very distant events. The exceptions should be evenly balanced across the other areas of time, not clustered in the late-70s/early-80s period that the core trash crowd has personal fondness for.

Getting some new blood in the writing pool would be one way to move towards all of these goals. I know when I applied to be a TRASH writer two years ago, the person who was announced as coordinating recruitment of new writers forgot to even reply to me for a while, and then turned me down after I prodded him for an answer. I am confident that I know how to write good, accessible questions, but I suspect TRASH just didn't want to deal with people outside of the usual trash community. Why not ask certain ACF and NAQT people who are known to be interested in making money by writing quizbowl questions to provide a packet's worth to TRASH every semester?

So that's how I think TRASH questions could become better and less insular, and move closer to the makeup of the Chicago and Princeton trash tournaments that seemed to please everyone. TRASH might even pick up some extra money in the process by attracting more college teams or more ACF people to the event. Thoughts?
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Post by cdbarker »

Matt Weiner wrote: But bonus difficulty evens out over time. The larger problem was overextension of tossup answer space. I suggest that 18 or 19 tossups in each round be dedicated to the mainstream core of trash topics, which I will define as:
*Sports: Major league baseball, pro and college football, and pro and college basketball of the past 5 years
*Movies: Movies that were in the Top 10 weekly box office at some point in the past 10 years
*Music: Mainstream rock, college rock, and mainstream rap of the past 10 years
*TV: TV shows that aired for at least two full seasons on a broadcast network within the last 10 years
*Games: Popular games of the past 5 years (my own dedication to old games notwithstanding)
{excised after I went back and re-read the latter portion of Matt's post where he answered this question. My bad for not reading more carefully the first time.}

I also must ask: Where is the room for popular literature, food and drink, mainstream comics and comic books? I know games are a popular sub-genre, but I think there is room for more there.

I agree with you that the tossup answer space should be narrower than the bonus answer space, just as it is in academic quiz bowl. I also think the further you move back from the present day, the narrower the range or askable questions becomes. Things that stand the test of time and are still generally popular today should still be in bounds in my mind.

However, in reviewing and using these guidelines over the past two years as a co-editor and over the seven years before as a writer and compiler of packets, I have found them to be fair and reasonable when creating playable packets for all levels of player. I can also say that as a co-editor, in general, the more faithfully that a team/writers adhere to these guidelines, the better and more playable their packets are for the tournament.

Just some thoughts. I want to reiterate that I do agree with Matt on the need for an clearly defined spectrum of answer space for toss-ups. I just think his is perhaps a little too narrow.

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Post by NoahMinkCHS »

I've never played TRASH, but I'm not opposed to it. And (despite what's going on in another thread in this section of the board) I personally think Matt's ideas, with Craig's modifications, would draw in a lot more new players to TRASH -- possibly even me -- and I think answer a lot of the criticisms leveled at the organization. I'd be interested to hear a counter-argument as to why a more accessible, more canon-driven TRASH would be a bad thing.
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Post by Rothlover »

I will have more thoughts once I get home for break and have time to type, but I think there are good and bad points with the format proposed.

I personally feel TRASH doesn't have much of a problem with difficulty (If anything, I care for the much harder trash stuff, but I know I'm in the minority on that score). The problem, as I see it (and as Matt aluded to,) is a combination of too much random stuff, and at the regionals level, with it almost always being the simplest answer, which is more the realm of the puzzle solver and risk taker than of people who really know stuff on the subject. For the former, I'd cite our final match, which essentially was a championship match, between us and Screw Hoops. These are both teams that have placed in the top 10-15 at TRASHionals in the past (I believe our team beat the Keenans in '03) and yet, in a match on regionals level questions, 4-5 tossups went dead. This included the tossup on "fatal1ty" who, if you'd follow games at all, would get off the first inkling it was a pro-gamer, and if you didn't (as was the case in our room), you'd watch it go dead. That question combines both problems, weird topic and simplest answer within said topic, in a question written in such a way that you knew what the topic was pretty much off the bat. I think TRASH can continue asking questions on the Orange Juliuses and A&W's of the world, its just gotta knock off the weird shit and the transparent shit. I don't think the packet structure you allude to would be that beneficial. You'd be surprised how much younger players know about older/arthouse films anyway. I have had many players that would rather answer questions on Jeunet films and Alphaville than on "Down with Love" and "Hardball."

I do wholeheartedly agree with Matt's points about question content however. I DON'T want the points for knowing the year Hack Wilson was born, I'd rather have a clue on his minor league team and stats or something. Chicago's set was very good that way, though it often put clues a bit too early on some of the general theme/canonical TRASH stuff like Michael Larson for power on "Press Your Luck" or Cummings on the "curveball" tu, it still is a set that is a useful mold.

I don't know why TRASH turned down Matt, and I don't even know who they ultimately selected (was that even posted as they said it would be)? I too had applied, but at the time didn't know squat about writing a good q (now I know a small bit more, though not much), so I could see why I was rejected. Ultimately though, there are the people out there who wish to help out. I don't think they should be turned down if they meet the requirements of competence, assuming its about a meritocracy.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

cdbarker wrote:I also must ask: Where is the room for popular literature, food and drink, mainstream comic and comic books?
In the third parts of bonuses, mostly. Those were by and large the questions that did not get answered at the TRASH regionals games I participated in (I got a few comic book questions but the hardcore trash people seemed the most puzzled on them). It seems like hardly anyone who plays quizbowl of any kind reads the sort of nongeek trashy literature that came up, like mystery novels. It's answered based on knowledge picked up at prior events, if at all. That's not the way to bring new people in.

As far as chronology goes, obviously there are exceptions for high-profile material, but there needs to be a very light hand used when asking about such stuff. The stereotypical "show that was cancelled after half a season in some year before most of the people playing this entered college" question sadly jumped out of hyperbole and into reality on at least two occasions at the recent TRASH regionals.

Ann B. Davis is well known for being accessible and I think those who agree with my points would appreciate TRASH moving towards its philosophy; I certainly enjoyed my two trips to ABD more than my sojourn to TRASH regionals.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

Rothlover wrote:I think TRASH can continue asking questions on the Orange Juliuses and A&W's of the world
I particularly dislike questions on food, restaurants, and stores because they often don't reward primary knowledge. A question on A&W that talks about its menu items is fine, but the majority of time, there aren't enough clues that you can get by actually "experiencing" a food item or a store in the way that you would watch a movie. Instead, these questions rely on the history and corporate structure of the institution, information that you can only pick up by hearing prior questions or studying it for the purpose of answering the question. If trash is now about studying things that one didn't previously care about just to get questions on them, then that's news to me.
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Post by Kilby »

Matt Weiner wrote:But bonus difficulty evens out over time. The larger problem was overextension of tossup answer space. I suggest that 18 or 19 tossups in each round be dedicated to the mainstream core of trash topics, which I will define as:
*Sports: Major league baseball, pro and college football, and pro and college basketball of the past 5 years
*Movies: Movies that were in the Top 10 weekly box office at some point in the past 10 years
*Music: Mainstream rock, college rock, and mainstream rap of the past 10 years
*TV: TV shows that aired for at least two full seasons on a broadcast network within the last 10 years
*Games: Popular games of the past 5 years (my own dedication to old games notwithstanding)
Although I differ with some of your definitions of these fields, I really don't see Games being one of the "pillars" of the trash distribution. I think one computer/video game and one non-electronic game is more than enough (similar to Michigan's or UTC's distribution).
Matt Weiner wrote:Difficulty problems seem to be largely a function of asking questions on niche topics that people either are huge fans of or don't care about at all. Country music, NASCAR, trash literature, minor sports, and old TV shows that aren't re-run might be important to some people and can come up in other ways, but they make bad subjects for tossups or entire bonuses. Instead of this:
Name these NASCAR drivers who broke records in September 2005 for 10 points each.
Which a great bulk of people, even at a trash tournament, can't hope to get any points on, why not:
Name these athletes who broke records in September 2005 for 10 points each.
With two parts on baseball and football, and a third part on a reasonable NASCAR driver. That way the NASCAR fans get their question, but the large number of players who only follow the three major sports aren't left out in the cold.
I'll disagree with you here. There was a NASCAR bonus in the Regionals set on drivers competing in the 2005 Chase for the Nextel Cup that I thought was fair and accessible. The first part asked for Kurt Busch, the winner of the 2004 Cup; the second part wanted Rusty Wallace, and the last was Greg Biffle. Biffle was the hardest one, Busch was the one of medium difficulty (gettable if you keep up with NASCAR), and Wallace was the easy one (our team, which contained no NASCAR fans, got that one and got ten points on the bonus... which is fair considering our expertise with racing). Moreover...
Matt Weiner wrote:Hockey, soccer, individual sports, minor league sports, offbeat sports, arthouse movies, alternative genres music, older film and TV, all of this stuff is great for the third part of a bonus or that extra 1-2 tossups in a round, but by and large the available answers in these categories just aren't accessible to a general-interest player. If you can write a good question on the obvious exceptions (I don't think Brett Hull is really harder than Roger Clemens, or A Clockwork Orange harder than Sin City) than by all means do so, but to go into the same level of detail on something from a less-followed sport or older decade of film as on current material will continue to exclude the casual players.
Yes, I don't think you should write a toss-up whose answer is so obscure that few will get it (for example, a Nebraska minor league baseball team would not be an appropriate toss-up or even third bonus part for that matter), but to just write off all those categories isn't fair. Let me make an analogy: I would love more CS questions in academic tournaments, but that field is not viewed as important to the academic canon as, say, biology. I would really hate it if CS questions were relegated to the third parts of math or physics bonuses. Similarly, if a huge hockey fan that plays trash finds out that his bread and butter subject will only get mentioned as third part of an occasional bonus, then I'm sure he would be less likely to enjoy himself. The bottom line is that a lot of the minor fields that you mention should not be avoided, but (as you say) care should be taken as to which subjects are asked.
John Kilby
UTC (2001 - 2005)
TRASH Staff (2006 - 2009)
mmb5
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Post by mmb5 »

Long time reader, first time poster.

If you folks had played trash tournaments ten years ago like this geezer did...
  • You would have had gems like "For 10 points -- buzz in second" or "For 10 points -- what did I have for breakfast this morning."
    You would have to really, really know your 80s.
    You would habe to really, really know your basement trash (D&D, sci-fi authors).
    You would play packets with incredibly uneven distribution. I've played packets with 7 baseball questions only to have the next packet in the tournament be 6 sci-fi lit questions.
Popular culture tournaments have come a long way from where they were ten years ago, when they were not taken that seriously at all. Now that they're taken a bit more seriously, people now want them to go to the next step and have rigid distributions and unimpeachable pyramids. Although that may be nice, it also isn't going to happen. Writing 325/325 for every TRASH event is hard enough, editing is even harder, getting them all done while having real lives is sheer insanity.

With any tournament, there will be the occasional clunker (the Arthur Blank/Home Depot one comes to mind, but hey it happens) and no matter what age range they decided to target, somebody else will be upset by it. Personally, having them skew younger is killing me, my PPG and my team's standings, but I would rather them do this and challenge me as a player than continually cater to the now 30s crowd.

Finally, when it comes to distribution, TRASH and the trash circuit has done a very fine job of balancing pop and cult. You can't simply ask about the top TV shows or the top movies or the highest charting music. That would be asking ACF to either only ask about top selling pulp literature of the day or velvet portraits of Elvis and Luther Vandross; or have a distribution of at least 5/5 on business, because 20% of undergraduates nationwide are business majors. The demographics of both the geezer trash player and the college trash player say otherwise. More of us watch Arrested Development than NCIS. More of us listen to Sleater-Kinney than listen to Ashlee Simpson. More of us follow hockey than NASCAR (although that will change as the trash culture becomes less Northeastern-centric).

The largest challenges coming to trash tournaments over the next five years will be the further splintering of music, movies and TV away from a common national experience to a much more demographically-based insular experience. And now with the average college-age male devoting more time to computer games than to TV, and the increidble challenge of asking accessible computer games questions, this will only get worse.


--Mike, asking you to relax, it's just a game.
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rylltraka
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Post by rylltraka »

My opinion, as a very satisfied player from Regionals, is that TRASH is generally fine the way it is. Attempts to improve "order" would only spoil the fun. Not to interrupt the complaining, however.
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Mr. Kwalter
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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

mmb5 wrote: Popular culture tournaments have come a long way from where they were ten years ago, when they were not taken that seriously at all. Now that they're taken a bit more seriously, people now want them to go to the next step and have rigid distributions and unimpeachable pyramids. Although that may be nice, it also isn't going to happen. Writing 325/325 for every TRASH event is hard enough, editing is even harder, getting them all done while having real lives is sheer insanity.
I recognize that pop culture tournaments have come a long way in ten years; so have academic tournaments. Quizbowl in general has. But I don't think that is relevant, as despite the fact that most people think that contemporary ACF is significantly better than academic quizbowl of the last decade, ACF isn't saying "well guys, we beat the 10 years ago version of our product, now's the time to let it stand." I am not suggesting that TRASH is not trying to improve its product, I am simply pointing out that its superiority to pop culture tournaments 10 years ago is laudable but not grounds for stagnancy.

Also, if the problem TRASH has is that it can't handle writing and editing a full tournament, then perhaps TRASH should consider either hiring new people or changing the way the current infrastructure works. There are house-written tournaments run yearly that end up being well-written and well-edited, so "it's a big job" isn't really going to cut it.
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Mr. Kwalter
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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

rylltraka wrote:My opinion, as a very satisfied player from Regionals, is that TRASH is generally fine the way it is. Attempts to improve "order" would only spoil the fun. Not to interrupt the complaining, however.
Your opinion is absolutely and totally valid, but personally I'd like you to flesh it out. Why would "Attempts to improve order" only spoil the fun? I don't mean to "call you out" here, my motivation is really to just hear more from the other side. But if you have a problem with people "complaining" about TRASH, tell us why so we can respond (hopefully intelligently) in turn to your opinion.
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