ECSO Discussion

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Tsar Alexander
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ECSO Discussion

Post by Tsar Alexander »

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FROM GATCHINA --

We, ALEXANDER, by the grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, Tsar of Poland, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Tauric Chersonesos, Tsar of Georgia, Lord of Pskov, and Grand Duke of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland, Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Semigalia, Samogitia, Białystok, Karelia, Tver, Yugra, Perm, Vyatka, Bulgaria, and other territories; Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhni Novgorod, Chernigov; Ruler of Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Beloozero, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislav, and all northern territories ; Ruler of Iveria, Kartalinia, and the Kabardinian lands and Armenian territories - hereditary Ruler and Lord of the Cherkess and Mountain Princes and others; Lord of Turkestan, Heir of Norway, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, Oldenburg, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth, animated by a desire to restore the blessings of peer review and feedback, and having for this purpose named his plenipotentiaries, has resolved to hereby commission this thread, wherein the East Coast Summer Open, its questions, and its editing (and editor) may be freely discussed by all.
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Birdofredum Sawin
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Who am I to decline a royal invitatation to provide feedback?

Nothing I'm about to say should be construed as criticism of the way CMU ran the tournament. The readers were good, the tournament ran on time, etc. My only complaint concerns the questions, which were atrocious. In fact, this is one of the two worst sets I've played on in the last year, the other being the Berkeley fall tournament.

It's hard to know where to start in assessing the poor quality of the editing. Multiple repeats featuring the same clues? Check. Factually inaccurate questions? Check. Rounds featuring bonuses of wildly disparate difficulty, such that whether you got the easy humanities or the impossible science determined the outcome of the game? Check. Rounds featuring tossups that were mostly speed checks on the first sentence? Check. Tossups that made no sense grammatically? Check. Rounds in which no effort had been put into distributing the questions, such that (e.g.) two out of three tossups would be on 19th-century classical music? Check. Rounds that didn't even have 20 tossups and 20 bonuses? Check.

I could go on, but you get the point. If I feel inspired later, I might bring up for discussion some particular packet/questions which seemed especially terrible.

Andrew
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Tsar Alexander
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Post by Tsar Alexander »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: In fact, this is one of the two worst sets I've played on in the last year, the other being the Berkeley fall tournament.
But Mr. Sawin,

If we remember correctly, did not the editor of this tournament not only harshly criticize other editors publically, but actually offer to give his own assistance and services to any tournament seeking a higher level of editorship, one closer to modern quizbowl standards?

Why, that would be like somebody criticizing my rule of the Russias and offering to rule my lands in my stead in some better fashion, and then later becoming ruler of his own lands and ruling very poorly himself. It would make such a man look very foolish.

Very foolish indeed.
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Chris Frankel
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Post by Chris Frankel »

Why does Tsar Alexander identify himself with a portrait of Nicholas II? And which Alexander are you, the guy who got his shit messed up by Napoleon, the guy who got his ass blown up, the guy who tried to impose all that nationalistic shit, or some new guy altogether?
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."
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Tsar Alexander
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Post by Tsar Alexander »

Chris Frankel wrote:Why does Tsar Alexander identify himself with a portrait of Nicholas II? And which Alexander are you, the guy who got his shit messed up by Napoleon, the guy who got his ass blown up, the guy who tried to impose all that nationalistic shit, or some new guy altogether?
What? Nobody has ever confused one tsar with another tsar, or three different tsars with each other. It is unpossible!
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ECSO blew ass

Post by YourGenialQuizmasterProxy »

And Jerry Vinokurov is a terrible editor.

I've played in quite a number of tournaments now, and without a doubt this was the worst set of questions I've ever had the displeasure of playing on. Really, hands-down worst. That other time, when those other questions were the worst? That was nothing. That was just a warmup to the soulcrushing, mind-obliterating crap that was served up to us at this event.

Let me just say first that I don't blame the CMU people at all. To the best of my knowledge, they didn't know any better. And they were nice folks who were really trying to keep the show running, even though I think about halfway through they realized what an unmitigated disaster every packet was. My public apologies to the one moderator I got mad at. I was stressed and angry; it was my problem, not yours.

I can't emphasize how bad this set was. It was like playing at an NAQT event. These packets were objectively awful, by any measure of question quality. I encourage everyone to take a look at them just so you know what not to do.

Of course, some people will respond to my angry, sleep-deprived post by telling me that I should have expected as much, or that I'm an obnoxious asshole, or that I'm just bitter. Those people will be correct; I'm probably the type of guy that will club a baby seal with an endangered panda and then push a bus full of nuns off a cliff. And sure, I'm bitter, but who wouldn't be? And for the "I would have told you so" crowd, well, deep down inside, I knew this would happen. I suspected the questions would suck, but I managed to convince myself otherwise.

Why did I do it? See, I played on other Jerry questions in the past. And they weren't awful. They weren't great, but they weren't awful, and once, I even enjoyed myself. At this tournament, Jerry was supposed to be editing, and I thought, what the hell? Jerry's about 12 years old, he's been around the circuit, he knows what to do and not to do; maybe he'll get it right. Anyway, he couldn't get too wrong, could he? Not with all the talk that's been going on lately about question quality and a whole thread about how not to write questions. Surely, I said to myself, he could at least hit mediocrity.

But no. You may not believe that anything could suck as much as ECSO did this year. Well, believe it, o my brothers. This set was shittacular. It was like every point that I'd made in that question writing thread was taken and reversed, producing a set that consisted of 75% speed checks and giveaways in the first line, vague clues, useless clues, and plain wrong clues. It was like a whole smorgasbord of crapulence all concentrated in a single packet set. You may want examples; I have them:


I knew this was going to end poorly when the first tossup, to which the answer was Billiards at Half Past Nine. ACF Fall level?

A tossup on Nathan the Wise began with the clue about the parable of the rings, which may be the most famous scene in the play.

A tossup on Alexander II that gave clues about the emperor Alexander (not II), as well as a giveaway about Alexander III.

The word "jelly" named in the first clue to "Bootylicious."

Tossups on the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune in the same packet. In general the subdistribution in this tournament was terribly unbalanced.

A tossup on Birth of Venus beginning with a discussion of the artist's neoplatonism.

A question on Irina Prozorov from Three Sisters that began with "The play in which she appears begins on her name-day, also the first anniversary of her father's death. Since his death, she and her siblings have been living in a provincial town and dreaming of returning to Moscow, where she hopes to meet her true love. Although her brother marries and mortgages their house, she and her sisters are excited by the arrival of the Imperial Army" So unless you knew that the play begins on her name day, no other identifying clues.

A tossup on Mahayana Buddhism whose entire contents concerned one line from the Lotus Sutra.



There is so much of this I don't even know where to end. Virtually every question had something wrong with it. But wait, there's more! A 30-20-10 on Bat out of Hell II with only song titles (no Meatloaf for you!) Bonuses that gave 30 points to anyone who was even remotely conscious after getting the tossup, contrasted with science bonuses where getting any points was a challenge. Constant, and I mean constant repeats: material from earlier questions came up in every round during the second half of the day.

And I know exactly who to blame: the editor, Jerry Vinokurov.

See, I don't hold it against Shorter College when they submit a packetload of crap. They don't know any better; it's an honest mistake. But an editor's job is to take the questions he got and turn them into something that can be played on in a tournament.

Now, I realize that some people will post and say that this was a summer tournament. I wish to preempt this argument by saying that none of this excuses the awful questions. People in the summer, as much as anyone, deserve to play on quality questions; perhaps this will serve as an example to everyone of how not to write. ACF Fall gave everyone an example of how a tournament could be accessible and still written well. I wouldn't expect a two-man-edited tournament to be as polished as ACF Fall, with its many editors was, but you can at least look to it for examples.

But from the appearance of this set, Jerry decided essentially to take all the awful stuff that was submitted and just pass it along without any editing whatsoever.

Why am I writing this? What do I hope to achieve with this screed, other than to potentially make myself a pariah by attacking someone who apparently "does so much for the game." Or so I've heard. Well, here's the thing: almost everything that I've ever played on that's come out of Jerry tournaments has been at best sub-standard. Any good packets were the result of efforts by teams such as Chicago and Michigan; most other things were substandard.

I refuse to accept that Jerry didn't know what he was doing or that he doesn't know good questions from bad. I refuse to accept that a veteran of the circuit with his kind of seniority could remain ignorant of the changes the game has undergone in the last ten years or so. I can only come to the conclusion that knowing everything that has been written about question quality on this forum, he has chosen to ignore it.

And I'm fucking angry about it. And everyone who played on this set should be angry too. And that's my goal - to make people angry enough not to take this kind of shit anymore. Either you demand quality and vote for it with your money and time, or you will get the kind of crap that I played on today. We hold NAQT writers to a high standard for their work, and we complain vociferously when they don't meet that standard. ACF writers are held to an incredibly high standard, and when it was our turn to stand and deliver, we did, and made every effort to heed your suggestions, falling over ourselves to answer your questions. We hold invitationals to similarly high standards; witness Andrew's and Charles Meigs' comments on WIT and Technophobia. Why shouldn't we hold someone to as high a standard just because they're Russian? If anything, the standard has to be even higher.

Flame away. I will not regret this post.
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Post by grapesmokerProxy »

I just want to note for the record that I was only the tournament's initiator. Eric Kwartler, who bolted for Europe when the going got tough, is awaiting extradition on charges of smuggling wikipedia articles in his pants. He told me about this regrettable occurence, but only in the final hours prior to the tournament. Though I am as good a tournament initiator as anyone, finding someone else to actually carry through the editing process is a herculean task.
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Post by grapesmokerProxy »

I just want everyone to know that I won't have much time to respond to this thread in the coming days as I will be watching the world cup (although I will be responding to soccer queries in the sports thread).

GO UKRAINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Matt Weiner
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Post by Matt Weiner »

I will post a slightly different take. I was likewise dissappointed with the uneven difficulty, hasty finalizing of packets leading to clear repeats and the lack of a twentieth tossup at times, and (most egregiously in my view) seemingly arbitrary distribution that led to things like 5 science tossups in one round and 2 in another, 6 lit in one round and 3 in another, or 3 trash in one round and 0 in another when we were supposed to hear 4 science, 4 lit, and 1 trash every round (numbers may be +/- 1 since I haven't looked at the packets since playing them, but the point is there were some inconsistent distributions across packets). However, I don't think we need to take Jerry to the woodshed for hypocrisy here, as he has clearly demonstrated his ability to edit a superb set of controlled difficulty with his/UCLA's March tournament. This one was obviously an example of poor planning that left Jerry (and Eric?) without enough time to work their usually skillfull efforts, but I'm sure that they will learn from the mistake and return to producing the good packets that I, at least, have come to expect from them. Yes, it looks bad on Jerry's part to be as angry at Charlie Steinhice as he was and then produce this set, but let's remember that Charlie claimed to have put in a great amount of time on that set--clearly Charlie Steinhice is incapable of producing good questions for collegiate tournaments (and has blown upwards of fifty chances to prove me wrong), while Jerry just messed up his time management in this one instance and otherwise has a fine track record. I, at least, will be happy if this doesn't happen again and Jerry goes back to producing sets along the lines of the superb March 2006 Brown-UCLA event, as I expect he will.

And yes, I did turn in my own half-packet rather late, but I don't think it has been the target of any of this pillorying so I declare myself likewise not a hypocrite for referring to the late delivery of this question set.

On an unrelated note, major props to Shady Side Academy for sending a team of high schoolers to a masters event and acquitting themselves well, with a >10 bonus conversion, 2 victories over players much older than they, and a fantastic attitude throughout the day that should be a model for us all.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl »

a fantastic attitude throughout the day that should be a model for us all.
Let's not go setting the bar too high there, Matty.
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No Rules Westbrook
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Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Let me follow in Mademoiselle Weiner's footsteps and try to restore some sanity to this thread. It's obvious that Jerry particularly makes himself out to be an awfully easy target for the editing of this set, given his history. But, let's not jump off the deep end and start making comparisons to Charlie or across formats.

Don't get me wrong, this was a bad set, and that's the only way it can be described. But, there were good questions and there were bad questions...indeed, I'd even say there were enough good ACF questions for me to justify traveling and playing in this tournament. The problem is that all of those questions were written by the usual suspects...without being too frank or harsh, everyone who actually wrote for this tournament who is truly capable of writing good questions did write good questions. And, again without being too frank, that's not a whole lot of people - especially when many of those people play on the same team with each other and that team of course only submits one packet (por ejemplo myself, lafer, wolpert, kemezis). The problem is that, from what I could tell, no actual editing was done, outside of numbering the questions and sticking them in a packet...which, by the way, also from what I can tell, is what most people mean by "editing" these days. At the very least, the tourney could have been structured with the good teams playing each other on the good packets, so that at least there are exciting competitive games when it matters. Also, at the very least, the editors should have each composed a packet of their own, which I have no doubt would have been at least competent playoff packets.

Now, with all that being said, once again let's not jump overboard and let's not have people who don't know any better see a post like this and say something like "see, that tournament sucked." By any other standards, cumulatively, this set was at least mediocre and probably better. By top-level ACF standards, it was simply bad, and I don't think anyone would dispute that. But, putting together a good set for a tournament like this takes time, a whole lot of it...it's not just spell-checking, looking for repeats, and adding a sentence here or there. If anyone thinks that, they clearly have no concept of what gets submitted and what you have to work with. (And, by the way, it couldn't matter less that someone like Weiner submits his packet the night before the tournament - it's not like you have to do that much with such a packet anyway, you know it's going to be fine). It's easy to see what happened; one editor was in Italy and there just wasn't a whole lot of time put into the set. But, as Leo knows from his recently purchased "Mail Order Sex" book - such is the way things are.
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Post by AuguryMarch »

Hey, not to detract from what Jerry and Eric did or anything, but for the record, it must be noted that the questions weren't actually numbered.
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Post by grapesmoker »

A couple of things:

First, good job on the parodies. It was also cute with the responses from my proxies, that was quality. However, for the sake of accuracy, I'd like to not that the reason I have not responded to this thread within seconds of its posting is that I am currently away from my home without access to the Internet, as the real names behind the fake accounts should know.

I'm not going to post a lengthy defense of myself or this set because I think that the people who were unhappy with it are right to be unhappy. You had a right to expect a certain level of quality, and I failed to deliver that quality, so there's no question that this is a shortcoming on my part. That said, I stand behind every question I wrote or edited for this tournament, which, unlike what Ryan implies, actually included all the questions in about half the packets that were not literature, art, RMP, or pop culture. I'll readily concede the obviously stupid Alexander II mistake, although contrary to the post of the Steinhice proxy, all but the last clue were in fact uniquely identifying of second Alexanders. I also stand behind all the various comments I've made about quality question writing before; I'm convinced that they are true, even though I was not able to achieve the standard I set for myself when I was planning this tournament.

Certainly, I'm guilty of poor planning and time management. However, when it turned out to be the case that Eric's half of the distribution had not been finished and the time was 3:00 on Saturday morning, I'm not sure what exactly I could have done. I'll certainly let this fiasco be a lesson to me for next time.
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Post by pappy97 »

Having attended the UCLA mirror and made it well known here about my "comeback" to quizbowl, I have loads of comments on the subject. But I finally got back home to the SF Bay Area Sunday night after a LONG weekend and I will write more later when I recooperate from the onslaught of quizbowl and taking the misses on her first visit to Disneyland.

First off, though, I want to make something clear. I just saw some packets here online and I did not write the bastards packet.

After playing this tournament I realized the question packet I submitted was a bit on the easy side, more NAQT than ACF. I suspect Jerry scrapped it (I did not watch the round which used the bastards packet but assumed it was mine).

I just didn't want anyone, especially the guys at the UCLA mirror, to think I wrote the bootylicious question. My trash questions were much better than that.
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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

For anyone that doesn't know, I have been in Italy for the past two weeks, which covers most of the time we had to edit the packets submitted to us for this set. I did not plan well enough, and in the end I was unable to finish my half of the editing. I apologize, and I hope to redeem myself with future tournament efforts. Assuming I recover from the injuries I sustained recently after being pushed under a bus....
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Post by SethSamelsonProxy »

Mi esposa?!!!?!!!?!?!?!?!?!?
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Post by UncleZeke »

Don't worry, you'll find one that isn't married. Better luck next time, Seth.

-Uncle Zeke
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Post by PaladinQB »

Let me start by echoing previous comments about the tournament logistics -- they were pretty good and a credit to Paul and the folks responsible.

After the tournament, I was planning on being fairly positive about the questions. Sure, there were a few clunkers (most of which were in my team's packet, for which I must shoulder some of the blame; I was crossed-up on the due dates and didn't write any of it), but for the most part I didn't think they were too bad. They were difficult, but most any questions would have been too difficult for me so it's pretty hard for me to judge.

Then I read Andrew's post, and I find myself compelled to agree with what he said. The flaws he enumerated were certainly present. They were also present to a greater or lesser degree in every single tournament I attended when I was playing regularly (1998-2000).

My point is that in a few years, the standards for what constitutes good quiz bowl have changed dramatically, and for the better. What was typical one college generation ago is worthy of scorn today. It seems that players have demanded a remarkable improvement in the questions they play on, and the circuit has delivered. I hope the players today will indulge me when I congratulate them on this achievement -- and I hope they recognize the magnitude of the changes they've made.

It was good to see some familiar faces last weekend, and despite my poor results (apparently I'm not so much a has-been as a never-was) I had a fun time. Hopefully we'll get to do it again.

One last word relating to the boys from Shadyside. I saw them during the HS season, and I am unsurprised by both the skills and the positive attitude they showed this weekend. I hope they continue playing in college -- the circuit needs more folks like them out there.

Brian M. Saxton
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Tsar Alexander
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Post by Tsar Alexander »

UncleZeke wrote:Don't worry, you'll find one that isn't married. Better luck next time, Seth.

-Uncle Zeke
For his troubles, I grant Mr. Samelson free reign over the Tsarina's ladies-in-waiting on his next visit here to the Rodina.
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