Editing, time management, and all that

Old college threads.
Locked
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Editing, time management, and all that

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Nov 12, 2006 3:00 pm

There have been a number of unfortunately awful tournaments that have taken place within the last year which have been overseen by experienced editors. I myself have contributed to this problem with ECSO, but it seems clear at this point that this was not an isolated example but rather a data point in a recent trend. I want to have some discussion of why this has been a problem in recent months, and what we can do about it.

First, I think it's important to note that all of the editors in question are people who are well-known to be committed to good question writing. We constantly make that point in this forum, so it's not a case of our philosophy not being right. I think the problem is that the reality of producing a good set requires a lot of work that has nothing to do with the philosophy itself. Namely, it requires a good deal of time management and the ability to consistently produce or edit questions for several weeks on end. I can attest to the difficulty of doing this, having recently written almost 300 tossups and 100 bonuses for the two tournaments that I've been involved in so far, EFT and the singles event I ran at IO.

I think editors need to realize that this is hard work and you can't put it off until the last minute. Packets always require more work than you think they will, and a common problem with these last few events is that the editors seem not to have left themselves any time to work on the questions. A good question writer should easily be able to produce 5/5 per day, more when crunch time comes. That's one packet every week, if only one person is writing; it's more if you have collaborators. I think if you are putting together a packet-submission tournament, you need to start writing as soon as you make the announcement. Then, when it turns out that half the teams haven't submitted packets and the other half submitted unusable packets, you've at least got 3 or 4 house-written packets to fall back on.

The other concern that I have is that I think we may all be overextending ourselves. The editors in charge of these last few problematic events all come from the same small group, and I wonder if we're not all just being too ambitious. There's no reason that so many tournaments should have to come from such a limited number of editors, and if there isn't a tournament every weekend, I think I can live with that, and so can everyone else. Perhaps it would be better to limit ourselves in the interest of producing a better product.

The third issue I want to raise is that of collaborative tournaments. In days of yore, things like ACF Fall would edited by one person, usually someone like Kelly McKenzie or Raj Bhan. They set their own schedules and knew what they had to do to get the job done. Nowadays, things like ACF Fall are collaboratively edited, which is good because it brings in people with specific expertise who contribute to those areas of the distribution, but it also introduces elements of unpredictability into the process. The head editor cannot know the schedules and time committments of the other editors, and a repeated problem with these events has been editors just not doing the job that the rest of the team trusted them with. I think editing teams need to take a good look at who is contributing what and make sure that people who promise to deliver questions do in fact deliver them. If someone is repeatedly failing to meet deadlines, the person shouldn't be on the team. That's all there is to it. Keeping people like that on lends a false sense of security, because we all think "oh, they'll get it done" but they never do.

In summary:
1) Don't overcommit yourself and promise what you can't deliver.
2) Plan ahead for disaster, because that's what always happens.
3) Impose some discipline on editing teams and impose deadlines on team members. If people repeatedly fail to meet deadlines, they are off the team.

Seth, Ryan, and I will be working hard to avoid the mistakes outlined above while compiling the ACF Regionals set. I'm interested in any other suggestions that people might want to make with regards to these issues. It's an unfortunate trend and we really need to put an end to it.

User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1223
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sun Nov 12, 2006 4:51 pm

Well, when you look at tourneys like IO, ECSO, and Wirt for example - I think the very obvious point that needs to be stressed is this: You're not going to get very many competent packets from teams playing. You're just not. Even if there are a healthy number of teams playing, i.e. more than 5, you'll be lucky to get 4 or 5 packets that require a normal amount of editing (this is to say actual editing, as opposed to rewriting questions or writing your own questions). Plus you'll probably get most of those packets like a week before the tourney. And, where the hell are the rest of the packets supposed to come from? You seem to have two choices - write them yourself/in house (which takes a silly amount of time, and assumes the people in house are competent writers) or farm like crazy for outsiders to write them (which is difficult too, and what's more, there often aren't that many "outsiders" who are really capable of writing great questions).

So here are my two basic suggestions on this topic - 1. try try try to submit packets on time if you're playing in the tourney, like at least a month before. 2. if you are a competent "outsider," try to help out - write some packets/questions for stuff. Otherwise, we can hardly be surprised when what we call "editing" is less than stellar.


Note: when I say "competent writer," I'm being blunt. Obviously, we all fall somewhere on a continuum of writing abilities and have our faults in writing stuff. But, you get the gist.

User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman » Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:04 am

The editing-time management issue has always existed so far as I know. Yes, it is extremely hard to think that you can edit others' questions without having done it before. I'm not sure what a good answer would be (outside of just deferring to purchasing questions from others).

I wish there could be a more effective way to point out what would constitute a good or a bad question. No one really reads those editing treatises that we have put up since the late 80's and early 90's anymore, and that's a shame.

Andy Saunders
Lulu
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue May 03, 2005 9:54 am

Post by Andy Saunders » Mon Nov 13, 2006 12:02 pm

Where would one find said "editing treatises"? (Other than Michigan Memorandum, which I attempt to refer to when writing questions...to varying degrees of success.)

User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:15 pm

I'll have to see if I have references to Mitch Czepan... whatever... "Chicago" Manual of Style of that... it's got to be on the ACF pages somewhere.

User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1223
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:36 pm

There are no good writing or editing treatises. Maybe someday. If you're looking for something, you're really better off just reading the posts that certain people have made here of what to do/not to do or asking them directly.

User avatar
cdbarker
Lulu
Posts: 92
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2003 1:17 pm
Location: Northville, MI

Post by cdbarker » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:37 pm

E.T. Chuck wrote:I'll have to see if I have references to Mitch Czepan... whatever... "Chicago" Manual of Style of that... it's got to be on the ACF pages somewhere.
The page I link to from Maize Pages is
http://www.umich.edu/~uac/mac/rules.html

The MLK guidelines I believe are somewhat updated in the announcement for this year here on the forum.

(A similar document for Trash may be found at: http://www.mikeburger.com/popcultreqs.html)

User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1223
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Nov 13, 2006 2:13 pm

I want to emphasize - do not follow anything on the above pages for submitting to MLK. Really, I don't think you should follow them for any ACF tourney these days - just go download an ACF packet from the archive of the appropriate difficulty you're writing for and try to imitate it as best you can. The stuff available is pretty outdated.

User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1177
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Post by setht » Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:17 pm

Andy Saunders wrote:Where would one find said "editing treatises"? (Other than Michigan Memorandum, which I attempt to refer to when writing questions...to varying degrees of success.)
I think the Michigan Memorandum and this document have useful information for people who are getting started with question writing. I'm not sure why Ryan is so opposed to the content of the Michigan Memorandum--are we not interested in questions with many substantial clues, ordered from most obscure to least obscure? Questions that unambiguously lead to one answer? Questions that are not boring? I think the Michigan Memorandum and the document on the Berkeley website both have some information that is outdated (e.g., info on typical question lengths and bonus formats), but if you're new to writing I think both of those documents are pretty good about outlining the basic principles. Some slightly more advanced stylistic information for people that know about pyramidality, giveaways, and so on, can be found in Subash's Ten Tips on Question Writing. If anyone has objections or stipulations regarding any of these documents, I'd be interested in hearing them, since our club is in the process of talking with our newer players about how to write questions.

If you are new or fairly new to question-writing and you haven't read the documents listed above, I'd encourage you to read them, keeping in mind that some of the content in those documents is outdated. Having read those documents, I would then encourage you to look at recent sets from tournaments with difficulty level similar to whatever you're interested in writing for, to get a feel for question length, difficulty, style, and content.

Moving back to the original purpose of this thread, I think that most if not all of the problems with some of the more disappointing sets in the past year were things that (I think) could have been fixed fairly easily, given more time. I'm not sure whether the problems have stemmed more from editors not scheduling enough editing time, or from teams not sending in packets early enough to allow enough editing time.

-Seth

NoahMinkCHS
Yuna
Posts: 827
Joined: Fri Apr 18, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Athens, GA / Macon, GA
Contact:

Post by NoahMinkCHS » Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:22 pm

Ryan Westbrook wrote:I want to emphasize - do not follow anything on the above pages for submitting to MLK. Really, I don't think you should follow them for any ACF tourney these days - just go download an ACF packet from the archive of the appropriate difficulty you're writing for and try to imitate it as best you can. The stuff available is pretty outdated.
Has anyone considered writing an updated version of one of those "treatises" (for lack of a better term)? Imitating a good packet is sound advice but it seems like it might be beneficial to know why a certain question is good/bad, and what elements of it should(n't) be imitated.

User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1177
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Re: Editing, time management, and all that

Post by setht » Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:24 pm

F5 for soccer posts wrote:There have been a number of unfortunately awful tournaments that have taken place within the last year which have been overseen by experienced editors...I think it's important to note that all of the editors in question are people who are well-known to be committed to good question writing. We constantly make that point in this forum...
I think that constantly posting on this forum about your love for good question writing does not in any meaningful way demonstrate that you are committed to good question writing; rather, putting in the time and effort to produce good questions/packets/tournament sets shows your commitment.

I'd like to call for less time spent posting screeds on how much we love writing/editing great questions, and more time spent writing/editing great questions. I think producing high-quality tournament sets will have much more positive impact than a bunch of posts.

-Seth

User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8411
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:26 pm

NoahMinkCHS wrote:Has anyone considered writing an updated version of one of those "treatises" (for lack of a better term)? Imitating a good packet is sound advice but it seems like it might be beneficial to know why a certain question is good/bad, and what elements of it should(n't) be imitated.
I've tossed out some general notions on this board to the effect of "some person or persons should compose a comprehensive guide to writing good questions according to contemporary standards." It would be a massive undertaking and certainly require the collaboration of many people over a significant period of time, so it's understandable that no one has been very enthusiastic about executing that idea.

User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman » Mon Nov 13, 2006 8:37 pm

What may also be needed (but would require just as much work) is a "certification process" for writers and editors. Of course, this has to go beyond just giving certification to friends of certified writers and editors :cool: , but actually having people be tried and tested as good writers and editors helps people evaluate their own writing as well as others.

Locked