ACF Regionals Discussion Thread

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ACF Regionals Discussion Thread

Post by setht » Sun Feb 18, 2007 5:52 pm

The 2007 ACF Regionals set is open for discussion--there are no more official tournaments pending. The set will be posted online soon, but if people want to start in on general comments before the questions are up that's fine.

I believe Jerry, Ryan and I are planning to write up some feedback for each of the teams that submitted questions, so I'll confine myself for now to some general remarks.

I want to thank all the teams that came out to play the set, and in particular the teams that put in the time and effort to submit packets. We received several good packets from teams that I didn't necessarily expect would write, let alone write well; on the other hand, we didn't receive packets from several of the usual suspects (or we received incomplete packets, or very late packets). Thank goodness so many non-usual suspects sent in packets.

I feel that the set was not as polished as I would have liked, and I apologize for that. I think the most egregious aspect was the variable bonus difficulty, followed by question bloat/spelling/grammar issues.

I have a lot more to say about the tournament, but I'll save it for later. I hope everyone had a good time playing the set, and I look forward to hearing people's comments. If you have comments that you feel are more appropriate for a private email, feel free to drop any of the editors a line: Seth Teitler (setht@uchicago.edu), Jerry Vinokurov (jerry_v@brown.edu), and Ryan Westbrook (cryobristow@aol.com). For reference, we split up editing duties as follows:

Seth: world/ancient history, non-novel literature, bio/astro/earth science, myth, music, general knowledge

Jerry: American history, novels, math/CS/physics, Judeo-Christian religion, visual arts, current events

Ryan: European history, chemistry, non-Judeo-Christian religion, philosophy, social science, geography, trash

There were occasional overlaps, but for the most part that's how things were split up.

Thanks again to the teams that came out to play the tournament, and especially to the teams that wrote packets.

-Seth

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Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 18, 2007 7:00 pm

To assist you all in a productive discussion of this year's set, the questions are now available in no less than three stages of development. You may view either the final product, the original submissions, or several packets in an intermediate stage of being edited.
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Post by Strongside » Sun Feb 18, 2007 7:17 pm

I played ACF Regionals at the University of Chicago and I thought the questions were very well written. The tossups were easier than I thought they'd be and after looking at the tossups from last year's I thought this year's tossups were easier than last year's tossups.

Compared to the average tournament, the bonuses were noticably more difficult in relation to the tossups but the difficulty level overall was about right.

Even though our team went 4-7 I had a lot of fun at the tournament. It was enjoyable to play against tough competition and I look forward to playing more ACF tournaments in the future.
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Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Feb 18, 2007 8:18 pm

Maybe I'm just a better player or have heard more questions and thus recognize more things than last year, but this year's tournament seemed to be more accessible. Most of the tossups were quite reasonable for what I see as being a "regular to hard" difficulty tournament, although the bonuses were occassionally a bit too much.

A few minor criticisms with some of the questions:
There seemed to be a disproportionate amount of music tossups in the trash distribution. Not the biggest deal ever, but it would have been nice to see a little more variety in the tossups in that subject.

The Deadweight Loss tossup seemed a little transparent. It mentioned taxes and some other things in the first clue that had a lot of people in the room I was playing in thinking of it from the start.

The stack question had the, in my opinion, give away clue of "it's not a heap" a little early in the question.

But overall, it seemed like a nice improvement over last year's set.

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Post by vandyhawk » Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:31 pm

Overall, I thought the questions were very good, and I want to give a big thanks to the editors. The tossups all seemed to be a nice length and of appropriate difficulty. I personally didn't think they were noticeably easier or harder than last year's, and taking a quick look at various stats from both years more or less backs that up. Our ppg was a little down from last year, with the same bonus conversion (only .03 different), but that's probably b/c we only had 3 people this time and averaged 3 negs per game. I think Seth's assessment of variable bonus difficulty is true to some extent, but I actually felt like it was better than last year and better than NAQT last week. Comparing entire rounds, I think bonus difficulty was very consistent, and I'm not sure if this is actually true or not, but it seemed like we had fewer 30's this year, but also fewer 0's. It might've been nice to have some 3rd parts be a little easier, but I commend the editors for making at least one part in most bonuses answerable for most teams.

Now for some requisite gripes. I'm on the fence as to whether I think Jose Orozco should've been a tossup answer at all, and I'm not saying it was a hose, but I feel like the last sentence should've said something like "A contemporary of Diego Rivera, FTP name this Mexican muralist..." I'm curious how many rooms had Rivera as a neg here. I also wonder why the Saramago tossup failed to mention that he was Portugese? That would've been pretty useful, even if it didn't mention that he was a Nobel winner. I actually liked the fact that there seemed to be very few clues mentioning Nobel Prizes though. The trash seemed to have a lot of '80's stuff, though admittedly I was part of that with my Jim McMahon tossup. Also, maybe it was a function of the 12 particular rounds we saw, but there seemed to be more Greco/Roman myth at the expense of Norse and Egyptian compared to normal. These last two things could very possibly just be the result of what people happened to write this year too.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:54 pm

vandyhawk wrote:Now for some requisite gripes. I'm on the fence as to whether I think Jose Orozco should've been a tossup answer at all, and I'm not saying it was a hose, but I feel like the last sentence should've said something like "A contemporary of Diego Rivera, FTP name this Mexican muralist..." I'm curious how many rooms had Rivera as a neg here. I also wonder why the Saramago tossup failed to mention that he was Portugese? That would've been pretty useful, even if it didn't mention that he was a Nobel winner. I actually liked the fact that there seemed to be very few clues mentioning Nobel Prizes though.
Orozco is absolutely tossupable. Sorry, but a Rivera neg is irresponsible and reflects poor knowledge, since they're not the same person. As for the Saramago tossup, I think I have to agree that you need to throw people a bone w/Portuguese, though it should be the last clue. Nobel clues, like Matt said, are bad. Glad to see that (from what I heard) there were only a couple of SCIENCE ones at this year's regionals.

To provide my own commentary, I thought the set was very good. There were surely problems with varying bonus difficulty, but they weren't so distracting that they significantly detracted from the tournament experience. I didn't hear any clues that were blatantly out of place, and overall the difficulty seemed on target. Thanks guys, I think this may be the best regionals I've played.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:54 pm

Yeah, there were definitely some wacky distributional things - a lot of econ, law, certain types of myth, etc. - I'm guessing that can mostly be chalked up simply to what was submitted. I think Seth, Jerry, and myself all stuck pretty hard to just taking what was submitted, selecting what we thought were the best questions out of the packets we received and working on those.

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Post by magin » Sun Feb 18, 2007 10:11 pm

I enjoyed most of the questions, especially the tossups, which seemed like they hit the targeted difficulty level (except for questions on things like the Battle of Eutaw Springs and John Vanbrugh, which probably went unanswered in most rooms).

I thought that the bonuses were mostly well-written, although there were a few that were unnecessarily difficult, like the ones about minor works of Fenimore Cooper and Varese/Boulez/Stockhausen; neither of those seemed to have an easy part. Additionally, there were some bonuses where the middle part was more like a hard part, like the bonus on The American and the bonus where the middle part asked for Michael Oakeshott (I appreciate any questions on IR, but Oakeshott should have been the hard part). Off the top of my head, the bonus about phrases from Kant suffered from the same problem. Also, the literature tossup on cossacks seemed to be obvious and ambiguous at the same time; everyone in my room figured out that the question was pointing to cossacks but wasn't sure what the question was actually asking for. Finally, there didn't seem to be a lot of sociology compared to the other social sciences, and what was there (Simmel, Merton, etc.) seemed harder than the other social sciences.

I would agree that there's no problem with an Orozco tossup on this level, although for a lesser-known figure like Orozco it might have made more sense to provide more descriptions of his better-known works, and/or the title The Epic of American Civilization rather than mentioning something painted in a library in Dartmouth. However, all of those concerns are relatively minor, and I thought that the rest of the questions were very well done. I'm glad I got a chance to play on this set.

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Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 18, 2007 10:23 pm

vandyhawk wrote:Now for some requisite gripes. I'm on the fence as to whether I think Jose Orozco should've been a tossup answer at all, and I'm not saying it was a hose, but I feel like the last sentence should've said something like "A contemporary of Diego Rivera, FTP name this Mexican muralist..."
Note that your proposed clue could apply equally well to David Siqueiros, so at this level, it doesn't really help you except to say that this isn't Rivera. At the FTP, this doesn't help much anyway because at this point, I'm hoping it's obvious that the answer is not Rivera.
I'm curious how many rooms had Rivera as a neg here. I also wonder why the Saramago tossup failed to mention that he was Portugese? That would've been pretty useful, even if it didn't mention that he was a Nobel winner.
The problem I have with this is that there is a 1-to-1 association between "Portuguese writer" and "Saramago." Even if that's all you know about him, you probably also know about "Blindness" and "The Stone Raft" and should be able to get it at the end.
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Post by Strongside » Sun Feb 18, 2007 10:37 pm

One error that I noticed was inverting the I and the V in a question about Hitler Youth that mentioned Benedict XVI. The question had XIV instead of XVI. That can be a tough thing to catch though when editing hundreds of questions.
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Post by Andy Saunders » Sun Feb 18, 2007 10:47 pm

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Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Feb 18, 2007 11:12 pm

bjb87 wrote:One error that I noticed was inverting the I and the V in a question about Hitler Youth that mentioned Benedict XVI. The question had XIV instead of XVI. That can be a tough thing to catch though when editing hundreds of questions.
Does anyone else feel that roman numerals should be done away with in questions? Although saying Benedit the 16th or Benedit 16 is unconventional, it makes both readers and question writers less prone to mistakes.

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Post by vandyhawk » Sun Feb 18, 2007 11:16 pm

grapesmoker wrote: The problem I have with this is that there is a 1-to-1 association between "Portuguese writer" and "Saramago." Even if that's all you know about him, you probably also know about "Blindness" and "The Stone Raft" and should be able to get it at the end.
I knew I recognized The Stone Raft, but it was during a round right after lunch when my recall was a bit slow. Like Eric said, I think you could still mention that he was Portugese at the very end as the real giveaway.
Kit Cloudkicker wrote:Orozco is absolutely tossupable. Sorry, but a Rivera neg is irresponsible and reflects poor knowledge, since they're not the same person.
When I said I wasn't sure about him being a tossup, it was based on other people at our regional not knowing him at all, but it seems he is sufficiently well known. I couldn't remember him being a tossup at this level before, but perhaps I'm wrong, which is why I wound up saying Rivera at that point even though it didn't sound like him. In an ironic twist, I learned today that the Frist Center (Nashville's art museum) currently has an exhibit of Rivera and Orozco works.

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Post by NoahMinkCHS » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:09 am

ikillkenny wrote:Does anyone else feel that roman numerals should be done away with in questions? Although saying Benedit the 16th or Benedit 16 is unconventional, it makes both readers and question writers less prone to mistakes.
I agree. Quiz bowl questions are meant to be real aloud, so there's no reason to hold to the Roman numeral style when it complicates things. This should apply to kings, popes, and Super Bowls.

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Post by setht » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:29 am

Here go some more thoughts on the Regionals editing experience. Before I start in, I'll state that I'm not speaking for ACF, only myself; also, while I'm basing my comments for the most part on my experience working on the Regionals set, I think these comments are relevant to other packet-submission tournaments.

1. Writing packets: I would have thought that every top-notch, super-experienced team attending a packet-submission event would turn in a packet. Many of the top-notch, super-experienced teams that played Regionals did turn in packets, but in some cases these packets were incomplete (Chicago A, Michigan A) and in some cases these packets came in after the drop-dead deadline (Michigan A, Vanderbilt A, VCU A--of these, I believe the last of the Michigan partial packet came in on Feb. 5th, the Vanderbilt packet came in on Feb. 4th, and the VCU packet came in on Feb. 15th). Several other teams surprised me by sending nothing (Kentucky A, Stanford A, UIUC A, UNT A, UT-Austin A--actually, I've only just now become surprised over UNT A's lack of packet, as I wasn't previously aware of Chris Romero's going to school there). Given the list of teams that failed to provide full packets prior to the drop-dead deadline, I'm forced to conclude that the ACF cabal hates ACF (or at least ACF Regionals). Future Regionals editors take note.

On a more serious note, I'm not really sure why so many of these teams were unable to provide full packets before the drop-dead deadline. I'd like to propose to the grizzled veterans on these teams that the following activities be deferred in favor of writing packets, when you sign up for packet-submission events: writing posts on hsqb that aren't absolutely necessary, running polls, calculating your favorite version of NAQT's S-statistic, chatting in the IRC chat room, etc. I understand that these are all fun activities, but I think a motto of "post less, write more" will produce better tournaments, and I think better tournaments have more positive effect than reams of posts/polls/bid predictions.


2. Usability of questions in submitted packets: I want to encourage everyone, when writing for and assembling packets, to take a moment to look things over and make sure that you think the packet you're working on could be used as is. There were some submitted packets that had questions that could not be used together--one packet had 1/1 on Tom Clancy, another had 2 bonuses on Noh drama. In the first case, the 2 questions did not have any overlapping information, but I don't think any single author should get 1/1 in a packet, with the possible exception of Shakespeare; certainly not Tom Clancy. In the second case, the 2 bonuses did have overlapping information: assuming we did want to put in 2 bonuses on Noh drama, there's no way we could have used both of the bonuses as submitted. I think both of the packets I'm referring to were written by relatively inexperienced teams, so I'm not particularly upset about these cases; mostly, I wanted to put this out there for future reference.


3. Sources, fact-checking and question usability: I'm guessing you've all heard this many times before, but checking your facts in a reputable source is an important part of question-writing. Some of the submitted questions contained out-and-out lies. I'm not sure if people were trying to write from memory, or from outdated or incorrect sources, or if people simply misread/mistyped things. In any case, people submitted questions claiming that Orwell is American, that Wordsworth is a transcendentalist, that neutron stars must stay below the Chandrasekhar limit...

I have no problem with people using Wikipedia (or Benet's, or Encyclopedia Britannica) as a resource for looking things up, but people should really try to make some effort to digest the material they find and then write a question in their own words (and, when using Wikipedia, to check facts against another source, since Wikipedia is more prone to having errors). It's discouraging as an editor to find that a submitted question that looks good is in fact a string of phrases lifted straight out of Wikipedia with little or no changes. I received a tossup on a musician listing several influences, bands he recorded with, etc. I thought it seemed like a potentially good question, until I noticed that the same exact lists of influences and bands appeared on the musician's page on Wikipedia (same order, wording, etc.). I then noticed that the writer had apparently mistyped one of the band names, making the question false as submitted. I then threw the question out.

My goal in editing packet-submission tournaments is to produce a high-quality product, retaining as much of the submitted material as possible without overly compromising the set's quality. I believe this is the philosophy of pretty much every packet-submission editor. Please, check your facts with reputable sources, and don't lift phrases straight out of Wikipedia.


4. A very minor pet peeve: lots of people seem to be in the habit of including the phrases "he's most famous for/he's best (or better) known for/he notably did blah," or variants thereof. Do these help anyone? I don't think I've ever buzzed as a result of hearing any of these. I've never heard a description of a "best-known work" and discarded a possible answer, thinking "that's not his best-known work, it's only his third-best-known work." When I hear a tossup, I trust the writers and editors to put things in pyramidal order, which means that I implicitly assume that every piece of information I hear is better-known than the previous piece. I consider these phrases a waste of space; in fact, perhaps worse than a waste of space, since the designation "best-known" seems arbitrary, and possibly misleading--does it mean "best-known among quizbowlers," or "best-known among people who study the subject," or what?

Perhaps these phrases are meant to wake people up as a sort of a "hey, get ready to buzz now" cue. I don't like this either--if your questions are making people lose focus so that you have to nudge them awake again before giving them the juicy clues they can actually buzz on, consider rewriting your questions.


Having made this not-absolutely-necessary post to hsqb, I will now forgo posting again until I've finished my ACF Nationals questions.

-Seth

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Post by vizcacha » Mon Feb 19, 2007 3:19 am

I guess I should apologize for the lack of a UIUC A packet. I got my questions to Mike so late, that he decided not to submit our packet. Seeing the list of teams that lacked complete packets, I now feel really guilty about contributing to the problem. Sorry.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:54 am

Now that I have a little time, I'll offer my own thoughts on this year's set, as well as various comments about what people have already said. Also, I'm afraid that my computer is currently suffering from a debilitating lack of functionality so I may not get around to sending individual packet comments for a bit.
CaptainCrappyJacks wrote:I guess I should apologize for the lack of a UIUC A packet. I got my questions to Mike so late, that he decided not to submit our packet. Seeing the list of teams that lacked complete packets, I now feel really guilty about contributing to the problem. Sorry.
Sorry, how does this make the slightest bit of sense whatsoever? Your questions are late so you decide not to submit any questions at all? I would have hoped that any team would have better sense than that, especially an established club that's been around for a while. When you don't write questions, you make our job as editors more difficult; even if it's the last day and all you've got is 3 tossups, you send that shit in.

I'm even more displeased about the lackluster submissions from experienced teams than Seth is. While I'm pleased to get 8 packets from the Northeast region, a lot of those packets needed work and we could have benefited from combining them with some better packets. That's not to denigrate the work of Harvard/Brown/MIT/Dartmouth; it's just that most of those questions came from inexperienced writers so we had to do a lot of editing on them. We count on good packets to come in and alleviate our workload, and when good writers fail to deliver, that really hurts us.
setht wrote: Please, check your facts with reputable sources, and don't lift phrases straight out of Wikipedia.
I am normally too lazy to search for material lifted straight from Wikipedia, although I usually recognize it. This is normally fine since those questions tend to need complete rewriting anyway, so I will usually just end up junking the whole question and writing it from scratch. But next time I edit a tournament (which probably won't be for a while, but still) and I find any questions with sentences straight out of Wikipedia, as Cthulhu is my witness, I will send them straight back with a mean-sounding email. Seriously, STOP DOING THIS. We are not stupid; we can tell. I also don't mind the use of Wikipedia as a casual reference or to get question writing ideas or whatever. But don't just copy straight from it and don't forget to double-check your facts against a reliable source.
A very minor pet peeve: lots of people seem to be in the habit of including the phrases "he's most famous for/he's best (or better) known for/he notably did blah," or variants thereof.
As someone who frequently makes use of the locution "most famous for" or "better known as" I have to disagree with my esteemed colleague. My personal feeling is that this helps the question flow better. Obviously, you expect that anything that comes up later in the question is better known than anything that shows up earlier, but I think some sort of linking elements between sentences are necessary. Otherwise, I feel like a lot of questions end up sounding like "he wrote work X. Then he wrote about Joe Blow in work Y" and I'm not a fan of that structure. Such phrases also provide a little bit of a buffer between clues, which gives one time to think. I personally like this, although if there is a strong feeling that these formulations should be avoided, then I will do so in the future.

Although no one has brought these up, I'll go ahead and note that there were some mechanical mistakes in several questions from my categories. First, I failed to note alternate answers for both "Melancholy and Mystery of a Street" (which is also sometimes found as "Mystery and Melancholy of a Street," which was the answer provided in the tossup) and for "Embarkation for Cythera" (which is sometimes given as "Embarkation from Cythera"). I also made a mistake in a bonus on William Merritt Chase; the first part was originally going to be a bonus part on the artist himself, but instead I changed it to be "the Ten" and forgot to change the actual answer. I'm sorry about these errors, and I hope they did not change the outcome of any games. It's the sort of thing a knowledgeable moderator can spot and resolve quite easily during the match, but is easy to miss in editing.

It's also been noted to me that there seemed to be an overrepresentation of math and CS at the expense of earth science. Now that Wesley Matthews is no longer actively playing, I'm not sure if there is an active lobby for more rocks questions, and there have been many complaints from CS people about CS underrepresentation. I should say that I did not set out to correct this problem, but simply edited what was submitted to me. I think this is a good philosophy of "write what you want to see in packets." I suspect this probably holds for Ryan's and Seth's categories as well.

To respond to a couple of points that Jonathan made earlier on: I thought Stockhausen was better known than he apparently is. I also thought that some of the minor Cooper novels were better known than they apparently are (I would have easily 20d that bonus, probably 30d it with some thought). Oakeshott doesn't exactly strike me as IR, but in any case, I thought he was sufficiently interesting and well known to be a middle part ("Rationalism in Politics" being the hard part). The bonus I wrote on Kant was intended to have "principle of sufficient reason" as the hard part, and "ontological argument" and "Swedenborg" as the easy and middle parts respectively. Again, I may have overestimated how well-known Swedenborg was. I've heard him come up in tossups numerous times, at tournaments which I didn't think were harder than this year's set, so I thought he was reasonable as a bonus part. Vanbrugh is certainly well known and I did not hesitate to put that question in (it was a replacement for a tossup on Nicholas Grimshaw, whom I'd never heard of). Anyway, I apologize if these were too hard; I based all my writing on what I thought had come up before and apparently I miscalculated on some things.

I think that may be it for now. If I think of more relevant things to say, I'll post them. Thanks to everyone for your feedback so far.
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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:09 pm

Oh yeah, I did remember something, which is somewhat related to Regionals but could have ramifications for future tournaments.

Is there really a demand for 16 rounds of play? I mean, I'll play as many rounds as there are because I'm insane and run on spite, but I repeatedly see teams bail after 10 or 11 rounds at many tournaments. I have some idea about what drives this, but it annoys me both as an editor and as a player; as an editor, I feel like my work is being disregarded, and as a player, I feel like I'm not getting my money's worth. Obviously, I can't control when people leave, but I think it's bad form to bail early. The TDs have put together a schedule for you, and I think it's only reasonable to stick to this schedule.
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Post by Susan » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:09 pm

Two things I was curious about in the set:

1. How well was the DMSO tossup converted? It seemed like the sort of thing that would be very easy if you worked in a lab, but maybe hard to get otherwise before the FTP.

2. Is Noah Swayne known for anything other than his dissent in the slaughterhouse cases? Maybe it's time to stop mentioning him in the lead-in for tossups on the slaughterhouse cases now. I'm quite willing to believe that I'm wrong and he's known for lots of other stuff, but the clue is becoming overused as a lead-in.

Also, I liked the ATP question.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:17 pm

myamphigory wrote:Is Noah Swayne known for anything other than his dissent in the slaughterhouse cases? Maybe it's time to stop mentioning him in the lead-in for tossups on the slaughterhouse cases now. I'm quite willing to believe that I'm wrong and he's known for lots of other stuff, but the clue is becoming overused as a lead-in.
To be fair, probably he's not known for more than that, although in my mind, he wasn't known at all, obscure as he was. I was not aware that this clue had become somewhat overused and will refrain from using it in the future. Thanks.
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:57 pm

I have a few thoughts about the tournament (which I enjoyed, by the way). Right now I want to make two general observations.

First, tossup structure. This tournament was very much written in the modern ACF style, with lots of obfuscation to prevent people from making immediate jumps to the answer despite being unknowledgable about the area. (So there were mercifully few questions whose first sentence made clear, e.g., that "they're talking about a guy who is clearly a naval officer, and Japanese, and alive in the 20th century.") I heartily approve of this style, but it's hard to pull off successfully. Sometimes, in trying to obscure the crucial bits of information, you end up writing a completely confusing question. I think this was the case with some frequency at this tournament. Which is to say that these questions felt very well-researched, but not as well-written as they might have been.

Second, bonus difficulty. I was frankly amazed to read earlier comments in this thread in which people complimented the "accessibility" and "reasonableness" of the difficulty at the tournament. Maybe ACF has finally succeeded in benumbing the circuit as to difficulty, but the assertion that "this tournament should have been fairly accessible to most teams" seems implausible to me. My team, I suspect, was the only one in the nation to crack 20 ppb. Which is unsurprising, when you consider bonuses like the following sample:

Answer some questions about the uses of color in philosophical arguments, for ten points each.
[10] David Hume postulated a missing shade of this color to demonstrate that it was possible to know a sense datum without having experienced it directly.
Answer: blue
[10] This man invented the thought experiment of Mary, a neuroscientist who knows all there is to know about color, but has not had the experience of seeing color itself as an argument for qualia and against strict physicalism. He has since recanted his heretical views.
Answer: Frank Cameron Jackson
[10] Nelson Goodman invented these two portmanteaux words in his Fact, Fiction, and Forecast to illustrate the "riddle of induction." Name either.
Answer: grue or bleen

Its overture is often a version written by Geoffrey Toye for a 1920 revival, but some versions begin with a four-bar theme that introduces I once was as meek from Act II. FTPE:
[10] Name this gothic spoof in which the baronet of Murgatroyd must commit a crime each day or face death.
ANSWER: Ruddigore
[10] Ruddigore is an operetta created by what British duo also responsible for The Gondoliers?
ANSWER: William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
[10] Robin Oakapple, the true baronet, is in love with this very proper woman who later falls for Robin’s Francophobe foster brother Richard.
ANSWER: Rose Maybud (accept either name)

By its conditions, Austria received all of Hungray, while Russia and the Ottoman empire agreed to a two-year truce, with the Azov being given to Russia in the subsequent Treaty of Constantinople. For ten points each:
[10] Identify this 1699 treaty, which marked the beginning of Ottoman withdrawal from Europe.
Answer: Treaty of Karlowitz
[10] The treaty of Karlowitz was signed by this Ottoman sultan, who was deposed by a military coup in 1703 following an extended period neglecting the administration of government.
Answer: Mustafa II or Mustafa Oglu Mehmed IV
[10] Karlowitz was made possible by the crushing defeat of Mustafa's forces by the combined armies of the Holy League led by Prince Eugene of Savoy at this 1697 battle on the Tisa river.
Answer: Battle of Zenta or Senta

Answer these questions about unusual concertos, FTPE:
[10] This composer wrote concertos for flute, oboe, and bassoon, as well as an innovative one for flute and harp. He also wrote Bastien et Bastienne and A Musical Joke.
ANSWER: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Johannes Chysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart
[10] This prolific composer’s Opus 323 was a concerto for harp. His ballets include La Creation du Monde and Le Boeuf sur le Toit.
ANSWER: Darius Milhaud
[10] This virtuoso violinist wrote an atypical concerto for trombone and premiered Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto; he also wrote five violin concertos and two symphonies.
ANSWER: Ferdinand David

There were a number of bonuses with no accessible part (e.g. the questions on "colors in philosophy" or Karlowitz), or where all but a tiny number of teams are unlikely to get more than one part (Ruddigore, AND A CHARACTER from Ruddigore!), or which had relatively easy answers but with such obscure clues that most teams are unlikely to pick up the answers (like the bonus that refuses to give any well-known works for Mozart, or mention that Milhaud was a member of The Six, before asking about a figure I've never heard of). Obviously there were also bonuses which were much easier, but then the problem becomes one of inconsistency. Seriously, though: Do these bonuses really seem representative of a tournament that is "accessible" to all but a tiny handful of elite teams? (My presumably elite team was asked all but the last of these, and got 10 on each.)

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:38 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:First, tossup structure. This tournament was very much written in the modern ACF style, with lots of obfuscation to prevent people from making immediate jumps to the answer despite being unknowledgable about the area. (So there were mercifully few questions whose first sentence made clear, e.g., that "they're talking about a guy who is clearly a naval officer, and Japanese, and alive in the 20th century.") I heartily approve of this style, but it's hard to pull off successfully. Sometimes, in trying to obscure the crucial bits of information, you end up writing a completely confusing question. I think this was the case with some frequency at this tournament. Which is to say that these questions felt very well-researched, but not as well-written as they might have been.
I'm sure I must have been one of the culprits here. In any case, I would appreciate some examples of what people thought was confusing. I know that, for example, Seth and I differ a lot in writing styles, so maybe people would hear one of his questions, which is typically less verbose than mine, and then hear one of mine and be confused by the potentially excess verbiage.
bonus difficulty
Honestly, that's somewhat surprising to me. I wrote two of the four bonuses mentioned (the philosophical colors one and the Karlowitz bonus) and I didn't think either were that hard. I would have 30d the colors bonus even before writing it, and 20d the Karlowitz one (both Karlowitz and Zenta have come up multiple times). Perhaps this says more about my current reading preferences than about anything else, though; I certainly can see now that there are no "easy" parts here. In retrospect, I think both bonuses would have been better written by replacing the part on "missing shade of blue" with "Hume" and the part on Mustafa or Zenta with "Eugene of Savoy."
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Post by vandyhawk » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:04 pm

grapesmoker wrote:It's also been noted to me that there seemed to be an overrepresentation of math and CS at the expense of earth science. Now that Wesley Matthews is no longer actively playing, I'm not sure if there is an active lobby for more rocks questions
I noticed this too, but I have no problem with it. I also question whether anyone really cares about rocks. Most people have at least heard of a lot of the astronomy things that come up, but rocks are...well, rocks.
grapesmoker wrote:Is there really a demand for 16 rounds of play?
We were going to do a triple round robin in the southeast, needing 15 rounds, but the lateness and the snow prompted us to do a double round robin and then a power-match round. I don't think I see the need for any more than 16, like in ACF Fall where we sent out like 19 rounds.
Its overture is often a version written by Geoffrey Toye for a 1920 revival, but some versions begin with a four-bar theme that introduces I once was as meek from Act II. FTPE:
[10] Name this gothic spoof in which the baronet of Murgatroyd must commit a crime each day or face death.
ANSWER: Ruddigore
[10] Ruddigore is an operetta created by what British duo also responsible for The Gondoliers?
ANSWER: William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
[10] Robin Oakapple, the true baronet, is in love with this very proper woman who later falls for Robin’s Francophobe foster brother Richard.
ANSWER: Rose Maybud (accept either name)
I was fairly surprised to hear our opponent this round (I want to say South Carolina) get a 30 on this bonus. Clearly one of the people was very familiar with this work, though I doubt it was converted so well elsewhere.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Seriously, though: Do these bonuses really seem representative of a tournament that is "accessible" to all but a tiny handful of elite teams? (My presumably elite team was asked all but the last of these, and got 10 on each.)
I was very careful in my original post to note that overall bonus difficulty between rounds as a whole was consistent, and that most teams could answer at least one part on most bonuses. With the same core (me and Paul) at the last 3 regionals, our bonus conversion has held very constant, so I was reluctant to say anything about it being too hard, etc. since that argument doesn't go very far on this board, and the editors did a good job of meeting the same standards of the past few years. I personally don't find it too hard either, but I think we need to look at what's happened with teams attending regionals the past couple years. We used to always have 15 or so teams in the southeast, and this year there were 6. The mid-Atlantic had 2 (would've had about 6), the West coast had 4, etc. Based on teams' reactions Saturday, next year Regionals will have about 3 teams in the southeast. In contrast, ACF Fall had 15 teams at our site, and COTKU, Moon Pie, etc. always have 20+ teams, and those are both packet submission as well. I don't really know what else to say here. I truly enjoy playing ACF regionals, and I think this year's set was good for what it is. It seems to me, though, that it really is just too difficult for the common team to have any success with. If that's what people want, especially since most invitationals are trying to scale back difficulty, then that's fine - certain teams will still show up and do well and enjoy themselves, but attendance will continue to suffer. I guess it's just a matter of defining the identity of this tournament.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Feb 19, 2007 3:08 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I would have 30d the colors bonus even before writing it, and 20d the Karlowitz one (both Karlowitz and Zenta have come up multiple times).
This is my objection to placing too much faith in the "canon"--just because something has come up doesn't mean anyone outside of the 5% of teams who study what has come up is going to find it easy. You have to consider what the field will actually know, not what the rare dedicated teams "should" know.

Anyway I have no grounds to criticize the set since I got my round in so late, and I think that the overly difficult questions were noticeable only because they were outliers. I was asking around at Maryland to find out what some of the younger players thought and they almost universally said "easier tossups but harder bonuses" compared to last year. I thought bonuses were about the same and tossups were a shade harder but that perception might have been skewed by the different sort of competition we were facing.

As far as round numbers go, my thinking has always been that you should provide enough rounds to let every team play 14 games, if conditions allow for it. That means producing 18 rounds--14 games for everyone, 2 rounds for a final, and 2 round to play off ties. I know others would rather not spend editing time creating tiebreakers that might not be heard, or add time to play off ties to an already-long tournament, but I prefer to do so and to give other TDs the option when I am editing sets for general use. It should go without saying that actually running such a long schedule means keeping question length under control and more importantly having competent staffers who can keep games moving.
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Mon Feb 19, 2007 3:10 pm

[quote:b0a3ec955e=\"grapesmoker\"]
I\'m sure I must have been one of the culprits here. In any case, I would appreciate some examples of what people thought was confusing. I know that, for example, Seth and I differ a lot in writing styles, so maybe people would hear one of his questions, which is typically less verbose than mine, and then hear one of mine and be confused by the potentially excess verbiage.[/quote:b0a3ec955e]

Sure, I\'ll be happy to oblige. Here\'s a few cases in point from the music questions:

This man’s last painting was a portrait of his neighbor and tennis partner, Arnold Schoenberg. He bought a copy of Forsyth’s Orchestration for use in working on a commission from Damrosch. He was the soloist at the premiere of that work, which was preceded on the program by Glazunov’s 5th symphony, chosen for the Charleston rhythm featured in his Concerto in F. He bought four taxi horns for a work inspired by a trip to Europe, and the rhythms of a train ride in Boston inspired another piece that opens with a clarinet glissando. FTP, name this composer of An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue.
ANSWER: George Gershwin or Jacob Gershovitz

That first clue was both unknown to me and interesting, which offsets the slightly misleading nature of the fact (one has to realize that the question isn\'t actually looking for a painter, but for someone else who just happened to paint as a sidelined). But then sentences 2-3 are horrible. He bought a copy of a book, huh? And he used it for a "commission"? Then knowing that he was a "soloist in the premiere" of this very unspecified work doesn\'t much help, and knowing that this mysterious work was "preceded" by Glazunov\'s Fifth isn\'t helpful so much as maddening. These clues are really nebulous and obscure and involved: you\'ve spent almost two sentences talking about a "work" in a way that will prevent almost anyone from knowing what you\'re talking about. Then the next clue is the rather famous "Concerto in F," and the question is pretty much done.

A stretch of bars in 7/4 (“seven four”) time in this work’s Finale was its composer’s first use of metrical irregularity, and the composer noted his delight with its natural-harmonic string glissando in Expositions and Developments. The Sinfonietta on Russian Themes by the teacher of its composer informs the oboe melody in this work’s Khorovod section, representing a round dance of thirteen princesses. A solo bassoon represents the title creature luring a castle full of monsters to sleep in the Berceuse, after forcing them to exhaust themselves in the Infernal Dance of King Kastchei. FTP, name this Stravinsky ballet in which the magical title creature gives Ivan one of its feathers.
ANSWER: The Firebird or L’Oiseau de Feu or Zhar-ptitsa

Maybe that first sentence is helpful to Stravinsky experts, so I\'ll refrain from comment on it. But then we get really convoluted again, as we hear about a "Sinfonietta on Russian Themes" by the unnamed "teacher of its composer." How does that oblique lateral reference contribute to the question? I guess it\'s invoked to tell us that this mysterious work "informs the oboe melody," but I\'m not sure what that means. Again, I appreciate the use of veiled allusion to reward more knowledgeable players, but when this technique is taken too far it tends to be more perplexing than helpful.

This advocate of Simon Sechter’s counterpoint system dedicated his fifth symphony to education minister Carl Stremayr. This composer of the “Study Symphony” also created the “Symphony of Rests” and attempted a choral work entirely in Lydian mode, Os Justi. A complete edition of his masses and symphonies was commissioned from Robert Haas. His admirer Hans Richter conducted the premiers of his 8th symphony and his 4th symphony, whose third-movement Scherzo depicts a hunting scene. FTP name this Austrian devotee of Wagner who penned a “Romantic” symphony.
ANSWER: Joseph Anton Bruckner

This question went to the giveaway sentence when my team played on it. Again, the first sentence is presumably both suitably obscure and uniquely identifying, but then there\'s a lot of stuff that doesn\'t seem to advance the question or really help people get to the answer. Take the third sentence: What does it even mean to say that a "complete edition" of some composer\'s works was "commissioned from" some dude? (I heard the name here as Robert Hass, the contemporary poet, and was even more confused.) The next sentence only adds the information that Hans Richter, who is not himself remarkably widely-known, "admired" him, and reminds us that he wrote some symphonies, which is something we knew from the first sentence.

Anyway, that\'s enough for now. I\'m not trying to say that this set was abominable; again, I enjoyed it, it was clearly well-researched, and there were lots of unobjectionable questions in it. I\'m just concerned to point out the difficulties of writing questions in what has become the fashionable style for upper-level ACF tournaments, and to remind people that doing research is a necessary but not sufficient condition for producing top-quality questions.'

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Post by magin » Mon Feb 19, 2007 6:37 pm

grapesmoker wrote:To respond to a couple of points that Jonathan made earlier on: I thought Stockhausen was better known than he apparently is. I also thought that some of the minor Cooper novels were better known than they apparently are (I would have easily 20d that bonus, probably 30d it with some thought). Oakeshott doesn't exactly strike me as IR, but in any case, I thought he was sufficiently interesting and well known to be a middle part ("Rationalism in Politics" being the hard part). The bonus I wrote on Kant was intended to have "principle of sufficient reason" as the hard part, and "ontological argument" and "Swedenborg" as the easy and middle parts respectively. Again, I may have overestimated how well-known Swedenborg was. I've heard him come up in tossups numerous times, at tournaments which I didn't think were harder than this year's set, so I thought he was reasonable as a bonus part. Vanbrugh is certainly well known and I did not hesitate to put that question in (it was a replacement for a tossup on Nicholas Grimshaw, whom I'd never heard of). Anyway, I apologize if these were too hard; I based all my writing on what I thought had come up before and apparently I miscalculated on some things.
I like Stockhausen, but he shouldn't be the easy part to any bonus (especially considering that he was the hard part of a Nationals bonus last year). Also, The Spy is pretty difficult for people who don't study for quizbowl. Considering that I don't think the editors would have put tossups on Stockhausen or The Spy in the tournament, I think they're too difficult to be the easy part of a bonus. I was actually complaining about a Kant bonus whose answers were a posteriori/hypothetical imperative/kingdom of ends; it doesn't really have an accessible part. I didn't hear your bonus, but I agree that ontological argument/Swedenborg is accessible. Selfishly, I would love if people like Oakeshott (who appears in my copy of 50 Key Thinkers in International Relations, take that for what you will) came up at every tournament, but I think he's much too obscure for that

Incidentally, I agree with the people who argued that many of the bonuses were missing middle parts; it looks like the majority of teams averaged less than 10 points per bonus, and even strong teams weren't doing all that well. Although I was unable to locate the stats for last year's ACF Nationals, from what I can remember, bonus conversion for it and this year's Regionals seemed around equal, which probably means that this year's bonuses were too hard.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 19, 2007 7:34 pm

magin wrote:Incidentally, I agree with the people who argued that many of the bonuses were missing middle parts; it looks like the majority of teams averaged less than 10 points per bonus, and even strong teams weren't doing all that well. Although I was unable to locate the stats for last year's ACF Nationals, from what I can remember, bonus conversion for it and this year's Regionals seemed around equal, which probably means that this year's bonuses were too hard.
I compared the stats of this year's bonus conversion to last year's (for regionals) and they are actually very close; some teams did a little better, some a little worse, but most of that variation is accounted for by the presence of good players on strong teams. Most teams that were not in the top of their respective fields averaged about 10 PPB, most of the good teams were at roughly the 15-16 PPB level, and the best of teams was, I think, just shy of 19 PPB (that was Chicago B, consisting of Andrew plus some other folks, so not much different than this year's best team).

Not that I disagree with the fact that the bonuses were, overall, still too hard. I'm just saying that I think they were in line with regionals difficulty over the last couple of years. I would also agree that the next iteration of Regionals should have the bonuses scaled back a notch, with every bonus including a part that at least 75% of the teams can convert.
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Post by vandyhawk » Mon Feb 19, 2007 7:57 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I compared the stats of this year's bonus conversion to last year's (for regionals) and they are actually very close
Yeah, I think those stats should be very similar between last year's regionals and this year's. Ours were different by 0.03 ppb. I think the stats from last year's Nationals have disappeared with the demise of the collequizbowl domain, but I am interested to see how those numbers compare, both to regionals and to Nats 2005, which was really tough.

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Post by Rothlover » Mon Feb 19, 2007 8:25 pm

vandyhawk wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I compared the stats of this year's bonus conversion to last year's (for regionals) and they are actually very close
Yeah, I think those stats should be very similar between last year's regionals and this year's. Ours were different by 0.03 ppb. I think the stats from last year's Nationals have disappeared with the demise of the collequizbowl domain, but I am interested to see how those numbers compare, both to regionals and to Nats 2005, which was really tough.
Yeah, what happened to collegequizbowl? Did someone just decide to pick up their stuff and go home?

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Feb 19, 2007 8:34 pm

Some general thoughts:


I think the mean bonus difficulty in this tournament was about right (at least in the sense that it approximated last year's regionals). And, I actually think the mean difficulty of the tournament as a whole was spot on for regionals level. Outside of a few outliers, I think it would be tough to make the case that the bonuses were unfair...for experienced teams. Some were more easy to 20 than others, some were easier to 30 - but, for experienced teams, you're looking at 10 points here or there going back and forth on bonuses. I don't think there were any real gift 30s or likely 0s, in that sense, and I don't think there were many bonuses with impossible or silly answers that people with knowledge would complain about. Those sorts of 10 point swings aren't such a bad thing - there's an element of luck anyway with bonuses in getting the subjects that your team knows the most about. It all tends to even out, and rather experienced teams are putting up a decent amount of points anyway such that it's not a huge deal. I think it's tough to argue there was a big rollercoaster effect that was "match determining" in any way for these teams.

But, for less experienced teams, take your typical 100-80 game: it may come down to who manages to nab the bonus which has a clearly easy part (or, stumble upon a trash bonus they like, etc.). Those teams are not going to get "easy parts" like Clay or Ghosts, for instance, whereas canon-aware veterans will just gobble them up (heck, veterans are sometimes more likely to get those types of things than what you'd think are really easy things).

Now, I don't know what the solution to this is. Actually, I think the problem dovetails with the crisis that I think modern quizbowl is in, and I don't see a way out. You have an increasingly large skill and experience gap, a dwindling group of people who are sort of "with the program" and looking to move forward, and not a whole lot of people on the trolley behind them. Whatever, I don't want to get into that theoretical discussion...my point is just that there's a disconnect here (that I think Keller touched on) and a lot of times there are really two questions: 1. was this tournament well-written and playable and fair for experienced veterans? 2. was this tournament those things for the rest of players?

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Post by cdbarker » Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:18 pm

vandyhawk wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I compared the stats of this year's bonus conversion to last year's (for regionals) and they are actually very close
Yeah, I think those stats should be very similar between last year's regionals and this year's. Ours were different by 0.03 ppb. I think the stats from last year's Nationals have disappeared with the demise of the collequizbowl domain, but I am interested to see how those numbers compare, both to regionals and to Nats 2005, which was really tough.
The stats are still there:
http://www.collegequizbowl.org/2006ACF/ ... dings.html

I have plenty of storage space and unless someone asks me to take them down, they'll be archived there.

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Post by DumbJaques » Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:56 pm

Thanks to people who made stats available.

I've been going back and forth about posting this for a while, because I really do sympathize with a lot of points that get made here. Yeah, it's hard to write bonuses that mediocre teams won't be irrevocably scarred by that still differentiate between, say, Illinois A and Chicago "B" or whatever Andrew Yaphe and his death squad choose to not play on. And there is a "looming crisis" in college quizbowl, and I really, really applaud ACF for trying to head it off.

I don't think we need questions that see a decent amount of teams, teams that aren't horrible or anything, average 5 ppb on. I don't think we need questions that see the top teams in the country. If you didn't have Andrew Yaphe on your team and you weren't Matt Weiner playing against high school kids (obviously, not his fault), you didn't crack 300 ppg. I think the claim that these bonuses were anywhere near ideal in terms of being accessible to some teams while differentiating between the best is ludicrous. When you exclude a certain team we all know, nobody came close to putting up 20 ppb. the differences between top teams was only around 3-5 ppb at the most. Does anyone see where I'm going with this? If the questions resulted in the top teams averaging like 24 ppb or something, would that be such a horrible hit for the connoisseurs of ridiculous shit most people haven't heard of?

Don't get me wrong, I will go to tournaments that are hard as hell. I entered as an at-large team at MLK, and I'm a freshman. I knew what I was getting myself into, and I defended some of the criticism leveled at MLK, so I really do not want to be countered with "omg acf questions are so long and hard" garbage (not that I anticipate I will, as at the moment everyone seems really interested in having a good discussion about this). My main point is that there's room to shave some "quality" or whatever you want to call it off of the questions, perhaps the bonus and answer selection in particular, without sacrificing the ability to differentiate between top teams. I'm sorry, but I honestly think that if the top 4 teams in the country have to "bite the bullet" of putting up 25 or 26 ppb on a format so that 90% of college players will then get on track to becoming really good acf players as opposed to being so repulsed that regionals will averaged like 4 or 5 teams per site, I vote that that's the way it has to be.

Now, for the really controversial part:

It is my opinion that the presence of certain individuals must be discarded when preparing a tournament set. I charge that the presence of no more than 12 people in the circuit causes the questions to be skewed so strongly that it results in 17 of 28 teams (using the southwest, midwest, and northeast regionals, which were all I could find while obviously discarding mid-Atlantic) putting up less than 10 ppb. This needs to not happen. In my opinion (as limited in scope as the knowledge that makes it up admittedly is), most of those people would still have a decent time and reflect their superiority with questions that resulted in about an average of 8-10 ppb more than we saw at regionals. Well, maybe 11 of the 12 would. I hate to ever say to someone that they shouldn't be playing quizbowl, because I love quizbowl and know that the people here love it too. But there are masters tournaments, and their are national tournament programs. If ACF wants to be the latter, I think changes are needed. I think the core group of people who edit need to take themselves and their few on-level contemporaries out of the equations when editing. I do NOT mean these people should stop playing. I mean that the questions need to not be geared toward the top teams, and I don't think, when something on the order of 2/3 of teams are putting up less than 10 ppb, you can argue that such wasn't the case last weekend. I do not see this resulting in me beating Mike or Matt or Jerry, or teams that shouldn't be winning nationals win nationals. I do see it resulting in ACF becoming what I'd love to see it become: the best measure of pure quizbowl ability, but a national format that is respected and patronized by a lot of teams (read: a lot MORE teams) throughout the country.

In closing this colossal rant that probably isn't going to make any difference, I'd like to say that I will support ACF and its principles as long as I am playing, and will attend ACF tournaments whenever I can. My purpose in posting this was to offer an idea on how to improve quizbowl. I didn't mean to insult anyone, I don't think I could do a better job. But I think we all could do a better one.

EDIT: this was kind of inspired by Eric's post in that other thread, so if it should be moved or something, maybe someone could do that. Thanks.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:20 pm

You may have a point there about who tournaments should be for, but I want to say something about the numbers you propose. PPB is an average and it can be deceptive. Getting more teams to average 20 doesn't just mean making the second part of the bonus easier, but also having enough 30s to counteract 10s and 0s on bonuses that are actually fine but that a specific team doesn't know. Teams where I do most of the scoring always play above their BC because of the huge hit we take on science; everyone has some weak areas, and those who don't end up barely hitting that 20 mark, not exceeding it.

We already have tournaments where people who should know better than to show up average over 20 PPB; namely, collegiate tournaments run on high school questions. Even there, where there basically is no hard part in the bonus, you will see that bonus conversion does not exceed 23. Getting questions to the level where even some sort of hypothetical uberteam could convert "25 or 26" means making them even easier than high school questions.

What we need to do instead is work on those middle parts, remember not to confuse what's allegedly "canonical" with what people actually know, and at the same time make it clear to everyone that at Regionals level you probably won't know the third part most of the time, and that's fine, because that's the point. While there's no doubt that some facets of this tournaments were too hard, there's also a misguided approach that people have when coming off high school questions (which again, seem to just be three bonus parts on the same theme and pretty much the same difficulty a lot of the time) that they need to get every question or feel stupid. The collegiate bonus structure (on either ACF or NAQT) just works differently than the low-level game does, and I think there is a large understanding gap about that fact which contributes to people judging themselves and tournaments too harshly.
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Post by DumbJaques » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:28 pm

I'll grant most of those points, and yeah, reviewing my math, 26 ppb is extreme. But that actually compliments my main point too. Increasing the average ppb by 10 (a ridiculous number) for every time would result in some obviously unrealistically high stats. But for about 2/3 of the field, it still wouldn't push anyone past 20 ppb. ACF regionals is supposed to be hard, but I think my point about who it is being written for right now stands. A masters tournament can be written with less than a dozen people in mind. A national tournament program should not be, and even with the bonus stats being a bit deceptive, I think just plain old review of the questions shows, as you mentioned, that a very small group of people's judgment of what is canon hurt this tournament. That was in part what I was trying to get across, but I blow at brevity.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:32 pm

What we can do is set some quantitative targets for every bonus and have editors try to match them, then use these newfangled stats programs that are being developed to gauge how well our inner difficulty meters actually match with reality and adjust accordingly.

E.g.:

1st part: 90% of teams should get this
2nd part: 50% of teams should get this
3rd part: 10% of teams should get this
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Post by DumbJaques » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:37 pm

ACF Regionals 2008: HAL the tossup-reading robot teaches you about canon and cannons, hilarity ensues?

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Post by QuizBowlRonin » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:02 pm

DumbJaques wrote:ACF Regionals 2008: HAL the tossup-reading robot teaches you about canon and cannons, hilarity ensues?
Clear the buzzer system, HAL.
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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:16 pm

DumbJaques wrote:It is my opinion that the presence of certain individuals must be discarded when preparing a tournament set. I charge that the presence of no more than 12 people in the circuit causes the questions to be skewed so strongly that it results in 17 of 28 teams (using the southwest, midwest, and northeast regionals, which were all I could find while obviously discarding mid-Atlantic) putting up less than 10 ppb. This needs to not happen.
Don't be coy and just say who you mean. I know I'm one of these people; I know that I haven't done as good a job of making this tournament accessible as I could have. I recognize that this is the case and I'm willing to make changes in my editing procedure the next time I edit a tournament.

The bigger problem, in my opinion, is that we have been trying to construct tournaments that are going to be appealing both to the top 20 players in the nation and to the rest of the teams. I don't want to say that this is an impossible task, but maybe I am just not capable of it. I think a bigger issue is that good editors should stop writing and editing questions for other good editors and edit them for the rest of the teams out there. This goes hand in hand with the creation of a real masters' circuit, which would siphon off that difficulty from things like ACF Regionals.

My idea, hardly original, is that tournaments like Chicago Open, Illinois Open, MLK, and ACF Nationals should be the 4 tournaments for the truly elite players, and the difficulty should be concentrated there (as well as in any Manu/Mill/etc. sequels that anyone might choose to write). It could be sort of the Grand Slam of quizbowl, if you will. Tournaments like Fall and Regionals will be of successive degrees of difficulty, but Regionals at least will be siginificantly easier.

I think perhaps part of this scheme should be the voluntary recusal of the top players from tournaments that just are not going to challenge them. In my case, I'm almost certainly not going to be able to attend many events next year or the year after due to research-related travel, so I'll just go ahead and count myself out of almost any tournament that isn't one of the ones I outlined above. I don't subscribe to the philosophy that graduate students ruin quizbowl by demoralizing undergraduates, but I also recognize that questions tailored to someone like me or Andrew or Matt or Seth are going to be pitched at a significantly higher level than those written for the rest of the field. Perhaps the absence of these players from standard invitationals (and hopefully their subsequent involvement in editing for the rest of the teams) will reduce the incentive to write more difficult questions in the hope of satisfying them. The flip side to this, of course, would be that ACF Regionals would stop being what it is now, which is preparation for Nationals. I think this is OK, since most teams don't go to Nationals anyway, and are looking for something that is going to be more on their level. There will be an exponential difficulty jump between Regionals and Nationals, but that's better than the same situation existing between Fall and Regionals. My suggestion is that something like ACF Regionals 2003 be taken as a difficulty benchmark for what Regionals shoudl aim at.

I'll just stop rambling here and wait for people to respond to these ideas. These are just some things that occurred to me in the process of thinking about Regionals and where it should go.
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Post by DumbJaques » Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:00 pm

I wasn't being coy Jerry, I just chose not to list out my personal top 12 ranking of players in the country, which is both irrelevant and likely isn't going to be accurate. I figured people would know who I mean. It's not like I also wasn't criticizing you personally at all, and I legitimately didn't have you personally in mind as one of the big "offenders" or whatever you're taking from it.

I also wasn't calling for you to retire from quizbowl or anything like that. But the fact is that if I or some other good UG players showed up together at some HS IS tournament, the questions would be pretty easy for us, we'd average a very high ppb and blow everyone away, etc. I'm not likening the sportingness of that to anything you do, because it's obviously no comparable, so please don't take it as an attack. But for those 12ish people or whatever to come to non-masters and expect the questions to be targeted, primarily, to satisfy them, I think that's about the same as the UMD team showing up at the Maryland NAQT hs championship and wondering why acf canon isn't being reflected. Personally Jerry, I hope I get a chance to get my ass kicked by you. I want to play everyone who's better than me, I don't mind doing it on their terms because they've earned it. But I don't see that as a realistic view of the circuit as a whole, and frankly, I'm better and more committed than most freshmen. I'd like to see regionals become easier, I'd like to see there be tournaments that the behemoth players don't frequent, and I'd like to see a masters circuit develop, because one very distant day I hope to join that circuit. I agree with a lot of the stuff you outlined, but right now, I think the fact that acf and regular invitationals and masters tournaments bleed together is hurting the circuit, hurting quizbowl, and pissing us all off at each other.

EDIT: Shouldn't this be moved to the thread that Eric just asked people to post thoughts about improving acf in?

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:15 pm

DumbJaques wrote:I wasn't being coy Jerry, I just chose not to list out my personal top 12 ranking of players in the country, which is both irrelevant and likely isn't going to be accurate. I figured people would know who I mean. It's not like I also wasn't criticizing you personally at all, and I legitimately didn't have you personally in mind as one of the big "offenders" or whatever you're taking from it.

I also wasn't calling for you to retire from quizbowl or anything like that.
I don't take this as an attack, and I wasn't implying that you were calling for our retirement. Sorry if I came off that way, sometimes it's hard to get the general tone across on the internets, and there are (believe it or not) times when I'm actively trying to be less caustic; this was one of those times :smile:

As I've already pointed out, I mostly agree with you. I think those 12 players should go to masters' tournaments for the most part, and if they do drop in on an ACF Regionals, they should expect that the questions are not going to challenge them as much. That doesn't mean they still won't do well, it just means that the questions will not be as hard.
I'd like to see regionals become easier, I'd like to see there be tournaments that the behemoth players don't frequent, and I'd like to see a masters circuit develop, because one very distant day I hope to join that circuit. I agree with a lot of the stuff you outlined, but right now, I think the fact that acf and regular invitationals and masters tournaments bleed together is hurting the circuit, hurting quizbowl, and pissing us all off at each other.
I think we have a lot of goals in common. I hope you, and others like yourself, are going to take Eric up on his offer; having you guys work on tournaments like fall and regionals will probably pull them back to where they should be in order to attract a wider audience.

This is the course of action I recommend to everyone: write and edit to the level you think is appropriate. To be perfectly honest, many of the bonuses that have elicited complaints thus far have come from the very same teams that are disappointed when they barely break the 10 PPB barrier. If I get a bonus whose three parts are Benedict Arnold, Philip Schuyler, and Richard Montgomery (I thought I was making that easier by changing the 3rd part to Carleton; shows what I know), and I don't have a lot of time to make changes, my first thought is "well, that sems more or less reasonable, I'll change one part, and if this teams knows it, probably other teams do as well," and that's what happens. It's very difficult to step outside oneself and ask what is known by other teams; my only guide is what is submitted, and what is submitted is often the same thing that gets complained about. I'm not trying to shift the blame here, but I do want to reiterate that if you want to see ACF Regionals toned down a notch in difficulty (something that I think was actually accomplished in the tossups, relative to the last two years; I'd like to know what people think about that) then you should think about what kind of questions you're writing for this tournament. Then we as editors will do our best to bring those questions up to a good standard if this needs to be done.
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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:36 pm

That syndrome has been afflicting Regionals for a long time--people assume "ACF is impossible" and when they make their once-every-four-years trip to Regionals, they assume this is the time to use that Battle of Sandfontein tossup, because hey, that's what ACF is about right?!? I always know where overly hard questions come from; it's not teams who consistently write ACF packets.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:16 pm

Matt Weiner wrote: I always know where overly hard questions come from; it's not teams who consistently write ACF packets.
Isn't that what editors are for?
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:36 pm

I want to say that I largely agree with the suggestions made by Jerry and Jacques, as to what respective tournaments should probably be shooting for in the future, even if the reason be sheer necessity. And, probably, Jerry's suggestion of looking at acf regionals 2002/2003 as guides is very reasonable - at least for a while, until a significant group of people latch on.

But, I want to add to the point made about submissions. With very few exceptions, I don't think any editor for regs this year made any submitted bonus harder than it was and we made a whole lot easier (all of the cited ones were submited, I'm almost sure). For instance, Jerry's substitution of Carleton certainly did make that bonus easier, he's a pretty stock clue for Benedict Arnold. Now, I personally tend to be about as activist as anyone in changing questions people send but that takes a lot of time (time that you sometimes don't have). So, at least if you plan to make complaints (whether or not they may have some validity to them) - do write questions that you consider appropriate.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:50 pm

Bruce wrote:Isn't that what editors are for?
Sure, of course. But we're not telepathic; we have no way of figuring out what people on the circuit know, except to look at what's submitted and work from there. We just have this collective opinion of "this is hard, this not so much" and as it happens, we are often wrong. Your own packet had bonus parts on theologian Francisco Suarez, minor characters from Master and Margarita, and a Akerlof's "Lemons" paper as well as his economics book. What are we supposed to divine from this submission?

I had to rewrite on the order of 70 tossups and bonuses over the course of editing this tournament; if I'd had to rewrite all of them from scratch, I'd never get done. So yes, we obviously have the responsibility, as editors, of providing you with a quality tournament. But since this is a packet-submission event and we're trying to use your material as much as possible, if players submit things that are too hard, that difficulty will show in the final product.
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Post by setht » Sat Feb 24, 2007 4:07 am

vandyhawk wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:It's also been noted to me that there seemed to be an overrepresentation of math and CS at the expense of earth science. Now that Wesley Matthews is no longer actively playing, I'm not sure if there is an active lobby for more rocks questions
I noticed this too, but I have no problem with it. I also question whether anyone really cares about rocks. Most people have at least heard of a lot of the astronomy things that come up, but rocks are...well, rocks.
I agree that the subdistribution in science wasn't quite what I thought it should be. Possibly this discomfited no one playing the tournament, but given more time I would have asked Jerry to give up some of his math and CS questions and edited (or written) some more astro and earth science.

If I'd played the tournament, I'm fairly certain I would have posted in here asking for more earth science, and possibly more astro. I love rocks--in fact, much like Gilgamesh, I frequently have dreams featuring sexually attractive meteorites. I know I don't constitute a lobby, but I'm under the impression that Ryan Westbrook also likes earth science (watching him 30 my bonus on diatremes at Illinois Open is a fond memory), and I've seen Jared Sagoff and Bruce Arthur perk up at the mention of certain types of earth science question.

I don't think a tournament needs 5/5 earth science, but I think it's an overlooked area--there's a lot of interesting stuff that's not just "name another rock or mineral from boring clues." Let me know if you need several dozen examples.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:58 pm

I do indeed like earth science and even rocks, as long as they're not silly arbitrary minerals like, say, Moolooite (it's Australian!). But, write all the hornblende questions your heart desires. 5/5 earth sci actually seems reasonable for a normal sized 12 or 13 round tourney. Astro may have been underrepresented here, but I tend to think it is overrepresented in the qb game at large, likely because a handful of people who write lots of questions know a lot about astro.


Also, there are numerous candidates roaming this board who you might think quite likely to discuss their wacky sex dreams, never thought Seth would be one.

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Post by theMoMA » Wed Feb 28, 2007 5:46 pm

Ryan Westbrook wrote:I do indeed like earth science and even rocks, as long as they're not silly arbitrary minerals like, say, Moolooite (it's Australian!). But, write all the hornblende questions your heart desires. 5/5 earth sci actually seems reasonable for a normal sized 12 or 13 round tourney. Astro may have been underrepresented here, but I tend to think it is overrepresented in the qb game at large, likely because a handful of people who write lots of questions know a lot about astro.


Also, there are numerous candidates roaming this board who you might think quite likely to discuss their wacky sex dreams, never thought Seth would be one.
I too enjoy earth science questions. Nothing like a good glacial features bonus...

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Post by MLafer » Thu Jun 28, 2007 6:29 am

can someone move these questions to a domain that works?

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Post by grapesmoker » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:27 am

MLafer wrote:can someone move these questions to a domain that works?
I'll put these up on the ACF site soon.
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