TIT/MLK Discussion

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TIT/MLK Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:23 pm

The mirrors should be winding down by now, so feel free to start the discussion of TIT/MLK.
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Post by wd4gdz » Sun Jan 20, 2008 2:38 pm

This isn't going to be very detailed, but it will at least get the ball rolling...

For the most part, I thought the tournament was pretty good. The difficulty was as advertised although I thought some of the tossups seemed pretty long (particularly some in the Minnesota packet, or maybe we just had a slow reader that round)

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Post by vig180 » Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:13 pm

Reading 8, 9, even 10 line tossups was a bit wearing on the reader's end. I really thought a good number of them could've taken off the first 2-3 lines and would have been just as pyramidal. Difficulty was a bit variable, but generally just under what I would say ACF Regs difficulty would be. Overall, shorter TUs and maybe a bit easier answer selection overall probably would've made it better, but for a packet-sub, centrally edited tournament I think it lived up to expectations.

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Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:25 pm

Having read the final version of our packet, I can tell you that in a number of instances, 2-3 extra lines of information were added to the beginning of tossups we wrote. Our original tossups were all less than eight lines.
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Post by cvdwightw » Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:28 pm

While some of the tossups seemed a little long, I didn't really mind most of the 8-liners. What got me was the never-ending bonus parts. It seemed like practically every leadin and clue was 3 or 4 lines long. Difficulty was about right, though I thought some of the packets were quite a bit harder than last year's Penn Bowl (e.g. Lafer/Westbrook, although some of the problem was that we were dead tired when we played that). More importantly, I can't recall a single instance of blatant antipyramidality, although there might have been one or two problem questions. The only factually incorrect question I caught claimed that ferromagnetic materials are paramagnetic below the Curie point, which doesn't make any sense because ferromagnetic materials are by definition ferromagnetic below the Curie point.

Overall, a solid tournament.

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Post by Zip Zap Rap Pants » Sun Jan 20, 2008 5:51 pm

vig180 wrote:Reading 8, 9, even 10 line tossups was a bit wearing on the reader's end. I really thought a good number of them could've taken off the first 2-3 lines and would have been just as pyramidal. Difficulty was a bit variable, but generally just under what I would say ACF Regs difficulty would be. Overall, shorter TUs and maybe a bit easier answer selection overall probably would've made it better, but for a packet-sub, centrally edited tournament I think it lived up to expectations.
It was a very well edited tournament all around, so don't let my comments detract from the great job the editors did, but...

It seemed like there was a big jump in difficulty from last year's TIT, why? That was one of my all-time favorite tournaments question wise, and I told the four players we had yesterday who were at their first ever college tournament that it'd be fairly easy and a good introduction to the college game. I mean, it was pretty reasonable and wasn't anywhere near impossible, but it just seemed like the questions were a lot different from last year's TIT. I probably should have paid more attention in the announcement about how it would be near Penn Bowl difficulty. But even then it seemed some of the bonuses were harder than last year's Penn Bowl.
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Post by MiltonPlayer47 » Sun Jan 20, 2008 7:31 pm

I agree that some of the tossups and bonuses were too long. There was also more trash than what I thought there would be at an ACF-style event. It seemed like there was a 2/2 Trash distribution per round.

It felt like there were a lot of common bond tossups, like "one ruler by this name did this, another ruler by this name did this..."

I only remember there being one tossup that I thought was a "giveaway" at the beginning of the question, and that was the one on The Shawshank Redemption. It started off by saying a grocery store manager told the old guy to bag the customer's groceries in double plastic, or something along those lines.

Overall it was a solid tournament and I enjoyed myself.
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Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Jan 20, 2008 8:05 pm

Yes, some of the questions, especially in a few categories in the tournament, were too long. This is probably somewhat due to working on the questions in Google Docs rather than a word processor. While I think we all had an idea of how long the questions were, the lack of constantly seeing that they were stretching so many lines might have contributed to not making them shorter. This was especially true on the bonuses, which I agree in most cases did not need to be so long.

Also, I tended to write on the long side for the stuff I edited (most of the history, most of the trash, some of the religion, some of the science, various other stuff) mainly due to a lack of confidence in my judgment of the difficulty of middle clues. It’s relatively easy to judge between what is pretty hard stuff and what is giveaway material, but the what is more appropriate as a middle hard or a middle easy clue was sometimes elusive. That maybe contributed to adding more harder clues than were necessary to at least give some context to the more knowledgeable players so they’d have a better idea when it came to the more erratic middle clues.

The difficulty of this tournament was higher than that of previous years because the nature of the tournament changed. In previous years, TIT was intended to be an ACF Fall level tournament held early in the year. However, because this tournament is now being held later in the year and because it’s now a mirror of MLK (which was around this difficulty in previous years), we decided to make it “normal” ACF Fall to ACF Regionals level.

However, the difficulty of this tournament probably did exceed what was advertised in some places. The Westbrook packet was certainly more difficult than the “regular season” level, although we suggested that this be used as a finals packet for the mirrors (this was not possible at MLK, however). Some bonuses unfortunately had third parts that were way too hard (on my end this was another issue of not being that familiar with the high end canon), for which I apologize.

In regards to the Shawshank Redemption tossup, sorry about that. I was meaning to change that, but I ended up working on some other stuff and didn’t get back to it.

I’ll also offer the common “we ran out of time” excuse for some of these issues. Due to some unforeseen issues, we got more behind than we should have been with about two weeks left which resulted in some hasty editing which led to some issues that we ordinarily would have taken care of. But I hope that overall people had a good time at this tournament that was not spoiled by some problems with the length and difficulty.
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Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Jan 20, 2008 8:49 pm

Also, I'm not sure where the extra trash distribution issue is coming from. No packets had more than 1/1 trash. Each packet did have 1/1 your choice, which sometimes included current events, which I guess could count as 2/2 trash if you count things like Summers or Musharef trash, but that's sort of an odd way to count that.
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Post by Jeremy Gibbs Lemma » Sun Jan 20, 2008 9:19 pm

I do not see where the trash complaint is coming from either as it really did seem that there was limited trash in each packet. I do remember one packet having two jazz or mid-1900's music questions but one may have been trash and the other a "classical music" for all I know.

I found that the bonus parts seemed to be quite difficult relatively speaking for the most part and some bonuses did not even have a clear "easy" part that 90% of teams should get. In fact, most bonuses did not have that part which could be the reason why Harding led the MO S&T mirror with a seemingly low 13.15 ppb.

I have no complaints over specific questions though as I don't have them in front of me but there really wasn't anything that stuck out too much yesterday and the questions were very good overall in my mind. Good job putting together a solid set.

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Post by MiltonPlayer47 » Sun Jan 20, 2008 9:20 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Also, I'm not sure where the extra trash distribution issue is coming from. No packets had more than 1/1 trash. Each packet did have 1/1 your choice, which sometimes included current events, which I guess could count as 2/2 trash if you count things like Summers or Musharef trash, but that's sort of an odd way to count that.
I thought I remembered there being a Trash distribution of about 2/2 per round. I could be wrong, in which case I apologize. I still think there was more than there should have been though.
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Post by cvdwightw » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:51 am

I'm pretty sure there was 1/1 trash and occasionally another question on something that did not easily fit in any particular academic category.

While we're on the topic of distribution, I am amazed that a tournament partially edited by Charles Meigs contained so few geography questions. This tournament by design also seemed to have an inordinate amount of ancient history.

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Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:32 am

This was a pretty solid set, all in all. I thought there were some issues, but most of the tossups, I thought, were excellent. I generally respect that idea that 8+ lines aren't substantially better than 6, though I really don't mind 8 line tossups (and I wrote an assload of them for my packet - sorry everybody). I think that when you're editing it's fine to err on the side of extra clues as Mike said. With the exception of one packet, this tournament probably had the best regular season tossups I've heard in a really long time - an excellent mix of easy, medium, and hard answer selection and consistent pyramidality. The editors did a truly excellent job with that.

My critiques:

-Common link tossups. There were just entirely too many in this set. I don't particularly imagine anyone's really to blame for this, but let me use this opportunity to plead with everyone not to write so many of these questions. There is a shitload of stuff that happened anywhere ever, the canon is not terribly limited. In particular, common link myth questions were very overrepresented. Such tossups on animals that aren't really prominent in any mythology except a random american folklore tale are not great ideas. Sudanese mythology clues, while entertain, are probably unnecessary. There were also a few prominently questionable common link art tossups (the answer to the worst, which I feel ok divulging because I'll only be using a fraction of the questions for my tournament and definitely won't pick this one, was "sky"). I really can't think of a terribly good reason for common link tossups on "skies in certain paintings," but I suppose I'm open to suggestion. In this case it wasn't the volume of common link art in particular, rather the focus. Where volume was more of a problem, I thought, was history. Too high a percentage of history questions were along the lines of "one rule of this name," "one battle fought in this country," "this polity. . .," etc. When you have a tournament with difficult, 8 line tossups, you really don't need to listen to stuff about ridiculously minor historical Williams or whatever. Once again, part of this is personal preference for tossups about actual things, but most of it is just an observation of how people seemed to be frustrated that these questions kept coming up with such frequency. Of course, things like this are always less prevalent on actual analysis of questions than in just in retrospect, but a number of people seemed to mention this problem. I will applaud Mike Bentley for continuing the proud tradition of not writing common link tossups on "Pragmatic Sanctions."
-Bonuses. The bonus quality in this set, while nothing close to heinous, didn't match the tossup quality. A lot of rounds had pretty uneven bonuses (not more than a few easy 30s, but a lot of easy 20s - some at high school level). Some bonuses were unreasonably hard, but the biggest problem was that a) bonuses varied a lot, which is bad and b) far too many bonuses were easy 20s (or 10s) and quite, perhaps absurdly, difficult 30s. Again, it wasn't terrible or anything but I don't think it was ideal.
-Fine arts (or trash, perhaps) questions on old movies. I guess I don't see the reason to have more than 1/1 per tournament. I'd much rather see those spots go to architecture or introducing some new artists or composers to the canon, if not to traditional fine arts material. This again might be a personal preference but I think it's safe to say this tournament had a noticeably higher old movie distribution than most.
-On a semi-related note, when introducing new stuff to the canon in a bonus, I put forth that the very act of introducing someone or something makes it a hard part. If it's never been in a packet before it's probably hard enough. Asking a subsequent question about the new person's works or the new work's characters or whatever is overkill. Bonuses that seek to introduce political theory (a practice I support) and similar stuff should probably have an easy part that is more traditional quizbowl-type material as well.

Again, all in all the set was very enjoyable to play on, and my eyes have most certainly been opened to the wonderful world of Sudanese mythology.
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Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:35 am

DumbJaques wrote: -Common link tossups. There were just entirely too many in this set. I don't particularly imagine anyone's really to blame for this, but let me use this opportunity to plead with everyone not to write so many of these questions. There is a shitload of stuff that happened anywhere ever, the canon is not terribly limited. In particular, common link myth questions were very overrepresented. Such tossups on animals that aren't really prominent in any mythology except a random american folklore tale are not great ideas.
Seconded. There were way too many of these, but on the whole it wasn't a bad set, even though it was harder than advertised.

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Post by theMoMA » Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:32 am

I really enjoyed the set, which featured some of the best tossups I've played. There's really no need to quibble about a few misplaced clues. Thanks for all your hard work, Charles, Jonathan, Mike, and all the editors.

I'd argue exactly the opposite of what Chris is saying in his linkoclasm. It seems to me that tossups on battles common to a country, rulers who share a name, and similar tossups are in fact desirable in a regular difficulty tournament. They reward knowledge of the deepest of deep information while remaining accessible to all teams. Having seen several insane buzzes on "ridiculously minor historical Williams" and similar clues, I'd say that those early clues were appropriate and interesting, and most importantly, knowledge of them was crucial to the outcomes of games.

They also prevent the problem of "oh, this is a battle between Turks and Europeans, *buzz* Mohacs" that can occur with tournaments that adhere to reasonable answer selection. Too often, it's easy to divine the answer based on category alone, then using the expected canon to narrow the potential answer space to one most likely answer. common link tossups do an admirable job of avoiding this phenomenon.

That's not to say that there's to be no arguing over how much common link is too much. For example, it was a bit much to have four or five animals in myth common links. But that seems a minor issue that may have resulted from the material that was submitted to the editors.

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Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:46 am

I'd argue exactly the opposite of what Chris is saying in his linkoclasm. It seems to me that tossups on battles common to a country, rulers who share a name, and similar tossups are in fact desirable in a regular difficulty tournament. They reward knowledge of the deepest of deep information while remaining accessible to all teams. Having seen several insane buzzes on "ridiculously minor historical Williams" and similar clues, I'd say that those early clues were appropriate and interesting, and most importantly, knowledge of them was crucial to the outcomes of games

They also prevent the problem of "oh, this is a battle between Turks and Europeans, *buzz* Mohacs" that can occur with tournaments that adhere to reasonable answer selection. Too often, it's easy to divine the answer based on category alone, then using the expected canon to narrow the potential answer space to one most likely answer. common link tossups do an admirable job of avoiding this phenomenon.
Yeah, there's nothing wrong having some of these tossups. The problem is when you have a lot of them - the volume of this set, for instance - and when they occur in some categories but not others. This tournament saw a lot of such questions in history, myth, and art. I don't necessarily agree with your reasoning of why link questions are good, (for example, "deep knowledge" on people named William tends to be totally random if two really good history players square off; it will merely be an issue of who has heard of which relatively unimportant William, there's no real way to rank them past a certain point) but even if we accept that premise, then by definition your skewing these categories and not the others. If the link tossups had been evenly distributed among every category I would have still disliked them but it wouldn't have been such an issue.

Also, noted practice "good question writing" that was evident by and large in this tournament prevented any "turks vs. white people = mohacs" buzzes, though I feel compelled to assert to you that whitey and the "turks" (by which I assume you mean Ottomans) have killed each other in numerous ways at numerous engagements, several of which are way easier than Mohacs and one of which came up as a part of a tossup at this tournament.

Different answers also lend themselves to common-link tossups with varying degrees of ease. For example, a "rulers of this nation" tossup is something I'd only sort of count as common link merely because it seemed to occur so much in world and ancient history questions at this tournament. I think it's a pretty acceptable way to ask about things and having a few of those doesn't suffer the common link problems I outlined above. I think that when you get to things like "Williams" or whatever you start to push it a bit and when you ask the freaking sky in works of art, or rabbits in mythology, or start searching through Sudanese tribal legends for leadins to 9-line tossups, it collectively goes over the line. Also, as a refutation of the whole "common link will make things more convertible for bad teams" argument, I'll cite the sky and rabbit tossups as counterexamples. I think the former is sort of neg bait with "horizon" or "background" or "sun" or whatever and could possibly result in you saying one of those things on a bounceback anyway, and tossups on things like El Greco (one of many artists mentioned in the tossup) or even Burial of Count Orgaz or Turner are going to be converted just as much. Similarly, I think that really long tossups on rabbits in myth are going to be blah blah blah to really about 95% of players until the last two lines, and I couldn't imagine that major figures from countless mythologies would have a lower conversion rate.

Again, these situations arise not when a few common link tossups are present but when a significant portion of them occur in the same tournament, and are exacerbated when they occur prominently in certain categories but rarely (or really, not at all) in others.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:21 am

I don't necessarily agree with your reasoning of why link questions are good, (for example, "deep knowledge" on people named William tends to be totally random if two really good history players square off; it will merely be an issue of who has heard of which relatively unimportant William, there's no real way to rank them past a certain point)
I disagree with this critique, on the grounds that non-link tossups are susceptible to the same problem. Who among us can really say which is more obscure, the fact that the First Battle of Mohacs (as Chris Ray witnessed in person, I don't know enough about Second Mohacs to discuss it) took place in Baranya Province, or the fact that its pretext was the failure of the losing commander to congratulate the winning commander on his accession to the throne? (I seem to remember a Mohacs tossup at JS Mill which might answer this for us if retrieved)

I agree that the tossup on "the sky" was absolutely bizarre, but I would like to defend list tossups in general. They let you use a lot of clues that probably would not otherwise come up without extending the answer space to something ridiculous. And I think new clues are generally good.
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Post by ezubaric » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:23 am

DumbJaques wrote: I guess I don't see the reason to have more than 1/1 per tournament. I'd much rather see those spots go to architecture or introducing some new artists or composers to the canon, if not to traditional fine arts material. This again might be a personal preference but I think it's safe to say this tournament had a noticeably higher old movie distribution than most.
I have to disagree with this. I felt the FA subdistribution was nicely divided between non-mainstream subcategories. I think film usually gets overlooked, and this was a move in the right direction.

This was a very good set, and I have no criticisms to offer (anything would just be pointless nitpicking). Hats off to the people involved.
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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:00 am

Verily this is the work of the true Jon Magin, as it kept my enjoyment of the weekend at a high level. This is truly another legendary feat from your year, as I will be proud to tell my grandchildren that I played in your first MLK.
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Post by kactigger » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:58 pm

Since there has been a lot of discussion of this "sky" tossup, can someone post it?

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Post by cornfused » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:13 pm

It's arts, so I had a hand in it... It's probably the most questionable of the arts in the set... if I get an OK from Chris, I'll post it.

As for film, there was 0/3 film in the arts distribution over 13 packets.

Distribution (as set by me) was 3/1 architecture, 0/3 film, 2.5/2 sculpture, 15/14 music, and 12.5/12 visual art (aka painting.)

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Post by magin » Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:41 pm

If teams want feedback on their packet (why some questions were cut, why we edited questions the way we did), please send me an email (with your original submitted packet attached, since we combined them) at jmagin AT umd DOT edu.

Also, several people have expressed concerns that some questions were too difficult, too long, or otherwise problematic. If people could post examples of specific questions they thought were flawed, I'll try to explain (at least for the ones I edited) the reasons I edited them the way I did, so people can better understand how the editing process worked for this tournament.

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Post by setht » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:32 pm

I thought the tournament set was good in general. I didn't particularly notice tossup length issues. There were some bonuses that ran pretty long, but I didn't think it was a big problem. We only heard 11 packets (more on this later), and I haven't received a copy of the set, so perhaps we missed out on a packet with exceptionally long tossups or bonuses.

Here are some quibbles on a couple questions:

-The neutron stars TU started off with a clue (glitches) that I associate with pulsars, but didn't have a prompt or accept for an early buzz. As far as I can tell, glitches are thought to occur in neutron stars in general, but they're observed only in pulsars (how else are you going to notice a sudden change in the rotation rate?). When I google '"neutron stars" glitches', I get a bunch of pages that talk about glitches in pulsars, and a couple pages that discuss neutron star glitches without using the word pulsar, but they all link to articles that do discuss pulsar glitches. I guess it's fine to discuss glitches as a phenomenon in neutron stars, but it seems unfortunate not to allow an answer of "pulsars" when it sounds like all the evidence for glitches comes specifically from pulsars.

-The Forseti tossup started out something like, "The goddess Fulla serves as an attendant to this god's grandmother." I buzzed on "attendant to this" and said Frigg, not realizing that the clue was going to take a left turn with "grandmother". The clue itself is fine, but I think the answer line should either have accepted Frigg before "grandmother" or the line should have been rewritten as something like, "This god's grandmother is served by the goddess Fulla."

-I don't understand the reasoning behind the answer line for the "boreal forest" bonus part. I wasn't aware that the taiga biome could refer to a region without trees, and having poked around a bit on Google I remain unconvinced: from what popped up when I googled 'taiga boreal forest', it seems that the usage of taiga to refer to a treeless region is endemic to Canada (and that tidbit came from Wikipedia; the first several hits all equate taiga with boreal forest). Also, it seems like the word taiga derives from a term for "marshy Siberian forest" or something like that.

-I also don't understand the reasoning behind the answer line for "Papa Doc Duvalier"--why isn't "Papa Doc Duvalier" sufficiently specific?

-Finally, I'm pretty sure "packing fraction" should be acceptable for "packing efficiency" (in fact, I think "packing fraction" might be more commonly used).


None of these questions changed the outcomes of any of our matches, but they kept some matches closer by costing us points, or kept some matches less close by costing our opponents some points. In particular, 4 of these came up in the last two packets, which were the semi-final and final rounds.

This brings me to what I thought was the biggest issue with the set: the number of packets, and in particular the number of packets that were blind to the MLK field. I gather there were 13 packets in the set; of these, a grand total of 2 were blind to the MLK field. As a result, MLK 2008 saw the return of the single-elimination playoff/final format. My team was the beneficiary, but it feels weird to win the final game on the last question and take 1st place with the same record as the 2nd place team; also, I'm guessing the 3rd place team was only 1 game behind the 1st and 2nd place teams.

I don't know if the editors were planning on writing editor packets and then had to drop that, or if they didn't notice what was happening as they set up packet combinations, or what. I guess future editors of tournaments with lots of mirrors should just try to keep in mind the needs of each site as they set up packet combinations.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:42 pm

I thought this was a great tournament; I loved both the tossups and the bonuses. If I have any quibble at all, it's that I thought the third parts of bonuses tended to be much harder than I think they needed to be. I don't have the set on hand, but some of the third parts struck me as being entirely ungettable. Other than that, everything was very good, and I'd like to thank Charles, Mike, Jonathan, and the rest of the Maryland gang for their hard work.

I don't understand the antipathy towards the common link tossup. I love those kinds of tossups, and I don't see any reason why people shouldn't write them. I didn't hear the much-maligned "sky" tossup, but if it was properly written, I don't see why this was a problem. Neither do I understand the "who knows which obscure fact about obscure Williams" objection, because that's an objection that could be made about any hard clue. In the hypothetical situation that matches two hypothetical superpowered history players who do not overlap in the knowledge of some particular Williams seems entirely academic to me. In practice, a well-written question using whatever hard clues will usually go to the person who has the most knowledge about that thing, and in any case, there have to be some hard clues at the beginning of any tossup.

In response to Seth, who posted while I was writing this, I just want to say that the poor formulation of the first Forseti clue and the answer underlining on Duvalier were both my fault. So sorry about that, I should have either had Frigg as alternatively acceptable before "this god's" or rewritten it the way you said. As for Duvalier, obviously either Francois or Papa Doc should have been acceptable. Again, my apologies.
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Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:45 pm

setht wrote:The Forseti tossup started out something like, "The goddess Fulla serves as an attendant to this god's grandmother." I buzzed on "attendant to this" and said Frigg, not realizing that the clue was going to take a left turn with "grandmother".
Good point there; I'll try to remember that. I was originally going to have the clue about Fulla receiving a ring from Nana and obscure the names some more, but I forgot about it. My error.
setht wrote:I also don't understand the reasoning behind the answer line for "Papa Doc Duvalier"--why isn't "Papa Doc Duvalier" sufficiently specific?
I'd tend to agree here.
setht wrote:Finally, I'm pretty sure "packing fraction" should be acceptable for "packing efficiency" (in fact, I think "packing fraction" might be more commonly used).
Also "atomic packing factor" should have been there. Again, oversight on my part.
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Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:08 pm

In regards to packets blind to MLK teams, I do apologize for not having more blind packets. Not to really blame CMU for this, but the fact that thier packet (which would have been blind to the field) suddenly couldn't be used as a playoff packet on the Thursday before the tournament (when they switched the site they were attending) sort of through us in a loop. However, I didn't raise any fuss about this because I don't see why it had to be an issue anyways.

Plenty of tournaments have packets consiting almost exclusively of non-editors packets, and are adjusted accordingly. I don't see why it could not have been made so that teams that were clearly not going to be in the top four could have their packets read in the playoffs rather than the prelims. Or, something like a top 5 team playoff could have been done where each team has a bye so you wouldn't have to worry about these things.

Edit: Okay, I see that MLK ran 10 prelim games, so the flexibility in the playoff rounds wasn't as great as I had thought when I just posted that. Even still, I think the playoffs could be set up to use a packet from a team that would obviously not be in the top bracket so that a round robin could be played.

Also, we had intended to produce more than 13 rounds, but we decided to cut the number down to 13 due to time constraints. We decided that it would be better to have 13 good packets than 14-16 not as good packets.
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Post by alkrav112 » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:47 pm

I want to preface this by saying that I think the tournament went really well, I'm very appreciative to have had a set of questions at all, and there wasn't really anything I would have changed.

I think there are a couple of issues with the solution Mike proposed in regards to the playoff format. The foremost is that it was very difficult to determine which four teams would make top bracket (given a fair parity between teams, and the fact that I wasn't able to distinguish the Minnesota A and B teams until the day of the tournament). Aside from that, I still had to read 9 prelim packets, one of which (Westbrook) I deemed too difficult for the prelims. Because Lafer/Westbrook made top bracket, I couldn't have used it as a playoff packet either. Of the 13 remaining packets, one was unedited, and two were blind (VCU and Brown). So I had 10 packets,9 of which I had to choose for the prelims. Finding the one packet out of those that would be usable for the playoffs was nigh impossible given, as aforementioned, the equality between these teams in general (and my lack of familiarity with many teams' abilities).

The other problem was that I had to schedule all the bye rounds and distribute schedules at some point before the tournament started. Coordinating all the byes and maintaining a fair balance between the prelim brackets, especially with the way the packets were combined, was a fairly difficult business. Trying to find three usable playoff packets on top of it - well, it just wasn't going to happen.

So, in summary, I was extremely happy with how the tournament went. There was some great competition, teams seemed to be fairly happy with both the questions and the structure, and I think the winner was as fairly determined as possible given the circumstances.

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Post by Gautam » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:53 pm

I enjoyed this set too, and kudos to the editing team for their awesome work. I really liked the Jazz questions, and was happy with all the Bio and Chem questions. The difficulty of the questions seemed to be ok - while it was noticeably harder than Penn Bowl 2007, it wasn't ridiculously hard, and most of the tossups were answerable. The bonuses were good. There weren't any easy 30s, though I think there were some which either had 2 easy parts and a difficult part, or 1 easy and 2 difficult parts, and no really "medium" part. I think it will be interesting to see how this set will be received at the DACQ tournament.

I would like to apologize for the ferromagnetism tossup blunder. I kinda had to write that in a hurry so that we could submit the packet before the deadline, and I overlooked this obvious fact. Again, my apologies.

One of things I was surprised with was the tossup on "quaternions." IIRC, it mentioned something to do with 4 dimensions and being used in vector graphics in the second line, at which point Matt Lafer buzzed in and got it right. I was just really confused as to why the said clue was placed there.

I also don't find anything wrong with common link tossups but I have to admit there were too many of them. I am fine with one or two per packet, but no more than that.

Also, one of the packets had at least 4 fine arts tossups (one common link, one musical piece, one on a painter, and one on a sculptor) which kind of skewed the distribution for that packet. I am talking about the packet that contained the tossup on noted psychologist Vygotsky (I am trying to be purposefully vague so as to not mention a bunch of questions that could be used for later). Maybe it was just me wrongly categorizing the tossups as belonging to the fine arts category. What do others think?

That's all.

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Post by setht » Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:00 pm

A couple more things...

I think "Vam" appears as the name of the river formed by Fenrir's drool in some reputable sources, so that should probably be listed alongside Van.

I didn't notice many repeats. The one that stuck with me was the same baseball giveaway to the two tossups on "white/whites"; this seemed especially bizarre in the history tossup, which seemed quite good otherwise.


On the arts distribution: my impression was that there was significantly more painting + sculpture than classical music, but perhaps that's a function of the packets we heard, or perhaps I'm just mistaken. I believe the semi-final and final rounds had 5 painting + sculpture tossups, and just 1 music tossup (and yes, Gautam, the semi-final packet did have 4 fine arts tossups).


I agree with various people that many bonuses did not have gettable 30s. Some of these bonuses seemed to try to compensate by having rather easy 20s, while others had a bit more differentiation between a 10 and a 20, but either way there's no good reason I can think of to put in a third part that no one (or almost no one) is going to get. I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of examples, since I don't have the set and I didn't write down bonus parts.

I'll also agree with Chris Ray that writing a bonus part on something new to quizbowl pretty much always counts as a hard part.


I'll disagree with Chris Ray and speak out in defense of common link tossups. I think they can be excellent, but they probably require more care than straightforward tossups. I think this set had several excellent common link tossups.

I believe there were 5 common link myth tossups in the 11 rounds read at MLK, of which 4 were on animals. This is a large fraction, but I don't think there's much reason to object, as long as each question is good. That being said, I'm not sure "rabbits in myth" is a good idea; I didn't hear how the question ended, but I'm having trouble coming up with anything easier than Ostara/Easter as a giveaway, and I'm also having trouble coming up with much useful material for middle clues. Perhaps the writer was clever and diligent enough to find good material that I'm not coming up with. I do think the lead-in on rabbits was pretty good, I just don't see how to continue the question in a reasonable fashion. The other animal tossup answers seemed fine--I didn't hear various parts of them, but there's plenty of good material on snakes/monkeys/deer. Similarly, there's presumably plenty of good material on "immortality" after the Maui lead-in. In other categories, "sky" did seem rather suspect as a tossup answer (again, this is a problem of answer selection or clue choice, not with the concept of a common-link question), but the "white" history question seemed like a good way to bring in the White Huns and the White Horde as fine lead-in/medium-hard level clues before moving on to the White Army and other, easier stuff.

I also don't understand the issue with having these questions concentrated in some categories. Are people arguing that these questions play substantially differently than straightforward questions? I don't see any real difference between a well-written common link tossup and a well-written straightforward tossup, so I don't see how it could matter if there are a bunch in art but none in literature, for example.


Moving back to the issue of the number of blind packets for the Michigan site, I wanted to note that Michigan ran 9 prelim games: we split into two brackets of 9 and ran bracketed round-robins with byes. In order to do a normal playoff and final scheme, I think we would have needed 5 more packets: 3 for a bracketed playoff, then 2 for a best-of-3 final. Given that there were only 13 packets, I guess Andy could have run the 9 round bracketed RR, then a 3 round playoff RR, then a one game final if there was a tie in record at the top; this isn't a great finals scheme, but I guess it'd be okay. Unfortunately, this would involve using the Lafer/Westbrook finals-level packet for some prelim game, and an extra bye for two teams in some lower bracket during the playoffs.

I generally agree with Mike's philosophy of shooting for higher quality packets at the cost of packet quantity, up to a point. In general, for tournaments with lots of mirror sites, I'd say editors should shoot for 5 packets plus prelims (unless some site is doing a 13-team prelim RR and then straight into finals, or something like that). In the case of MLK, this would have taken one more packet, at which point I would have said it's worth using the harder Lafer/Westbrook packet in the prelims and giving two teams another bye during the playoffs in order to run a more tradition playoff/finals scheme. As things turned out, I'm not sure there was a particularly good scheduling option for MLK.


And now I see Andy's post. If one of the 13 packets was, in fact, unedited, then I'd say MLK was two packets away from having a better shceduling option.

I had a good time at MLK. I thought the questions were excellent, and the competition was great. The main reason I brought up the blind packets/scheduling issue was that I felt bad for the other teams in the top bracket (and for any teams in the other brackets that lost close matches).

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Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:48 pm

That second baseball giveaway (the one not in the white history tossup) was mainly done for comedic purposes.

The too hard to get 30 bonus, at least on the questions I wrote, was mainly due to (as mentioned earlier) not the best grasp on the harder parts of the canon. It was not my intention to make them so hard, but unfortunately they turned out more difficult than I planned in many cases.

Myth was one of the last subjects edited, which is why such a high proportion of common link stuff slipped in.

There may have been less classical music than usual because we were using a 5/5 total distribution for fine arts and RMP. Rather than making sure that we had a music tossup in there, for some packets we probably just didn't use such a tossup if it wasn't very good. And, again, because we were running behind, we became more focused on having 20/20 edited tossups than having a completely balanced disitrbution. I had edited more non-musical fine arts to begin with (although not a great number) because I have a greater knowledge in visual fine arts than musical fine arts.

To clarify on the packet situation, there were 14 total packets with one unedited. We looked at some recent tournaments to figure out how many packets they had used, and 13 usable packets seemed to be a reasonable even including two finals packets. The only tournaments this year that we counted to have exceeded that limit which was ACF Fall, which ran on easier and shorter questions. It all ultimately came down to time, though. There were a few packets that were decent that if we had a few more days to edit we would have been able to make full packets rather than combining them.

Oh, and about geography: The low distribution was a result of a few factors. First, I personally don't value geography very highly in quizbowl, which is why we didn't have an explicit requirement in the guidelines. This result in not very many packets coming in with geography questions. Next, due to Charles' trip to Central America, he was only able to edit the first few packets of the tournament. By the time he left, it was not immediately apparent that there was a lack of geography. By the time he got back to edit again (about 8 hours before the tournament started), most of the your choice was already done so there wasn't too much need for additional geography.
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Post by theMoMA » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:19 pm

Between the fine arts and trash distros, it seemed like there was a lot of film in the set. At least 1/1 in many packets. This probably has more to do with what was submitted than anything else, but I felt that the architecture/statue subdistribution of fine arts suffered, as did the sports and video games categories of trash.

Jerry hit the nail on the head about common link tossups, and I completely agree with what he and Seth are saying.

As to what Chris said, I can't say that I agree with much of it. I don't see how knowledge of things in the beginning of a common link tossup is any more random than any deep knowledge is. And I don't see how asking on "the freaking sky" is any different from asking a question on any important common attribute of a painting, since there are many really important paintings whose most celebrated and important feature is the sky.

I'd argue that it's better than asking about dogs in painting, or many other common-link painting questions I've seen, because the sky is actually the most prominent feature of three of the most important works in painting. Really, the only argument I can see against it is that players don't expect a tossup on it. I mean, the clues are specific and academically important.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:37 pm

Wow, this has unexpectedly turned into a behemoth of a post. Oh well, here goes...

Yeah, gosh, I have such a love-hate relationship with the common link tossup. I guess it's hard for me to criticize them too much, since I know that people are admirably attempting to get new information into tossups instead of writing on the same old stuff and I've written plenty of them myself. I do however disagree with Chris Ray when he intimates that there's just all kinds of stuff out there to write on in a unique and non-transparent way; in fact I think amongst the elite writers and players these days, quizbowl answers are sort of reaching the omega point where it's all been done and we're desperately searching for new and exciting stuff to trot out there, and yet often you can't just go ahead and write on something at the next tier of difficulty because most teams can't play at that level. Eh, this is a topic for a more philosophical thread anyway. I'd just note that there probably should never be more than 2 common link tus per packet and that some of them at this tournament were not the best(sky, immortality, rabbits, white - all not very good tossups in my mind for different reasons).

That said, I thought the tournament was a very solid regular-difficulty effort. Like Hart says, I see no reason to whine about a handful of misplaced clues, but I'd note that there were a fair number of clues which seemed to fall from the sky and be out-of-place. It's funny, I think a lot of players kind of prefer this - being thrown cookies they can buzz on fairly early in questions or having clues a little out of place, as opposed to having questions which are "super-pyramidal" and super-dense, which tends to result in some people getting agitated that they can't buzz early enough. Certainly, however, these clue problems were nowhere near egregious enough to affect outcomes of matches or even get on anyone's nerves, which indicates a pretty solid effort all around. I'll note in passing that I really hated the VCU packet and threw a hissy fit during it...eh, maybe it was just me, but I found it a really unfitting packet to settle a tournament on. By contrast, the Brown packet played the next elimination playoff round was much better.

Anyways, I'm going to strongly disagree with people on the third parts of bonuses issue, and say that they were just fine. The only time it became annoying was when there were two really easy parts that were sure to be eaten up by anyone of reasonable experience and then one really hard part (something I've done in the past, and can be easy to do, but shouldn't be done). Beyond those cases, though, I didn't find many bonus parts to be ridiculous or what people often call "ungettable" around here....I mean, here's the problem: let's say I want a third part for a Norse myth bonus and I don't know a great deal about Norse myth (this is just an example...I mean, for Pete's sake, everyone knows gosh damned everything about Norse myth, but bear with me). Now, I certainly don't set out thinking "mwa-ha-ha, I'm going to find something that will stump even Seth Teitler!" (which is what people who complain about hard third parts often accuse people of thinking). But sometimes that just ends up happening, because I find something that looks hard, but reasonable, and I have to try to guess whether a handful of people who are pretty knowledgeable about Norse myth will get it. That's a tough guess. I mean, on the canonical stuff, a lot of us kind of know pretty well what's "in the bag" - we know what each other will get partly cause we've seen each other get that shit before. We know it's kosher. But, you get on the fringes, it's a big guessing game - and often, you just guess wrong, and often there just ain't that perfect bonus part which is just right like Baby Bear's porridge.

On the packets issue, I say (and this is sure to be another exciting minority stance on my part): always go quality over quantity. 13 packets is more than enough for a tournament; most teams and people are too damned giddy to play any more than that anyway. But, I say you should always try to find a way to play every packet there is at a tournament...maybe it wasn't possible here, but you should try to do it, even at the cost of not putting that final hyphen on a packet where you crazily tried to combine the packets of 5 teams in the hopes that you'd convince them that you actually used their thoroughly unusable packet. I'm not a fan of "finals packets" or "leftover packets" or "just-in-case packets;" hell, I'm not even a fan of a packet containing any more than 21 questions - put quite simply, I hate it when there are questions that don't get used. Takes too damned long to research to write them, too damned long to write them, and too damned long to edit them - so use them. Outside of a national tournament or something, if there's a tie when everything's said and done, it's not that tragic that you don't have one last packet to break it - just use bonus conversion if you have to, it's more fair anyway. In most cases, though, there won't even be these types of ties if you structure things intelligently.

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Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:43 pm

And I don't see how asking on "the freaking sky" is any different from asking a question on any important common attribute of a painting, since there are many really important paintings whose most celebrated and important feature is the sky.
The problem is not theoretical but practical; it just seems like there's a high probability of someone buzzing in and saying something very similar or becoming confused. It's just not really a risk worth taking, in my opinion, when there are numerous other common link things you could ask (not to mention numerous other paintings/artists).

I feel like my general point is being a little bit missed. I don't have a theoretical objection to common link tossups (though I personally am not a huge fan, there's no objective reason I'm putting forth for their general inferiority). The issue was not that common link = bad, but that there were too many common link tossups in this set, and that they were in specific categories. I actually think common link tossups are a pretty good way to introduce new stuff to the canon, but having something approaching like 1 out of every 5 history tossups as common link does cause an issue, I think.

I'd put forth that those tossups do play a little differently, as it plays to people who have a perhaps more cursory knowledge of lesser-known things much more than it plays to people who have deep knowledge of some better-known things. I don't really have an opinion in terms of one of these being better than the other; it doesn't really matter. But when you have these occur with high frequency in certain categories and low to zero frequency in others, it does create a discrepancy. This is why I think you can get all the benefits of having link tossups when you keep their numbers down, but start to get into issues when you have so many of them. Also, when you have so many, you do run into the issue of "shall I write yet another common link tossup on dogs in art or bulls in mythology, or shall I write a tossup on something that isn't really prominent/is sort of confusing to write as a common link." That isn't really an issue when link tossup numbers are kept relatively low.

In summation, I'm not arguing that link tossups are inferior or that people should stop writing them. I'm arguing that editors should perhaps just be aware of how many they have, and if it seems like they have a lot, check which categories they're in.
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:56 pm

I'd put forth that those tossups do play a little differently, as it plays to people who have a perhaps more cursory knowledge of lesser-known things much more than it plays to people who have deep knowledge of some better-known things.
Just want to quickly note that this ain't true. I mean, heavens, I'm the posterchild for "player who has cursory knowledge of lots of really obscure shit." Yet, whenever I hear a history tossup start with something like "this adjective" or "this word," I think "huh, here's a tossup I'm not going to get...or I might neg it." And, damned if I don't turn out to be right most often! I think tus like "white" often just end up confusing the all-mighty fuck out of me, but whatever...I'da probably just written that tu on the White Horde. Bleh, I know, I like writing on hard stuff.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:56 pm

DumbJaques wrote:I feel like my general point is being a little bit missed. I don't have a theoretical objection to common link tossups (though I personally am not a huge fan, there's no objective reason I'm putting forth for their general inferiority). The issue was not that common link = bad, but that there were too many common link tossups in this set, and that they were in specific categories. I actually think common link tossups are a pretty good way to introduce new stuff to the canon, but having something approaching like 1 out of every 5 history tossups as common link does cause an issue, I think.
How is n common link tossups just right but n+1 common link tossups too many? What criteria are you using to decide this? It seems like a pretty lazy argument to me and one that often boils down to "I like this kind of question but not this other kind of question."
I'd put forth that those tossups do play a little differently, as it plays to people who have a perhaps more cursory knowledge of lesser-known things much more than it plays to people who have deep knowledge of some better-known things.
This is all academic because such people don't actually exist. It's entirely possible for someone to know a lot of minor clues about obscure commonly named things and still not know very much about any one of them in particular, but as a rule, good players will be good on both common link tossups and non-common link tossups because they know a lot of stuff. That's why they're good players.
I don't really have an opinion in terms of one of these being better than the other; it doesn't really matter. But when you have these occur with high frequency in certain categories and low to zero frequency in others, it does create a discrepancy. This is why I think you can get all the benefits of having link tossups when you keep their numbers down, but start to get into issues when you have so many of them.
What issues are these that you're concerned about? Is the discrepancy in common link tossups between science and history bothering you or something? Science questions don't lend themselves well to "common link" tossups, although from another perspective, you could argue that a well-written science tossup is often already "common link" anyway; after all, many science tossups have clues that go like "this effect has such and such an application. Another application of this effect is blahdy blah. etc."

Also, when you have so many, you do run into the issue of "shall I write yet another common link tossup on dogs in art or bulls in mythology, or shall I write a tossup on something that isn't really prominent/is sort of confusing to write as a common link." That isn't really an issue when link tossup numbers are kept relatively low.
It's all just a matter of personal preferences. If I've recently learned some cool things about bulls in mythology, then I may write about bulls in mythology; otherwise, I might write about the Cretan bull. I don't see the above complaint as an issue, because no one decides "I'm going to write so many common link tossups and so many of the other kind," before writing. People just write on things they find interesting.
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Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:28 pm

How is n common link tossups just right but n+1 common link tossups too many? What criteria are you using to decide this? It seems like a pretty lazy argument to me and one that often boils down to "I like this kind of question but not this other kind of question."
I have no desire to implement a formula for this or any other issue, nor have I really claimed I have any authority or experience that would make it meaningful. And I don't dislike common link tossups - I dislike that they can sometimes lend themselves to the frustrating situations Ryan described, as well as the other issues I identified that can sometimes arise in higher frequency in common link questions. I definitely don't want to see common link questions go away, nor do I want to see them decrease from the levels that occurred in every other tournament I've read or played at. Again, I don't have a formula but I think once you hit sky and rabbit it might be time to reign it in a bit. I, like Ryan, am also crazy and want more questions on the White Huns.
This is all academic because such people don't actually exist. It's entirely possible for someone to know a lot of minor clues about obscure commonly named things and still not know very much about any one of them in particular, but as a rule, good players will be good on both common link tossups and non-common link tossups because they know a lot of stuff. That's why they're good players.
I guess we just disagree on the existence of these people, then. I think in high school I was one of the people who had a bit of knowledge on lots of obscure things (one of the reasons I always faired better at PACE than any other tournaments) that was probably due to reading lots of college questions. I think that now I'm squarely in the other category in everything that isn't non-western history due to my combined inexperience, recent odyssey of high school question writing, and general interests. Obviously good players are good on both, but I don't think it's impossible to identify which of the two they might be a little bit stronger in.
What issues are these that you're concerned about? Is the discrepancy in common link tossups between science and history bothering you or something? Science questions don't lend themselves well to "common link" tossups, although from another perspective, you could argue that a well-written science tossup is often already "common link" anyway; after all, many science tossups have clues that go like "this effect has such and such an application. Another application of this effect is blahdy blah. etc."
Jerry makes a good point about the science questions. A good science question on a person is pretty much exclusively by definition a common link question. I think an analogous situation exists in, say, history, where a good question on an empire would sort of be something like a common link question. I just think that tossups that are exclusively about one specific thing are different than tossups that are about things that have no particular connection, for the reasons we disagree about above. I'm curious as to whether you would prefer all tournaments to have the common link presence we saw at TIT/MLK, or you prefer slightly lower or slightly higher levels, or if you just don't care.
It's all just a matter of personal preferences. If I've recently learned some cool things about bulls in mythology, then I may write about bulls in mythology; otherwise, I might write about the Cretan bull. I don't see the above complaint as an issue, because no one decides "I'm going to write so many common link tossups and so many of the other kind," before writing. People just write on things they find interesting.
Exactly. That's why I didn't say "STOP WRITING COMMON LINK TOSSUPS OR YOU RUIN QUIZBOWL," but merely suggested it's one of many things editors might want to look at if they get time. Since time is almost certainly better spent doing numerous other things with a set, the whole thing's something of an academic issue. It's not really something that I wanted to get into a huge argument about, and I felt that it was a much smaller issue in this otherwise quite good set than something like, say, the third bonus part thing we both discussed.
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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:09 pm

DumbJaques wrote:And I don't dislike common link tossups - I dislike that they can sometimes lend themselves to the frustrating situations Ryan described, as well as the other issues I identified that can sometimes arise in higher frequency in common link questions.
Your (and Ryan's) mileage may vary, but I have seen no evidence that any of the issues you guys are talking about are a problem. They're not just not a problem, there aren't even hints of a problem as far as I can tell. Most of what I'm hearing amounts to vague conjectures that may or may not be true and for which we don't have any evidence one way or the other.
Again, I don't have a formula but I think once you hit sky and rabbit it might be time to reign it in a bit. I, like Ryan, am also crazy and want more questions on the White Huns.
So you don't have a formula, or any real evidence, but you just want to see fewer of these kinds of questions than there were in the TIT set and more of the other kind. Your personal preference is your prerogative, of course, and you don't have to defend it, but if you want to make some sort of objective case for why it should be this way, you haven't done that.

I don't see why tossups on either skies or rabbits indicate that anything should be reined in. I thought the rabbit tossup was pretty cool and I learned a lot from it, and I didn't hear the sky question but if it was well written I don't see what the problem is. So far, your complain about these tossups hasn't been founded on any actual problem with the questions themselves.
I guess we just disagree on the existence of these people, then. I think in high school I was one of the people who had a bit of knowledge on lots of obscure things (one of the reasons I always faired better at PACE than any other tournaments) that was probably due to reading lots of college questions.
High school and college quizbowl are two very different games. You can get away with a lot in high school by knowing a little bit about random stuff because the plausible answer space is pretty small, relatively speaking. You're far less likely to do well that way in the college game because people with lots of knowledge just have lots of knowledge in general; they know lots of things in depth and also know lots of random, obscure things that they just picked up.
I think that now I'm squarely in the other category in everything that isn't non-western history due to my combined inexperience, recent odyssey of high school question writing, and general interests. Obviously good players are good on both, but I don't think it's impossible to identify which of the two they might be a little bit stronger in.
Sorry to sound harsh, but that's your own personal problem. It shouldn't be at all surprising that writing high school questions isn't going to help you all that much in the college game. It's a little disingenuous to blame question construction for anything here; it also seems disingenuous, at least to me, for a player who has put up some pretty impressive numbers at recent events to complain about "inexperience." You're way more experienced today than I was at the same time in my playing career.
Jerry makes a good point about the science questions. A good science question on a person is pretty much exclusively by definition a common link question. I think an analogous situation exists in, say, history, where a good question on an empire would sort of be something like a common link question. I just think that tossups that are exclusively about one specific thing are different than tossups that are about things that have no particular connection, for the reasons we disagree about above.
I don't see how these tossups are different in any substantial way. That is the core of my disagreement with you.
I'm curious as to whether you would prefer all tournaments to have the common link presence we saw at TIT/MLK, or you prefer slightly lower or slightly higher levels, or if you just don't care.
To be honest, I just don't care. I used to care, but then I realized that it didn't matter; the only thing that mattered was playing on good questions, so now I worry a lot less about this sort of thing. I don't even notice how many common link or whatever kind of questions there are.
Exactly. That's why I didn't say "STOP WRITING COMMON LINK TOSSUPS OR YOU RUIN QUIZBOWL," but merely suggested it's one of many things editors might want to look at if they get time. Since time is almost certainly better spent doing numerous other things with a set, the whole thing's something of an academic issue. It's not really something that I wanted to get into a huge argument about, and I felt that it was a much smaller issue in this otherwise quite good set than something like, say, the third bonus part thing we both discussed.
It's an academic issue because it appears to be founded on pretty vague complaints about nonexistent situations where wide beats deep or something like that, as well as vague hand-waving about how a common link tossup on rabbits means you've gone too far.
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Post by First Chairman » Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:57 pm

Excuse me... this should be entertaining...

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Post by wasprsilds » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:52 pm

setht wrote:That being said, I'm not sure "rabbits in myth" is a good idea; I didn't hear how the question ended, but I'm having trouble coming up with anything easier than Ostara/Easter as a giveaway, and I'm also having trouble coming up with much useful material for middle clues.
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Post by DumbJaques » Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:33 am

Sorry to sound harsh, but that's your own personal problem. It shouldn't be at all surprising that writing high school questions isn't going to help you all that much in the college game. It's a little disingenuous to blame question construction for anything here; it also seems disingenuous, at least to me, for a player who has put up some pretty impressive numbers at recent events to complain about "inexperience." You're way more experienced today than I was at the same time in my playing career.
Dude, chill. You've really misinterpreted what I was saying. I wasn't identifying a link between my own playing style and my arguments about the questions, I just used myself to illustrate the existence of a type of player you claim doesn't exist. I used myself because that's the player I'm most familiar with. . . . I'm not "blaming question construction" for anything; there's nothing to blame anything for. For someone who "doesn't care anymore" about these kind of issues, I'm surprised you felt the need to start making this personal. How experienced I am as a sophomore relative to your personal experience at that same time is all kinds of immaterial, particularly when I was just using myself as an example. I'm not sure why I'm striking you here as disingenuous or whatever by identifying myself as inexperienced at the college level; I certainly think of myself that way. MLK was something like my 11th college tournament. As has been pointed out a huge number of times in various situations (by a group of people that notably includes both of us), being experienced does not mean you're a good player and being a good player doesn't mean you have to be as experienced as other people. I'm certainly not "complaining" about my experience, I was just identifying the fact that I am inexperienced relative to, say, you. Also, you're just plain wrong about the writing high school questions not helping me much. It's helped me plenty, it helped me a number of times just Saturday. It's helped me in a different way than reading packets would help me, just like studying two different ways would lead to two different development results. . . that's my whole point, that players do in fact develop differently. Obviously nobody's saying that good college players suck in either sense, but that doesn't mean they can't have relative strengths, I wouldn't think.

I meant the comment merely to illustrate what goes into creating the type of player differences you claimed I made up. I tried to explain it rather than just saying "I am such a player" with no explanation, primarily because you keep going on about my "vague handwaving" or whatever. Why you're now even bringing up something as completely unrelated to this whole argument as some of my tournament statistics, I'm not really sure. You have a very good point that I have not conveyed some of the objective aspects of why I don't think a lot of link tossups is a great thing; I haven't been able to articulate my opinion tremendously well, although I think I did a little more than vague handwaving. I did, however, make it pretty clear that my personal dislike of common link tossups wasn't what I was trying to debate, and indeed that I don't really have much of a personal dislike for common link tossups.

If you don't accept my argument, yeah, that's fine, it wasn't the best articulated, although I think you're just ignoring some of the objective issues I raised. Andrew and Seth both made refutation posts that actually do resonate with me - I find them to be compelling enough that I've sort of changed my position toward the indifference level that you claim you now occupy. I'd personally like to be able to use discussion threads, among a multitude of other uses, as a way to refine my own views on quizbowl from hearing other opinions. I would have much preferred to hear yours without the personal stuff and terse dismissals of my argument, and I hope I've made it clear to you you really misinterpreted my example. Feel free to continue writing common link tossups to your heart's content, and please feel encouraged to write more questions about people named Dick Johnson.
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Post by cornfused » Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:34 am

setht wrote:On the arts distribution: my impression was that there was significantly more painting + sculpture than classical music, but perhaps that's a function of the packets we heard, or perhaps I'm just mistaken. I believe the semi-final and final rounds had 5 painting + sculpture tossups, and just 1 music tossup (and yes, Gautam, the semi-final packet did have 4 fine arts tossups).

Again, there were 15/14 music and 15/14 sculpture/art, along with 3/4 other. As for the semifinal packet with its 4/2... The common link question was in fact a "your choice" and not a fine arts... so I didn't see it. If I had known an extra vis art tossup was coming in, I would've tried to get more music involved.
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:And, again, because we were running behind, we became more focused on having 20/20 edited tossups than having a completely balanced disitrbution. I had edited more non-musical fine arts to begin with (although not a great number) because I have a greater knowledge in visual fine arts than musical fine arts.
This probably balanced out with my knowledge, which is definitely slanted towards music. I guess we pulled an NAQT here - some packets are 4 vis art to 1 music, etc... but overall, it's 29 to 29.

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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Jan 22, 2008 3:13 am

I dunno, I enjoyed the classical music and thought there was plenty, although occasionally there were multiple in one thing like opera per game. Still, they were well enough written and represented that I don't feel a need to complain.
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Post by The Time Keeper » Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:14 am

I liked the packets.

It was too goddamn cold on Saturday.

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Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:38 am

Dolemite wrote:I liked the packets.

It was too goddamn cold on Saturday.
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Post by pray for elves » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:35 am

Dolemite wrote:I liked the packets.

It was too goddamn cold on Saturday.
I assume this means it was a COLD DAY IN HELL

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Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:37 am

DeisEvan wrote:
Dolemite wrote:I liked the packets.

It was too goddamn cold on Saturday.
I assume this means it was a COLD DAY IN HELL
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Post by setht » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:29 pm

Ryan Westbrook wrote:I'd just note that there probably should never be more than 2 common link tus per packet and that some of them at this tournament were not the best(sky, immortality, rabbits, white - all not very good tossups in my mind for different reasons).
I don't see a need to set a limit on the number of common link tossups in any packet or in any subject set for a tournament--as long as they're good questions, I don't see any reason to discriminate against them. If they're not good questions, they shouldn't be in the set in the first place. I thought some more about Chris Ray's claim that common-link tossups play differently from straightforward tossups, and I think that's true of not-so-good common-link tossups: a weak common-link tossup often plays differently from a weak straightforward tossup. I claim that common-link tossups can be written so that they are fully pyramidal, don't reward random guessing, don't allow "figure out the puzzle"-type buzzes that aren't based on solid knowledge, and in general play very much like good, straightforward questions. Assuming such questions exist, I see no reason to call for a limit on their number, relative to straightforward questions.

Now, of the tossups Ryan lists, I only heard the "sky" tossup in its entirety. Andrew H. makes a good point in saying that most or all of the material in the tossup referred to paintings in which the sky is a particularly important feature, but my impression is that it didn't do a great job of narrowing down on the intended answer. I think someone said the tossup went dead in one room because one side negged and the other side said "night" after hearing the van Gogh clue. I don't have the questions, so I can't see whether the answer line included things like "horizon," "atmosphere," "the air," etc. Even if the answer line does include those possibilities, it's kind of unfortunate to have a tossup with so many possible answers, since it can cause paralysis in players with good knowledge that can't decide between two possible answers and don't know that the answer line contains both. So I would say that this is a common-link tossup with an interesting idea for an answer and plenty of good clue material, but perhaps there were some issues with the execution.

I thought the immortality tossup had a good lead-in that uniquely specified one answer in a non-confusing manner. I'm confident there's plenty of good material available for continuing a tossup on immortality in myth, but I don't know if the tossup fell apart after the lead-in. What was your objection, Ryan?

As I said before, rabbits in myth seems like a hard subject to find good late clues for, and the Monty Python giveaway posted by wasprsilds seems to confirm this assessment. Perhaps this one should have been skipped in favor of a straightforward myth tossup or a common-link tossup on a more amenable subject.

I don't agree with Ryan's objections to the white tossup (Ryan, I assume you mean the white history tossup). The stuff about the White Huns seemed like good lead-in stuff to me, the stuff about the White Horde seemed like good early-middle stuff to me, and the stuff about the White Army seemed like good late-middle stuff to me. I think the giveaway should have stuck with something historical; is that your only objection? If your objection is that the stuff about Tokhtamysh put you on the track of "golden," I'd say that (unless I'm misremembering) the question's not to blame. I'd also say that at pretty much every tournament, a tossup like this one is much better than a tossup on the White Huns, because this one can be answered by lots of teams. As a writer submitting a packet, it's much better to try to write a good common-link tossup on "white" than a good straightforward tossup on "the White Huns" because your beautiful White Huns tossup is almost certainly going to get tossed out immediately, and then the editor has to come up with a replacement (unless the rest of your questions are less insane).
Ryan Westbrook wrote:I'd note that there were a fair number of clues which seemed to fall from the sky and be out-of-place. It's funny, I think a lot of players kind of prefer this - being thrown cookies they can buzz on fairly early in questions or having clues a little out of place, as opposed to having questions which are "super-pyramidal" and super-dense, which tends to result in some people getting agitated that they can't buzz early enough.
Perhaps they seemed out-of-place to you, but I think your sense of how a tossup pyramid should look in detail is... unusual. We all agree that tossups should be pyramidal, we all agree that not many teams should be able to buzz on the lead-in, and we all agree that almost all teams should be able to buzz on the giveaway, but I think your sense of what should happen in the middle is rather different from, say, what I think should happen. It sounds like you like to see almost no teams buzz on the lead-in, almost no teams plus epsilon buzz on the next clue, almost no teams plus two epsilon buzz on the third clue, and so on for a while before you relent in the last clue or two before the giveaway. This does allow for more of a contemplative game, as teams are given much more time to chew on larger mouthfuls of lead-in and near-lead-in level clues, but it's not clear to me that this is what should happen. What's so wrong with having people buzz in the second or third line of a tossup? If there are buzzer races in the second or third line of a tossup (or on the lead-in, or on the next-to-last clue), that could well be a sign of poor clue placement, but I don't think that's what was happening at MLK--I don't know, maybe you saw more buzzer races than I did.
Ryan Westbrook wrote:Anyways, I'm going to strongly disagree with people on the third parts of bonuses issue, and say that they were just fine. The only time it became annoying was when there were two really easy parts that were sure to be eaten up by anyone of reasonable experience and then one really hard part (something I've done in the past, and can be easy to do, but shouldn't be done). Beyond those cases, though, I didn't find many bonus parts to be ridiculous or what people often call "ungettable" around here....I mean, here's the problem: let's say I want a third part for a Norse myth bonus and I don't know a great deal about Norse myth (this is just an example...I mean, for Pete's sake, everyone knows gosh damned everything about Norse myth, but bear with me). Now, I certainly don't set out thinking "mwa-ha-ha, I'm going to find something that will stump even Seth Teitler!" (which is what people who complain about hard third parts often accuse people of thinking). But sometimes that just ends up happening, because I find something that looks hard, but reasonable, and I have to try to guess whether a handful of people who are pretty knowledgeable about Norse myth will get it. That's a tough guess. I mean, on the canonical stuff, a lot of us kind of know pretty well what's "in the bag" - we know what each other will get partly cause we've seen each other get that shit before. We know it's kosher. But, you get on the fringes, it's a big guessing game - and often, you just guess wrong, and often there just ain't that perfect bonus part which is just right like Baby Bear's porridge.
Okay, when someone doesn't know how hard something is they can make mistakes, and that's certainly understandable. However, I think there are writers out there that should know better that aren't taking the time to look over their bonuses (in areas that they do know well) to check that they are 30'able. From a gameplay/competition point of view, this is poor because it doesn't allow as much distinction between teams. I would say that "learning crazy new stuff through quizbowl is great!" is a fine point of view, but it has to be subordinate to the "quizbowl is a competition that seeks to rank teams based on knowledge" point of view.
DumbJaques wrote:Andrew and Seth both made refutation posts that actually do resonate with me - I find them to be compelling enough that I've sort of changed my position toward the indifference level that you claim you now occupy. I'd personally like to be able to use discussion threads, among a multitude of other uses, as a way to refine my own views on quizbowl from hearing other opinions. I would have much preferred to hear yours without the personal stuff and terse dismissals of my argument
I want to point out that Chris Ray has not only been persuaded to a new point of view by calm argumentation, he has called for more of the same on this here discussion forum. My work here is done.

On a much less agreeable note, I want to apologize to Andrew Hart and anyone else who buzzed with "goat" on the lead-in to my tossup on deer in myth: I neglected to include anything to make it clear that I was talking about Eikthyrnir, not Heidrun. Sorry about that.

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Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:54 pm

This was my original immortality TU; I don't think it was that drastically changed:
According to one story, Maui was killed by the vagina of Hine-nui-te-po in an attempt to make this property widespread by crushing her heart. Meghanada got it, along with a new name, by defeating Indra, while Zephyrus was the father of Balius and Xanthus, two horses with this characteristic. Red Boy’s attempt to gain it was thwarted by Sun Wukong, who later achieved it himself by eating some fruit. That fruit also gave this to He Xiangu and was carried by Zhong Liquan, members of a famous group that exhibited it. Unlike her siblings, Medusa did not exhibit this property, which Cheiron bestowed upon Prometheus after being hit by an arrow. FTP, name this characteristic, which Castor was allowed to share with Pollux and which names eight characters in Daoist mythology.
ANSWER: immortality (accept other word forms)
Edit: Also, I heard Seth did a hilarious double-take when he heard the leadin I wrote for my Roman myth bonus. This warms the cockles of my heart.
Last edited by Auks Ran Ova on Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Gautam » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:47 am

While we're discussing common link tossups anyway, I will provide my perspective of common link myth tossups.

I am generally not a good myth player at all, and I don't think I have gotten very many myth Qs at any level of quiz bowl. However, for obvious reasons, I have a decent grasp of Indian myth, and naturally, I get some tossups in that category.

My knowledge of said category isn't really that useful to my team. I haven't made any statistical analysis of this, but from what I see, Indian myth doesn't come up nearly as often as does Norse myth or Greek myth. I mean, I am not objecting to this at all. There are several topics from Indian myth which can be easily tossed-up, but will probably go dead in several rooms. THough I must that if tournament after tournament there are a bunch of amazing myth tossups, but not a single instance where I can use my knowledge and get a TU, I would probably not be happy.

Over the last few months, I have played 7 non-subject tournaments of varying difficulty (EFT, ACF Fall, Deep Bench, Titanomachy, MLK, IO, Westbrook doubles) and I have been happy to be able to get a few myth questions from my knowledge. And guess what, they were common link questions, and I got them at Indian clues I knew. For instance, if I were playing on the immortality tossup Rob wrote, I would definitely get the tossup at the Meghdut defeating Indra clue. Of course, I would probably be beaten to it by better players, but that isn't important. Basically, I am trying to give an example of a case where it's not necessarily random knowledge that's allowing me to get tossups right; rather, it's my knowledge in a well defined area that helps.

This could probably be generalized to cases where people really like studying popes or kings systematically do well on common link tossups on said categories, but I don't think I have seen any player like that, and it seems too unrealistic.

Just my opinion.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:02 am

Okay, now that Rob has posted his immortality tossup, I can comment on what I find frustrating about it. First off, I admit that it is a creative idea and there are lots of examples of immortality playing a key role in myth. However...let's start with the first line - "in an attempt to make this property widespread" is an awfully confusing sentence. First of all, it's weird to call immortality a "property," and second it's kind of nebulous to say "make it widespread" - I assume, given the time to sit here and look at the tossup in text, that this means Maui wanted lots of people to be immortal. Confusing though.

Next clue is "Meghanada got it, along with a new name, by defeating Indra" - more confusion. "Got it," huh? I mean, again, this makes sense when you go back and think about it, but when I sat there listening to "property" and "got it," I was pretty darned confused.

The next clue starts out saying "Zephyrus was the father of Balius and Xanthus, two horses" - well, I knew all that, but that doesn't help me decide what I should answer, unless I engage in some high-quality figuring it out. I have to wait until the specific line "with this characteristic." At about this point, I believe whichever team we were playing buzzed in just before me and, clearly without much myth knowledge, said "I don't know, how about immortality?...what else is it going to be?" So, even though I very well know that Balius and Xanthus are immortal (and they're pretty famous too as Achilles horsies), I was confused enough to get beaten by someone guessing.

Now, if the question happens to get past this point, we have two clues that say "attempted to gain it" and "achieved it" - at this point, the question grows way transparent....if that's not enough for you, we have fruit "giving it to" people. At this stage and onward, it's pretty damn well irrelevant how much you know about myth. The chance that anyone is buzzing off of real knowledge is dwarfed by the chance that they're buzzing off of a guess. Actually, this kind of myth tossup reminds me of one at ACF Nationals, I think in 2006, on "oil." It was similarly transparent because there just aren't that many liquids which show up repeatedly in myth, and furthermore, the clues sort of prodded you and hinted to you that you should say something like oil.

I don't know, I think what happens with these concept tossups a lot is that people are making an admirable and legitimate effort to write about something that's pretty important, like immortality in myth. But, because of the way you have to use language and the way you have to structure sentences, what ends up happening is that "figuring it out" gets way more emphasis and solid knowledge of individual clues gets less emphasis.

I want to be clear here - I'm not disparaging common link tossups, I think they can be done well and I've written several, but I think you need to be careful with them. For example, I think the deer myth tossup was pretty good. And, I think having too common link tus in a packet can get tedious.

I won't disect why I'm not wild about the white question now, but some part of it has to do with the confusing nature of the types of tossups that ask for things like "adjectives." There were a few tossups on historical figures with common names at TIT, and those were done well. Typically, they're way less confusing because you don't have to contort sentences with stuff like "When this word is used in X way, it describes...when it's used in a completely different Y way, blah blah" I'm just getting the packets now, so maybe I'll comment some more on quesitons as time goes by.

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