Packet Submission Requirements: The High Cost of Quality

Old college threads.
Locked
User avatar
SnookerUSF
Rikku
Posts: 310
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 2:55 am
Location: USF-Tampa, FL
Contact:

Packet Submission Requirements: The High Cost of Quality

Post by SnookerUSF » Mon Feb 11, 2008 2:40 am

Packet submission requirements are becoming more intense I feel, and though these measures were instituted in large part to insure higher packet quality, they are becoming quite challenging.

Some tournament editors are requiring as many as 26/26 questions be submitted for a full packet and as penalty deadlines become greater in cost and earlier in date, the submission process becomes a more and more costly adventure. With the above requirement 6/6 questions are likely never to be heard per packet, which results in a 30% attrition rate. Now I ask experienced editors to comment on this; is there so much repetition between unedited sets as to require this much extra work? I understand that the sort of repetition an experienced editor is attempting to rectify these days includes not only specific answer repetition but answer space repetition. So, in order to limit the number of Greek myth or Civil War battles questions packet editors require extra tossups in the basic categories to insure diversity, even so does the requisite increase in distribution need to be at this level?

One reason this hits home for me is that I actually like writing questions. But it is somewhat frustrating to know that regardless of the effort I put into my questions, it is likely that 30% of my work will never be heard. Now I know that sounds a bit self-involved, and perhaps to some level it is, but one of the reasons I like writing questions, and I really don't think I am alone on this one, is that other people get to hear them. Perhaps one thing that might rectify this particular issue is to take the left over questions (not including the one or two extra placed in packets to begin with) and place them in one mega-packet. At least this way teams can have a set of questions to read in the car ride back, or at practice the next week. Maybe this already done and though it does not directly address my concern it is worth mentioning.

Self-admittedly I am not a great packet writer, but I do try to put time and effort in my questions. I am also not a very efficient writer, perhaps that is a competency I will need to develop, but at this point it probably takes me 20-25 minutes to write a tossup and 5-10 minutes to write a bonus. By the way, if these values are significantly more than for writers who write quality packets...please let me know your methods. But at this rate the extra work is another 2 or 3 hours.

Also, many of my comments are from the perspective of single-author packet writing. I can actually see some benefits of having increased requirements for teams which regularly collaborate on writing questions, though I wonder if there is not a new set of issues arising from these submission requirements as well.

Is there anything that can (or should) be done about it? The reason I believe this might become a pressing question is that with these requirements being what they are, are more programs not attending and/or not sending as many teams to tournaments in order to avoid the extra writing and hassle? Or for the more lucrative programs, is just paying the no packet penalty fee which has blossomed to approximately the cost of admission at some tournaments a more viable option?

I guess what I really wonder is at what point will the packet submission requirements become bothersome enough that their stringency will impinge upon the very thing they were meant to improve. There are number of ways this might happen: fewer people writing packets since more pressing packet deadlines coupled with increasing fees disinterests those who would otherwise write one, people spending less time on each individual question in order to reach the increasing quantity requirements, a greater proclivity to recycle or even plagiarize questions banking on the well-founded suspicion that some of them won't be used, more obscure and less accessible questions being written and being surreptitiously left in as packet authors attempt to find uncharted territory and tournament editors fail to notice the introduction.

Some tournaments because of their reputation and stature in the community, e.g. Penn Bowl, MLK, or the Cardinal Classic, will likely not see a drop in attendance, as people will want to go to these tournaments almost independent of how intense the requirements become. However, I can see these requirements becoming unduly cumbersome for smaller, less noteworthy but nevertheless otherwise good tournaments. Of course, this might behoove those tournament directors to reduce their requirements, but there is a rather pernicious tendency in the community to enforce stylistic and logistical conformity from which the slightest deviation opens up one for paragraphs of vicious invective and finger-shaking opprobrium. But I think some of my other concerns will hold even for those well-regarded invitational tournaments.

Finally, much of what I am saying is rather theoretical and I am wondering if anything above plays out in practical tournament editing experience. If I am way off base, then I will kindly shut-up and start working on my ACF Nationals packet for which the first deadline is only 20 days away.

Thanks for reading,
Ahmad Ragab, itinerant moderator at the New School for Social Research

ACF Nationals 2011:"Too real for the streets"
-Auroni Gupta

"Can 40,000 redacted topic Tossups be wrong?"

"With my gnomes I'm highlighting the danger of political opportunism and right-wing ideology. I get the feeling that this gnome has reopened an old wound."
-Ottomar Hoerl

User avatar
DumbJaques
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 3079
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2004 6:21 pm
Location: Columbus, OH

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:53 pm

I think this is a point worth bringing up, although I'm sure Ahmad realizes how complicated an issue it is. I do think 26/26 is too much and is pretty prohibitive at anything except maybe ACF nats. It's my understanding that the extra questions are to cover repeats and horrible questions, but here's how I see it: The teams that are going to write a lot of clunker questions are the teams who are inexperienced. Those teams will be very intimidated by 26/26, and it just seems to me that it's too much to ask. Having worked with a few new programs recently, I think they really do see a difference between 26/26 and something smaller (even only 2/2-4/4 smaller). Honestly, if people write 6/6 totally unuseable questions, they're going to write more than 6/6. People who write less than 6/6 clunkers are probably going to write much less than 6/6 clunkers. That is, people who are not intimidated by 26/26 really don't need to be asked for 26/26. Maybe if you could take questions and shift them all over packets it might make more sense, but you can't really do that. I'd like to see a system that rewards people for writing better questions, but that too is fraught with obstacles and complications. So I'm not sure what the solution is, but I encourage people to stop asking for 26/26. If nothing else, it's really annoying to divide that by 4.
Chris Ray
OSU
University of Chicago, 2016
University of Maryland, 2014
ACF, PACE

User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Post by cvdwightw » Mon Feb 11, 2008 2:21 pm

I am of the general opinion that the number of questions required should be inversely proportional to the number of packets you expect to be blind to teams participating at the event.

If you have few packets coming in from mirror locations/editors/freelance, it would not be unreasonable to ask for 24/24 or more.

If you are expecting more than enough packets from editors/freelance, it would not be unreasonable to ask for 22/22 to 24/24, since you can throw the repeats out of those packets and leave them in the packets that were submitted by participating teams.

If you have so many packets from many mirror sites that poorer packets will likely get thrown together, asking for 20/20 to 22/22 would prevent unnecessary work by people who aren't going to see half their questions anyway.

If on top of that the tournament is designed to be played on and to a degree written by novices, asking for more than 20/20 is not a good idea. In particular I'm referring to ACF Fall here, although any other similar-difficulty tournament (MCMNT?) with a well-arranged set of mirrors would probably also qualify.

In any case, I'm glad to see that the ridiculous 30/30 requirement for ACF Fall 2004 has not been used since.

User avatar
Captain Sinico
Auron
Posts: 2840
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Champaign, Illinois

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:58 am

Part of MCMNT is (and has always been) to encourage teams to write; we're not only taking questions for the expedient end of producing a tournament, but also for the less immediate end of growing good writers.

Later,
MaS
Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
Alumnus, Illinois ABT (2000-2002; 2003-2009) & Fenwick Scholastic Bowl (1999-2000)
ACF
IHSSBCA
PACE

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

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:33 pm

Okay, so this is a good topic Ahmad and I'm probably going to write a quite lengthy post here, cause I think it's important.

First off, as a pretty experienced packet writer, I can tell you that the time you spend writing stuff is not more than usual...if anything, it's on the low end. I'm probably among the most deliberate of writers out there, but it certainly takes me a good half-hour to write a tossup and a good 15-20 minutes to write a bonus. Now, I say that, but those numbers are assuming that you have answers already picked out, which is an incredibly frustrating and time-consuming part of the process for me. It helps if you write down possible answers throughout the year as they come to you and then when you have to write stuff, you have a repository of possible answer choices or an outline of three answers for a bonus, etc. But, most people don't do that, and rather prolific writers will probably quickly exhaust such a reserve anyway. The above numbers might be slightly lower if you're writing on something which you know a lot about, because then you're very sure with your language and maybe all you have to do is find a few clues and you're good to go. But, when you're writing on a subject which is very difficult for you (say, physics for me), those numbers can be a lot higher, for example sometimes around an hour to write a tossup. Add to this the fact that, let's face it...even for people who enjoy writing (like myself), it's a really goddamn tedious thing to do. I don't know about anyone else, but after writing a significant load of questions in a day or a week or whatever, I tend to have a headache or a dizzy spell or feel just plain terrible. Writing questions has value in that it's a great way to learn stuff - but there are lots of less painful ways to learn stuff.

Right, so here's the thing. If you're on a full four person team of people all willing to write, this whole thing is not such a big deal. I don't think asking someone to write about 6/6 or 5/5 for a tournament is that burdensome. When you start talking about packets authored by one or two or even three people, it's a really big deal.

I cannot tell you how much I hate writing questions which do not get used. 26/26 is too much for a packet, no question. Especially at lower level events, I can tell you repeats are rampant, which is a big problem....but, I say 22/22 should be standard for most tournaments. One tossup to break a tie, one in the piggy bank cause it's a repeat or it sucks or whatever, and that's it. bonuses are even less of an issue obviously cause often a full 20 of them are not even necessary (not that there's ever been a packet with less than 20 bonuses, wink wink).

It's kind of self-serving and relates to something I've shouted about before, but a related point really needs to be made. I don't have a problem with the idea of late fees (in some cases, I do, but we'll leave that aside)...but if someone is playing on a team with less than 4 people, the entire fee for the team should be divided by the number of players on that team. Go ahead and tack on late fees and whatever and then divide by the number of players on the team. In other words, there's no good reason to charge per team instead of per player. Additional teams do not place an added burden on a tournament; if anything they are a benefit - you get another packet from the existence of another team. If staffing is an issue and you can't handle more than a certain number of teams, start combining teams. But it makes no sense to charge a one or two person team as if they were a four-person team (unless they don't mind and their school is paying for them) - it's a simple matter of economic incentives and I don't see how people can argue with this.

User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1176
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Post by setht » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:02 pm

Ryan Westbrook wrote:In other words, there's no good reason to charge per team instead of per player. Additional teams do not place an added burden on a tournament; if anything they are a benefit - you get another packet from the existence of another team. If staffing is an issue and you can't handle more than a certain number of teams, start combining teams. But it makes no sense to charge a one or two person team as if they were a four-person team (unless they don't mind and their school is paying for them) - it's a simple matter of economic incentives and I don't see how people can argue with this.
I can't resist the chance to argue with Ryan.

In some cases, what you say is true: a one-person team that produces (most of) a good packet in a reasonably timely fashion is beneficial to the quality of a tournament, and it seems fine to me to reduce the fees for such teams. But what happens if you get a one- or two- or whatever-person team that doesn't produce a good packet in a reasonably timely fashion? I'd say that the most important (and scarcest) commodity of an editor is time. Teams that don't produce a packet at all, or produce 2/3 of a packet 2 days before the tournament without plenty of advance warning, are a drain on the editor's time, and they're just as much of a drain whether there's one person or 6 people on the team. Since that's the case, I can see a clear reason for charging the same, large fee to teams that don't hold up their end of the packet-submission relationship, regardless of their size.

-Seth

User avatar
Mike Bentley
Auron
Posts: 5808
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:08 pm

Well, writing a packet is almost always going to be something that is at least partially done for the good of the tournament and not economic interests. The time required to produce even 20/20 is almost never worth the $50 or probably even $150 you could stand to save on packet discounts.

I guess TIT was probably most guilty of making people write a bunch of questions (26/26) and then not using them. This was mainly in a reaction to last year where we got something like 5 or 6 total packets submitted and MLK also (I believe) faced a packet shortage. We wanted to make sure that we'd have enough raw questions for the tournament, and I guess we underestimated how large of a response we'd get.

I'd say that on the whole the questions submitted to the tournament were less than I expected for a lot of teams, so I guess there's probably something to the argument that writing a lot of questions makes them all of lesser quality. In the future, it may be a better use of our time just to write a bunch of freelance questions and then just require 24/24 or even 22/22 and replace the duplicates / unsalvagable questions with originals.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3178
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:53 pm

Well, writing a packet is almost always going to be something that is at least partially done for the good of the tournament and not economic interests. The time required to produce even 20/20 is almost never worth the $50 or probably even $150 you could stand to save on packet discounts.
This assumes that the average quizbowler could easily do something with that time that would generate over $50-150 and that furthermore would not be so much less enjoyable than question writing that the player would rather take the monetary loss.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

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

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:29 am

I don't understand your argument, Seth.

The whole idea behind late fees is that they create a monetary incentive to submit early...but the incentive is to people, not teams. The people are the ones who have to pay more and the ones who have to write stuff. My proposal gives the same incentive to a two-person team to submit early as a four-person team. Plus, I can't think of a situation in real life where the existence of a one or two person team is a drain on a tournament unless there are staffing constarints. Way more often it's a real boon for a tourney, and increases the number of good packets. I mean, let's be brutally frank about this - there are a finite number of people out there who will write "good" packets. Almost without fail (bad faith of some sort), you're gonna get good stuff from those people and not so good stuff from the other people. The only issue is what team those people happen to be on. You know that and plan for it.

Also, the reason that this topic relates to Ahmad's post, if not clear, is that you have to recognize how much more burdensome packet writing is for a shorthanded team (and often even teams of 4 players carry people who don't want to write). Meeting that late deadline is a lot easier when you're each writing 6/6 than each writing 12/12.

Just in general, though, my point is that the current fee and packet system in qb results in a crazy penalty for non four-person teams (that aren't in a situation where they're being funded and don't care how much fees are), and that doesn't make any sense - if anything, it's completely backward.

User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1176
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Post by setht » Wed Feb 13, 2008 1:03 am

Ryan Westbrook wrote:I don't understand your argument, Seth.

The whole idea behind late fees is that they create a monetary incentive to submit early...but the incentive is to people, not teams. The people are the ones who have to pay more and the ones who have to write stuff. My proposal gives the same incentive to a two-person team to submit early as a four-person team. Plus, I can't think of a situation in real life where the existence of a one or two person team is a drain on a tournament unless there are staffing constarints. Way more often it's a real boon for a tourney, and increases the number of good packets. I mean, let's be brutally frank about this - there are a finite number of people out there who will write "good" packets. Almost without fail (bad faith of some sort), you're gonna get good stuff from those people and not so good stuff from the other people. The only issue is what team those people happen to be on. You know that and plan for it.

Also, the reason that this topic relates to Ahmad's post, if not clear, is that you have to recognize how much more burdensome packet writing is for a shorthanded team (and often even teams of 4 players carry people who don't want to write). Meeting that late deadline is a lot easier when you're each writing 6/6 than each writing 12/12.

Just in general, though, my point is that the current fee and packet system in qb results in a crazy penalty for non four-person teams (that aren't in a situation where they're being funded and don't care how much fees are), and that doesn't make any sense - if anything, it's completely backward.
Okay, let me try to clarify my point. Personally, I agree with you on reducing fees for small teams, when those teams "behave well" (in the sense of producing a decent packet [or an honest effort at a decent packet] or partial packet or whatever, in a timely fashion). In fact, I'm fine with saying that a one-man team that submits early should pay one-fourth the base fee, minus the full early discount (rather than one-fourth the discount), since having a full packet early on is just as useful to the editors regardless of how many people wrote it. I am only disagreeing with you over cases where teams are negligent in their packet-writing duties.

Consider a typical circuit event--not ACF Fall or some other tournament where there are tons of submissions, and one team's packet won't make or break the tournament. If a team completely fails to write a packet, the editors have to write one on their behalf, in order to run some sort of initial round-robin with byes. This reduces the number of playoff packets the editors can write, unless they get sufficient advance notice from the team. This reduces the quality of the tournament, and it does so by the same amount regardless of whether the defaulting team has 1 player or 4. I think it's fine to charge large penalties to teams that don't hold up their end of the packet-writing relationship, and I think it's fine to charge the same large penalty to a negligent one-man team as to a negligent four-man team, because they both reduce the quality of the tournament in the same way.

Perhaps you feel that in real life, no short-handed team has ever defaulted (or will ever default) on its packet-writing obligations, rendering my argument moot. Do you feel that way? Do you have some other response to my argument?

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

Post by NoahMinkCHS » Wed Feb 13, 2008 1:12 am

Bruce wrote:
Well, writing a packet is almost always going to be something that is at least partially done for the good of the tournament and not economic interests. The time required to produce even 20/20 is almost never worth the $50 or probably even $150 you could stand to save on packet discounts.
This assumes that the average quizbowler could easily do something with that time that would generate over $50-150 and that furthermore would not be so much less enjoyable than question writing that the player would rather take the monetary loss.
If your club has surplus funds, the monetary loss may be essentially meaningless. The utility to the player of hours of time during midterms or something might exceed, I don't know, a marginally-better hotel for Nationals.

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

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Feb 13, 2008 4:32 am

Perhaps you feel that in real life, no short-handed team has ever defaulted (or will ever default) on its packet-writing obligations, rendering my argument moot. Do you feel that way? Do you have some other response to my argument?
No, I'm not saying this. Okay, let's take your hypothetical and say we have a field of 9 teams, one of which is someone playing solo and that person defaults on a packet. Sure, I agree that, in this limited and unlikely (I think) situation, it's a huge pain if you want to run that round robin and it's just as bad as having any other team at the tourney default. But, then, your argument seems to be "well, he defaulted, so I don't care what penalty he gets." Except that treats the solo team completely differently than other teams without any good reason - now, this guy's paying 200 bucks by himself instead of sitting on a four person team paying 50 bucks a piece. I can understand your frustration with defaulting on packets and the like, but the penalties should be even-handed since all they really are in the end are incentives for people. I mean, we could also take away his first-born child, but that seems harsh (not to mention tricky to enforce). Why should the incentives for any one person playing this game to "act well" be any greater or less than the incentives for another person?

User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1176
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Post by setht » Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:45 am

Ryan Westbrook wrote:No, I'm not saying this. Okay, let's take your hypothetical and say we have a field of 9 teams, one of which is someone playing solo and that person defaults on a packet. Sure, I agree that, in this limited and unlikely (I think) situation, it's a huge pain if you want to run that round robin and it's just as bad as having any other team at the tourney default. But, then, your argument seems to be "well, he defaulted, so I don't care what penalty he gets." Except that treats the solo team completely differently than other teams without any good reason - now, this guy's paying 200 bucks by himself instead of sitting on a four person team paying 50 bucks a piece. I can understand your frustration with defaulting on packets and the like, but the penalties should be even-handed since all they really are in the end are incentives for people. I mean, we could also take away his first-born child, but that seems harsh (not to mention tricky to enforce). Why should the incentives for any one person playing this game to "act well" be any greater or less than the incentives for another person?
Because he's costing the editors an extra packet--the same amount that a full team that defaulted on writing would cost the editors. If we agree that "it's just as bad as having any other team at the tourney default" I don't see why this team should get special treatment.

I guess my stance is that I'm fine with giving small teams equal treatment as individuals, in the sense of reducing base fees and maybe the early stages of the late penalties, since those are usually still early enough before the tournament that getting a packet then isn't a big problem; but, once a team falls down on its job of getting in a packet, I think it makes sense to treat the people on that team as a full team, regardless of how many people there are, because that team is costing the editors the exact same amount of work as a full team that defaults. My argument is not "he defaulted, so I don't care what penalty he gets"; my argument is that "he defaulted, his team is costing me a certain amount of work as a result, and I should charge his team for that without regard for the number of people on his team because it's the same amount of work regardless of how many people there are on his team."

To put it another way: I'm fine with saying the incentives to "act well" in the sense of submitting a fair share of a packet in a timely fashion should be the same for all people regardless of how many teammates they have, but I'm also fine with saying the charge for the work the editor has to put in to cover for teams that fail to act well should be the same for all teams.

Let's take a ridiculous example: suppose I run an open packet-submission tournament, and 3 people sign up to play solo. They all promise to provide packets, and they all fail to do so without adequate warning. They also refuse to combine onto one team. The fact is, I don't particularly care about their money; I care primarily about getting packets so I can run a quality event, and they've screwed that up for me, draining 3 freelance/editor packets. It seems to me that the only things I can do to them are bar them from playing or let them play for an exorbitantly high fee. Assuming they all still want to play, why should I reduce the fee I charge them, per team, for costing me a blind packet apiece?

I'm not really sure why you're arguing for reducing penalties on these hypothetical negligent one-person teams. You're clearly too conscientious about packet-writing to ever fall victim to this scenario, and I'd have thought you'd be down with large disincentives to keep people from screwing over packet-submission tournaments.

-Seth

User avatar
SnookerUSF
Rikku
Posts: 310
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 2:55 am
Location: USF-Tampa, FL
Contact:

Post by SnookerUSF » Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:14 pm

I think Seth's and Ryan's interchange has isolated an ongoing phenomena in quizbowl that has been growing for the past number of years. The increasingly pecuniary nature of tournaments has created an economy where arguably there was not one before, i.e. packet submission and tournament attendance.

Having played quizbowl back at Cornell for a few tournaments in the late
90's; there are certain features of this current exchange that were not as prevalent. Interestingly, and perhaps not unrelated, the average cost of a tournament has not really increased significantly, except perhaps attendance at NAQT nationals but even then I do not think it has changed that significantly, though if someone has hard numbers to back this up, they would be most appreciated. It was also understood in those heady and interesting times for the game that if you attended a tournament, you submitted a packet. Now many of these packets did arrive quite late from experience, leaving editors scrambling the night before.

Of course back then, questions were shorter, perhaps not as well-researched and usually one team had to submit 20/20 or 21/21.

Now that the game has entered a more professional and formal format, and expectations of question quality are increasingly lofty, the impetus for editors to get questions in early of a sufficient quality are all the more pressing, lest they face the slings and arrows of message board jeremiads that would await them.

However, this is has had a double effect. Since the price of attendance has not changed significantly the tournament editor's time has been artificially devalued, so to compensate severe packet penalties have been included to the degree that a failure to turn in a packet, even failing to turn one in more than week before a tournament almost de rigueur back in my undergraduate days now results in disqualification from the tournament.

Now on the flip side, with packet submissions requiring so much effort (the average length of a packet these days is usually over 5,000 words) the fear of having inadequate questions requires that editors now ask for 6/6 extra, though as Chris Ray has pointed out if you are bad question writer it doesn't really matter how many extra ones you write.

Good question writers who more often than not like to write whole packets by themselves and often compete in one and two man teams are faced with the double challenge of turning in these mini-masterpieces in a reasonable amount of time and having to fork out the 100+ dollars just to play.

So it leaves us with a number of interesting questions, I think.

Does the current tournament fee structure need to modified, if packet penalties are now huge disincentives to not turn in a packet of high quality weeks before the tournament thus making the TD's job ostensibly much easier, and if many teams only consist of one or two players (assuming they are well behaved)?

And, does it make economic sense to allow teams not play if they do not submit a packet, even if that means losing out on potentially hundreds of dollars of revenue? - Of course, I recognize the sort of Laffer curve scenario where 100% of teams do not submit questions. But still if you have a "no packet penalty" low enough to still entice teams to play but high enough to discourage teams from not submitting packets, wouldn't this be ideal?

As a side note, I wonder if some of these issues could not be avoided if a more robust Freelancing community was developed in quizbowl, such that individuals could submit quality packets early and share in the revenue of the tournament. Though I wonder if this doesn't wholly sacrifice the spirit of the game? I am not sure if I am prepared to make any statements regarding the spirit of the game, but nonetheless, it seems that if we did allow compensated freelancing then would the invitational circuit collapse into a much looser NAQT, not that NAQT is an anathema but we already have a circuit where we pay people to write questions for us.
Ahmad Ragab, itinerant moderator at the New School for Social Research

ACF Nationals 2011:"Too real for the streets"
-Auroni Gupta

"Can 40,000 redacted topic Tossups be wrong?"

"With my gnomes I'm highlighting the danger of political opportunism and right-wing ideology. I get the feeling that this gnome has reopened an old wound."
-Ottomar Hoerl

User avatar
The Logic of Scientific Disco
Wakka
Posts: 137
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:36 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA

Post by The Logic of Scientific Disco » Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:35 pm

It seems that almost all tournaments nowadays have a number of mirrors--at the very least, every good tournament seems to be mirrored in the Northeast or the Midwest. This essentially triples the size of the submission pool--why not take advantage of this?

Instead of requiring 24/24 or 26/26 or however many from teams competing at the original site, require 12/12 or so from any team participating in any mirror. While this might give you minor global distribution problems and make editing more challenging (you'd have to figure out which packets to combine), I think it drastically decreases the burden on submitting teams (and while it puts an extra one on teams at mirror sites, I'm sure many teams would be glad to get a ~$30 discount for a half-packet), and decreases the amount of one's hard work that gets tossed or unheard. It also makes possible packet subs based in smaller regions--when was the last time the Southeast or South ran a true packet submission tournament?

Anyway, there's probably some difficulty (or at least some philosophical issues) with this approach, but I'd be interested to see it tried somewhere.

salamanca
Lulu
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue May 17, 2005 1:00 pm

Interesting

Post by salamanca » Wed Feb 13, 2008 4:27 pm

Speaking as a person who edited and wrote a few questions during my career, I want to reiterate that the reason the community started instituting these penalties was to make people as accountable as possible for acting in "good faith" (i.e. that teams will work on these questions over a period of time that produces a quality set and not leave it to the last minute) from the get-go. This lets the editor know exactly what s/he has to do to prepare the set.

Although I am loathe to call Ahmad out for something he may not have had much experience with, the truth of the matter is that the sheer number of questions that had to be written per packet has actually gone down and not up over the years. 30/30 was the standard through most of the 90s and even into the early aughts. For the 2002 Regionals I decided to ask for slightly less because I thought that letting folks concentrate on getting me less questions, would make the overall product better.

Needless to say that did not happen. Most of the questions sucked AND there were less of them to work with. In fact, I kind of liked the fact that Kwartler et al. asked for 30/30 at ACF Fall a couple of years ago (esp. since I think that at a tournament aimed at newbies, they should be made to write more). I guess my main point is that the sheer volume of raw material (and Ryan, this speaks to your quest for question subject matter) was/is helpful to an editor and might constitute another reason for penalizing folks that don't get enough questions in on time.

Ezequiel

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

Post by NoahMinkCHS » Wed Feb 13, 2008 5:10 pm

It seems a lot of the Seth/Ryan debate revolves around a different understanding of what the packet penalty is. Is it a punishment/incentive for the writer(s) (in which case, prorating the cost based on team size, at least to a point, makes sense), or is it a form of compensation to the editor(s) for having to do extra work (in which case, Seth's point about special treatment is valid). I suspect most people view it as a combination, perhaps with a little more weight on the former, but until everyone agrees on the function, I doubt a solution will be possible.

I think ChrisK's point about mirrors should be especially noted. If packet-submission tournaments were routinely 3- or 4-site affairs, there would be no shortage of extra packets/questions, and slacker teams that don't submit would be a mere inconvenience (and source of revenue) rather than a threat to the tournament, since mirror packets could be used during their bye round.

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

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Feb 13, 2008 5:26 pm

Yeah, again not calling anyone out here (and lord knows I have often been less than diligent about turning in my own packets on time) but I don't think the facts and solutions as presented here are entirely accurate.

-First off, even 26/26 is rare. ACF and the tournaments most directly related to ACF only ask for 24/24 now. 30/30 happened one time, three years ago.

-Also, It is not the case that extra questions are "wasted." Even if I get 4/4 repeats on top of 20/20 usable questions, I have to rewrite/replace all of them, because editors need to turn in packets with sufficient tiebreaker questions to TDs. Even if those questions aren't needed at the tournament, people will see them in practice and appreciate your writing skills.

-As recently as the beginning of my own quizbowl career, it was simply the case that everyone had to write a full packet for a submission event, or stay home. There were no exceptions for new teams and there was no option to pay your way out of it. The changes that have come about are universally directed at letting more people participate, which I hope we all agree is a good thing.

-The concept of a non-submission event (either one written by a cadre of individuals, or a mirror of a submission event from another region that didn't require packets lately) was once much more rare. An active team that went to a tournament every week or two would be writing a full packet every week or two, period. Even teams who were more oriented towards College Bowl, back when that was a conceivable thing, wrote a dozen packets of year with no complaint.

-Asking for less material from more teams is not a good idea. Part of the reason that it makes sense to exclude teams of new players from writing requirements is that they are rarely going to write anything good anyhow. Even some people whose qb career can be measured in decades are still horrible writers--perhaps largely because they can play 10 tournaments a year and only write for 1 of them, now. Focusing on the people who should know how to write efficiently and well by now and trying to make the best possible tournament with their packets is the most sensible editorial strategy.

-Packet submission is also a way to pay LESS money if people are diligent about it--and really, four people writing 6/6 each just isn't as big a deal as it is made out to be. I feel for people like Ahmad and Ryan who have to do it all themselves, and I certainly know what that's like, but they are not the normal case by any means. At Sectionals, the base fee was $120, and there was nothing anyone could do about that. At Regionals, the base fee is the same, except you could knock off $50 of it by submitting an early packet. The variable fees could help teams as much as it hurts them, if more people took advantage of the early deadlines.

User avatar
SnookerUSF
Rikku
Posts: 310
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 2:55 am
Location: USF-Tampa, FL
Contact:

Post by SnookerUSF » Wed Feb 13, 2008 6:19 pm

Matt Weiner wrote: -First off, even 26/26 is rare. ACF and the tournaments most directly related to ACF only ask for 24/24 now. 30/30 happened one time, three years ago.
Rare but increasingly common, for example ACF Nationals is requesting 26/26, Moon Pie is 25/25.
Matt Weiner wrote: -As recently as the beginning of my own quizbowl career, it was simply the case that everyone had to write a full packet for a submission event, or stay home. There were no exceptions for new teams and there was no option to pay your way out of it. The changes that have come about are universally directed at letting more people participate, which I hope we all agree is a good thing.
I totally agree, that used to be standard MO. What the heck happened? Is it that teams fear the amount of work it now takes to turn in a decent packet, given the additional number of questions? I mean attributing it to laziness seems to under-determine the issue.
salamanca wrote: Although I am loathe to call Ahmad out for something he may not have had much experience with, the truth of the matter is that the sheer number of questions that had to be written per packet has actually gone down and not up over the years. 30/30 was the standard through most of the 90s and even into the early aughts. For the 2002 Regionals I decided to ask for slightly less because I thought that letting folks concentrate on getting me less questions, would make the overall product better.

Needless to say that did not happen. Most of the questions sucked AND there were less of them to work with. I guess my main point is that the sheer volume of raw material (and Ryan, this speaks to your quest for question subject matter) was/is helpful to an editor and might constitute another reason for penalizing folks that don't get enough questions in on time.
Disabuse yourself of any sense of loathing, I appreciate the correction. Though it might be the case that the number of questions has gone down, the amount of work per question (even badly written ones) has increased just on word count alone. Considering the banishment of the dreaded list tossups/bonuses, binary matching, FAQTP nonsense and 30-20-10s, question writing is a much more serious adventure, no?

Yes, the packet penalties were introduced to insure a "good faith" effort but only more recently only the past 2 years I would estimate has it been so intimately tied with non-attendance. Not to mention that the last deadline date has been pushed back typically to around two weeks. Of course, the understanding used to be no packet, no play so I guess this is a move back towards the mean.

The biggest concern in all this personally is wasted work. I would rather spend that much more time on 21/21 then I would on 26/26 or even more.

The second half of this debate to which others have referred to is the internal goods to the practice of writing questions, outside these fiduciary concerns. Writing good questions makes you a better player and a better citizen of the game, as better questions make for better tournaments and less stressed TDs. So all of my comments should in some way be balanced with these considerations.
Ahmad Ragab, itinerant moderator at the New School for Social Research

ACF Nationals 2011:"Too real for the streets"
-Auroni Gupta

"Can 40,000 redacted topic Tossups be wrong?"

"With my gnomes I'm highlighting the danger of political opportunism and right-wing ideology. I get the feeling that this gnome has reopened an old wound."
-Ottomar Hoerl

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

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Feb 14, 2008 1:25 am

Well, yeah, Zeke and Matt are making nice points about how packet submission was always the norm and how we've always asked for lots of questions, etc...but, frankly, I don't think anything that's happened too long ago has any relevance to this discussion. The fact of the matter is that, as Ahmad mentioned, today's standards for question writing and whatnot are so much higher than ever before. No list or matching or quick easy bonuses, longer and fuller tossups, more developed canon to worry about, etc. I know that lots of people aren't quite as picky about questions as someone like me or Jerry...but even if your standards are a little lower, it's more work to write questions now than ever before. We really can't be comparing to a time when Subash could write 5 packets in 4 and a half seconds; packets just aren't like that anymore.

Now, to reiterate what I said earlier, I don't think you can complain about an assignment to write 6/6 tossups. Give yourself a week and write 1/1 every day, no big deal. On top of that, you're probably writing in subjects on which you're fairly comfortable, since questions get distributed according to who can write what best.

All in all, I support the 22/22 packet. I don't really think you need 3/3 tiebreakers for anything but ACF events (so I can see 24/24 for ACF), but otherwise 1 tiebreak tossup is fine...or just have ties be ties. Repeats, yeah, if there are lots then it's a shame but hope for the best and write new stuff if you have to. And get lots of submissions and mirrors and freelances, like people said. And, I'm really sympathetic to Ahmad's "I hate it when questions don't get used" point of view.


Is it a punishment/incentive for the writer(s) (in which case, prorating the cost based on team size, at least to a point, makes sense),
I'd say it makes all the sense in the world. My whole point here is that the "economy of quizbowl," if we can call it that, is basically nothing more than a series of incentives to get people to write and play and edit tournaments...a series of incentives which are somewhat fair (as fair as they can be anyway) to the efforts and contributions offered by each of the individuals who are writing and playing and editing.

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

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Feb 14, 2008 1:28 am

double post

STPickrell
Auron
Posts: 1501
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 11:12 pm
Location: Vienna, VA
Contact:

Post by STPickrell » Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:43 am

SnookerUSF wrote:Considering the banishment of the dreaded list tossups/bonuses, binary matching, FAQTP nonsense and 30-20-10s, question writing is a much more serious adventure, no?
FAQTP tossups were discouraged even during my undergraduate career (I graduated in 1997). I think those died out in the early 1990s.

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:38 pm

After reading this thread, I'm not really sure I even agree with the basic assumptions from which Ahmad is arguing. First, I certainly don't think that packet penalties have become more severe either in monetary terms or in terms of deadlines. My recollection is that such conditions have stayed relatively constant over the past 5 or so years, and if anything, have become more lenient in the sense that the discount for an early packet has increased appreciably. I would agree that 26/26 is probably a little too much to ask for, but 22/22 or 24/24 seems pretty reasonable to me. For those who worry that their questions won't get heard, well, if 4 of you write 6/6 each for a 24/24 packet, there is a roughly 1/6 chance that 1/1 of your questions will go unheard. But asking for excess questions is necessary simply to prevent repeats (I believe for 2007 ACF Regionals we received 3 or 4 repeats on something, I can't remember what, that I didn't expect anyone to write about), and for one person, 6/6 over the course of a couple weeks is not an unreasonable amount.

I also want to point out a personal observation, which people may or may not agree with, which is that even as standards have increased, the level of question writing one can expect from most teams (even new teams) has grown as well. I genuinely think that relative to the expected quality of questions, most questions require about as much work today as they did years ago. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think even novice teams make a better overall effort these days than they did in the past.

Matt already made the points I wanted to make regarding mirror arrangements, but I'll come to it from another angle: relying on mirrors is dangerous. At your own site, you can be diligent about excluding teams that flout the packet writing requirements, but you have no such control over mirror sites, and mirror hosts may be less inclined to be vigilant about packets. My rule of thumb is to always expect 2 fewer packets from a mirror than I've been promised, so that anything coming in on top of that expectation is seen as a bonus.

I guess in the end, I'm not sure that we're not trying to fix something that isn't broken. This has been a great year for packet submission tournaments, so to me it looks like the current system is working pretty well.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

Locked