College quizbowl 4 years from now...

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College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:47 am

Maybe this is a bit hard to believe, but it was a scant year and two months ago that Paul Litvak posed the question (and some rather pessimistic answers) about the future of quizbowl five years down the road. I'd like to revisit this a year later to begin a sort of state of quizbowl symposium.

The two tenets of the argument that quizbowl was headed for a dark age were that NAQT would pull out of the college quizbowl business, and that ACF would no longer exist. While I have little insight about NAQT's college game strategy, it seems to me that the idea that ACF will be dead four years from now is no longer a pressing concern. That's not to say that the largely pessimistic outlook on the future of ACF a year ago was misguided; it seems that the concern aroused by these worries played a large role in guiding the game into its current, stabler state.

So what were we missing a year ago? It seems that the primary oversight was underestimating the "vast desert" of players below the recognized elite who were capable of stepping up in a short period. Chief among those are two of the most positive influences on the game today, and two of its best players, Eric Mukherjee and Jonathan Magin. It also seems that no one expected programs like Stanford and Minnesota to be able to produce new, quality tournaments from scratch. And board consensus overlooked the immediate influence that elite high schoolers could have on programs. Freshmen like Ted Gioia, Greg Peterson, Trevor Davis, and Gautam Kandlikar (and this is not an exhaustive list!) are quickly gaining a reputation for writing quality packets. And there are many more members of the "vast desert" (Chris Ray, Trygve Meade, Rob Carson, and Dennis Jang spring immediately to mind) who have already proven themselves capable editors. Beyond that, there seem to be young teams who know lots of things and have pretty good reputations for question-writing, like MIT, Harvard, Drake, and Dartmouth, who have untapped editing potential.

I don't mean to claim that this game's security is set, and this certainly isn't an attempt to call out various concerned posters from a year ago. Their concern has a lot to do with the current youth movement in quizbowl.

A secondary concern of the future of quizbowl was whether or not the older editors would contribute to high-quality regular season events. Seth's Chicago Open, Jerry's work with EFT, Sorice's Illinois Open, Westbrook's Experiment, and Weiner's head editing of Titanomachy, Penn Bowl, ACF Regionals, and pending FICHTE, as well as Texas A&M heading up the ACF Nats team, are all examples of this in practice. In addition to these quality events, newer editors like Magin, Bruce Arthur, Brian Lindquist and Stanford, and Rob and I put on two lit tournaments, a history tournament, as well as MLK, Cardinal Classic, and Deep Bench. Upcoming events like the Illinois Novice and MUT will be further events run primarily by newer editors.

So what does the future hold? I'd like to think I have a better grasp of it than I did last year in December, before I had written a single packet or played in my first packet sub tournament. And I'd like to believe that the future of the game is brighter than it has been for a long time.

Thoughts?

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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:37 pm

Beyond that, there seem to be young teams who know lots of things and have pretty good reputations for question-writing, like MIT, Harvard, Drake, and Dartmouth, who have untapped editing potential.
I think one initiative that should be undertaken is to have these teams (and more) start running house-written or packet-submission tournaments, with outside editing help (to ensure quality); or, for them to be part of joint writing projects with other teams. Not only would this ensure an ever larger base of competent writers and editors, it means more tournaments for everyone to enjoy.
Last edited by Sima Guang Hater on Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by evilmonkey » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:00 pm

Another helpful thing for new teams writing packets is to return comments on the questions. At MLK, we turned in a packet, and only parts of 2 questions were used. We put what we felt was our best effort into it, and were kind of shaken that our questions were so bad. It would be helpful to our development as question writers if, in the future, we could get some feedback on what was wrong with questions.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by NotjustoldWASPs » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:09 pm

Fathers 4 Justice wrote:Another helpful thing for new teams writing packets is to return comments on the questions. At MLK, we turned in a packet, and only parts of 2 questions were used. We put what we felt was our best effort into it, and were kind of shaken that our questions were so bad. It would be helpful to our development as question writers if, in the future, we could get some feedback on what was wrong with questions.
Seconded wholeheartedly. Having written for three years for JIAT and two for WUHSAC, I feel I have a pretty good grasp on writing decently good 5-6 line TUs for high school tournaments...my problem is that that tends to rub off when I've written potential college-level questions, and my pyramidality for longer tossups is not nearly as good as I'd like it to be (or what I've seen in packets that I have read/played on. And it is kind of demoralizing after working hard on a packet that you thought was decent, at least, and seeing that, once it's in its final form, there are "only parts of 2 questions" in the packet.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by First Chairman » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:20 pm

I would love to have more time to comment, especially as I have the perspective of the last 10 years of PACE, NAQT, and everything that has changed the circuit. There are things that I see are great strides that clearly Litvak and some of the slightly older than average college folk did not see. But there are some issues that I can anticipate that if left uncorrected will result in us falling back into the usual college-org cycle of inactivity (after hitting some peak).

But to that end, that is why we at PACE have been promoting the Bootcamp as a way that we can give people feedback and strengthen the network among programs that run quiz bowl. We also need to find a way to get programs that may have been used to game-show gimmicky questions up to speed to the current state of the "high quality" game now, both in high school and in college, without turning away those programs by our questions or our personalities.

And we have to make sure this bb doesn't get shut down by too many people rushing onto the board at the same time. :)

P.S. This means I would like to see more people consider helping us develop and/or participate in the Bootcamp in August 2008. I have received zero suggestions for programming. If this is important, I want to see people step up.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by Mike Bentley » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:25 pm

Fathers 4 Justice wrote:Another helpful thing for new teams writing packets is to return comments on the questions. At MLK, we turned in a packet, and only parts of 2 questions were used. We put what we felt was our best effort into it, and were kind of shaken that our questions were so bad. It would be helpful to our development as question writers if, in the future, we could get some feedback on what was wrong with questions.
Well, if you want comments it's always a good idea to contact the editors. I'd be happy to give you guys comments on your packets, just give me an e-mail at mike000@umd.edu so I remember.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by evilmonkey » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:33 pm

Banana paper wrote:
Fathers 4 Justice wrote:Another helpful thing for new teams writing packets is to return comments on the questions. At MLK, we turned in a packet, and only parts of 2 questions were used. We put what we felt was our best effort into it, and were kind of shaken that our questions were so bad. It would be helpful to our development as question writers if, in the future, we could get some feedback on what was wrong with questions.
Well, if you want comments it's always a good idea to contact the editors. I'd be happy to give you guys comments on your packets, just give me an e-mail at mike000@umd.edu so I remember.
Thank you. I wasn't sure if that was a common practice, although in retrospect I probably should have contacted you first. Mea Culpa.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by vandyhawk » Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:52 pm

Fathers 4 Justice wrote:Another helpful thing for new teams writing packets is to return comments on the questions. At MLK, we turned in a packet, and only parts of 2 questions were used. We put what we felt was our best effort into it, and were kind of shaken that our questions were so bad. It would be helpful to our development as question writers if, in the future, we could get some feedback on what was wrong with questions.
I wholeheartedly agree that feedback is one of the best ways to improve as a question writer, and I credit that in my own development. I was kind of disappointed that I posted the offer of providing feedback on regionals submissions but had no one take me up on it.

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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by msaifutaa » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:45 pm

555 95472 wrote:
Beyond that, there seem to be young teams who know lots of things and have pretty good reputations for question-writing, like MIT, Harvard, Drake, and Dartmouth, who have untapped editing potential.
I think one initiative that should be undertaken is to have these teams (and more) start running house-written or packet-submission tournaments, with outside editing help (to ensure quality); or, for them to be part of joint writing projects with other teams. Not only would this ensure an ever larger base of competent writers and editors, it means more tournaments for everyone to enjoy.
I feel like we at MIT got a taste of that with Cardinal Classic--though it was officially a mirror, we contributed 4 packets, which was a significant number of the ones we used at our site. I feel like four was a lot, even though we had a bunch of people working together to write them (I think 7 or 8? Not all of them wrote equal parts though). I know I personally would have been unable to contribute my part if I hadn't been on winter break at the time and choosing not to work through it, and I've been told by teammates that I tend to write questions relatively quickly. I don't think we would have any chance of producing a housewritten tournament that would meet today's high-quality standards, at least not unless we did something crazy like spend the whole year on it and take a break from packet submission tournaments to clear that year up.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:18 pm

msaifutaa wrote:I feel like we at MIT got a taste of that with Cardinal Classic--though it was officially a mirror, we contributed 4 packets, which was a significant number of the ones we used at our site. I feel like four was a lot, even though we had a bunch of people working together to write them (I think 7 or 8? Not all of them wrote equal parts though). I know I personally would have been unable to contribute my part if I hadn't been on winter break at the time and choosing not to work through it, and I've been told by teammates that I tend to write questions relatively quickly. I don't think we would have any chance of producing a housewritten tournament that would meet today's high-quality standards, at least not unless we did something crazy like spend the whole year on it and take a break from packet submission tournaments to clear that year up.
Let me offer some suggestions on how this can be done. I would encourage everyone in the club to work on writing a single packet over the summer. Three months should be plenty of time for just about anyone to put together a decent packet, and then come September, you can get together with people and talk about your packets and how they can be improved and whatnot. Encourage everyone to write, even if it means writing relatively poor questions; these can be fixed during the "editing" phase. If people come through (and if I correctly estimate the size of MIT's club), that should result in at least 10 packets that can be worked into a house-written set. From there, you could all collectively write 3 more packets and now you have a tournament. This is the approach I plan to take with EFT next year to try and encourage people to write in a manageable way.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by msaifutaa » Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:33 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Let me offer some suggestions on how this can be done. I would encourage everyone in the club to work on writing a single packet over the summer. Three months should be plenty of time for just about anyone to put together a decent packet, and then come September, you can get together with people and talk about your packets and how they can be improved and whatnot. Encourage everyone to write, even if it means writing relatively poor questions; these can be fixed during the "editing" phase. If people come through (and if I correctly estimate the size of MIT's club), that should result in at least 10 packets that can be worked into a house-written set. From there, you could all collectively write 3 more packets and now you have a tournament. This is the approach I plan to take with EFT next year to try and encourage people to write in a manageable way.
Hmm. That does seem good advice, and it's true that we do have a lot of people. If we made literally everyone who shows up reasonably regularly write a packet, we could get as many as the whole 14 just from that, but that would involve many inexperienced frosh writing packets that would need to be severely edited.

The main issue I see with that is in distribution--for example: I'm pretty hands-off with non-CS science because during my time here, I have had no trouble finding teammates who knew enough more than me right off the bat that it was a waste of my time that could be spent covering material our team lacked trying to catch up. I have no doubt that even given three months to write a packet, my science would not be acceptable (Not that I couldn't find something to write about, but I don't have enough of a sense of it to avoid non-pyramidality and other issues without essentially copying the position of clues from old tournaments to preserve pyramidality, which I would never do (for instance, a clue I've never heard of and think is hard might be a giveaway)). I would expect that other members of the team would have the same problem in other areas.

Normally, the way that we manage to write relatively efficiently and pretty high quality questions for our average player age is by splitting up categories that people know (frex, I wrote every Religion and Mythology question in MIT's 4 packets for CC). Comparative advantage and all that. It also avoids the possibility of writer bias, which I have seen before in one-author packets (frex, when I played Dennis in singles at Deepbench, it was on a packet that was apparently written by a guy who does Classics editing for some other tournament, and this was visible in the questions and an advantage for me that probably gave me the win).

However, I know you have more experience than I do by far in this, so have you tried both of these and found that the one-packet-per-person thing is significantly more efficient than everyone-writes-their-specialty? If so, I'll definitely take you at your word, it just surprises me from a theoretical perspective.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by Strongside » Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:12 pm

This is a good thread.

I have an optimistic outlook for the next few years of collegiate quiz bowl. There are numerous people who prior to a year ago had little editing experience, but have stepped up in the past year to help produce a quality tournament, or quality tournaments. I think we can all agree that this is pretty awesome.

NAQT is doing well at the high school level, and presumably making a significant chunk of its profits from the high school level. This is presumably good for NAQT at the college level, because if they lose money on the SCTs, and ICT, they are making enough money elsewhere to continue the role they play at the college level. R. posts on the boards and addresses concerns, and he participated in e-mail interviews with Fred, so it is great that he is involved like that.

The success of the high school game and NAQT is really good for the college level. If players are really interested in quiz bowl at the high school level, there is a reasonable chance they will be really into quiz bowl at the college level.

I don't see how ACF can go extinct or fall apart anytime within the next few year.. The current ACF members are doing a really good job, and if any of them decide to decrease or stop their involvement in ACF, I am confident there will be numerous other people to help take over.

I haven't edited any tournaments, but I hope to do so in the not so far off future. I have spent most of my college quiz bowl career mooching off the hard work of other people. I feel like I should give back and help put together a quality tournament I hope there are some other people who also feel this way.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:18 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Let me offer some suggestions on how this can be done. I would encourage everyone in the club to work on writing a single packet over the summer. Three months should be plenty of time for just about anyone to put together a decent packet, and then come September, you can get together with people and talk about your packets and how they can be improved and whatnot. Encourage everyone to write, even if it means writing relatively poor questions; these can be fixed during the "editing" phase. If people come through (and if I correctly estimate the size of MIT's club), that should result in at least 10 packets that can be worked into a house-written set.
With a club this size, you could even start pairing up people, then solicit a freelance packet or two. There's plenty of elder statesmen type figures who would be willing to help out in that regard.
msaifutaa wrote:Hmm. That does seem good advice, and it's true that we do have a lot of people. If we made literally everyone who shows up reasonably regularly write a packet, we could get as many as the whole 14 just from that, but that would involve many inexperienced frosh writing packets that would need to be severely edited.
Gotta start somewhere.
msaifutaa wrote:However, I know you have more experience than I do by far in this, so have you tried both of these and found that the one-packet-per-person thing is significantly more efficient than everyone-writes-their-specialty? If so, I'll definitely take you at your word, it just surprises me from a theoretical perspective.
Neither of these approaches is necessarily a bad system. What you could do is a have a "packet plus" approach, where everyone writes a single packet and then edits one area of their specialty. This can also iron out any biases in the packets that might be present. For example, for EFT, Dennis and I traded some of our trash, science, and literature from packet to packet, and edited each others' questions in these areas.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by msaifutaa » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:42 pm

555 95472 wrote: Neither of these approaches is necessarily a bad system. What you could do is a have a "packet plus" approach, where everyone writes a single packet and then edits one area of their specialty. This can also iron out any biases in the packets that might be present. For example, for EFT, Dennis and I traded some of our trash, science, and literature from packet to packet, and edited each others' questions in these areas.
I would imagine that some combination of the first two might work as well, and maybe help relieve the frosh of a bit of effort--maybe something like "I write all of my packet except for the science, but then in exchange I write all the RM". I might be game to try, but I doubt I could sell it to enough people on the team.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by Gautam » Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:25 pm

555 95472 wrote:
msaifutaa wrote:However, I know you have more experience than I do by far in this, so have you tried both of these and found that the one-packet-per-person thing is significantly more efficient than everyone-writes-their-specialty? If so, I'll definitely take you at your word, it just surprises me from a theoretical perspective.
Neither of these approaches is necessarily a bad system. What you could do is a have a "packet plus" approach, where everyone writes a single packet and then edits one area of their specialty. This can also iron out any biases in the packets that might be present. For example, for EFT, Dennis and I traded some of our trash, science, and literature from packet to packet, and edited each others' questions in these areas.
I personally like this idea of one packet per person, as it helps the writers explore areas they aren't particularly strong at. This works best with novice tournaments, I think, as you don't have to worry too much about going really in depth to find killer leadins for your 8 line tossups.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by Matt Weiner » Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:59 pm

Any writing helps--not every team is capable of writing a whole tournament from scratch, but building up a reserve to save money at packet-submission events is good for your club budget, and writing is of course the best way to get better and potentially increase your interest and enjoyment in the game by getting more questions/wins.
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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by suds1000 » Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:33 am

In addition to telling people to write questions, it makes sense to try to give them some sort of basic training. Hold a seminar at one of your meetings explaining at least the following:

1. What sources are good to use and what to avoid
2. How to word and write clue-dense questions without filler
3. Subdistributions and their merits (the bias of the modern distribution toward 20th-century world and European literature is still fairly extensive, for instance)

I agree with the suggestion about having less experienced players write for novice tournaments first...the last thing they need is Jerry yelling about how their lead-ins are too obvious (kidding).

Regarding the topic at hand: originally, I thought Litvak was right, because (a few years ago) there really was a dearth of experienced and quality question-writers -- at the time, there were probably less than 15 people writing/editing the majority of the packet-submission tournaments around the country. However, I've looked at some of the work that the newer editors have done, and they have been very solid efforts thus far -- way better than a lot of the s*** that I put up when I first started out editing.

Keep up the good work, you whippersnappers.

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Re: College quizbowl 4 years from now...

Post by First Chairman » Tue Mar 04, 2008 4:56 pm

suds1000 wrote:In addition to telling people to write questions, it makes sense to try to give them some sort of basic training. Hold a seminar at one of your meetings explaining at least the following:

1. What sources are good to use and what to avoid
2. How to word and write clue-dense questions without filler
3. Subdistributions and their merits (the bias of the modern distribution toward 20th-century world and European literature is still fairly extensive, for instance)

I agree with the suggestion about having less experienced players write for novice tournaments first...the last thing they need is Jerry yelling about how their lead-ins are too obvious (kidding).

Regarding the topic at hand: originally, I thought Litvak was right, because (a few years ago) there really was a dearth of experienced and quality question-writers -- at the time, there were probably less than 15 people writing/editing the majority of the packet-submission tournaments around the country. However, I've looked at some of the work that the newer editors have done, and they have been very solid efforts thus far -- way better than a lot of the s*** that I put up when I first started out editing.

Keep up the good work, you whippersnappers.

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