Sub-distribution suggestions

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Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by setht »

Rather than clogging the NAQT survey suggestions and ICT discussion thread with haggling over details of sub-distribution proposals, I figured I'd start a new thread. If you have a proposal for detailed sub-distribution in any topic, perhaps you can post it here and try to convince other people to vote in line with your suggestions.

I'll start things off with my thoughts on two sub-distributions I care about: myth and physics.
msaifutaa wrote:
How about:

6/6 Classical
2/2 Norse
2/1 Mesopotamian (the 2/1 and 1/2 are interchangable here and below)
1/2 Egyptian
2/1 Celtic (the 2/1 and 1/2 are interchangable here and below)
1/2 East Asian
1/1 American (Aztec, Mayan, Incan, Native American, etc)
1/1 Eastern Europe + Finland (there's some great stuff in here that hasn't been mined yet, but if you prefer, it could be folded up into Other or sent away to Classical)
2/2 Other (of which at least 1/0 or 0/1 should be African)
Based on my predilections as a player, I would enjoy this distribution. Based on my experiences writing myth questions, I don't think it will work well for a group that's producing two high-level collegiate sets per year: there are some categories here that are going to run out of well-known topics within a year or two. NAQT will then either start recycling answers from a limited pool, or we'll start seeing significant variability in tossup answer difficulty between different mythologies. I don't think either of these is a good situation.

A couple years ago I wrote a myth singles tournament. I had a distribution in mind when I started, but after a while I realized I wasn't going to be able to come up with enough answers in certain categories without going harder than I wanted. Here's a summary of the total distribution I used:
setht wrote: 91 Greek
39 European
26 Norse
20 Egyptian
19 Indian
13 Mixed
13 American
12 Roman
12 Asian
11 Near/Middle Eastern
2 Polynesian
2 African

For those of you keeping score at home, this means that every round had 7 Greek, 3 European, 2 Norse, 1 or 2 Egyptian, 2 or 1 Indian, 1 Mixed, and 1 American. Most rounds also had 1 Roman, 1 Asian, and 1 Near/Middle Eastern; occasionally, Polynesian or African subbed in for one of those last 3.
For a one-time event like the myth singles, I figured it was fine if I had tossups on, for instance, Isis, Osiris, Horus and Set, but I don't think people would be so happy about getting clustering like this within a single SCT/ICT set. I also had to really dig (and probably wound up going too hard) to come up with enough questions in certain areas--I would say this happened primarily in the Celtic and Norse sections. So, I came up with 20 Egyptian answers, but perhaps some of those are over-the-top for tossups/easy bonus parts; also, there are several answers in there that knock others out by being too closely associated. There's certainly enough material to yield 3 well-known answers for tossups and easy bonus parts (and that's assuming that the medium and hard bonus parts don't use up other easy answers, but with hard clues), but I really don't think there's enough to do this twice a year without having the pool of answers grow stale quickly.

The numbers in some other areas seem even more problematic than Egyptian myth. I came up with a grand total of 2 African myth answers (and one of them was Legba, which might be more religion than myth) I felt comfortable using as tossup answers; asking for 1/0 or 0/1 per tournament means finding at least 2 such answers every year (again, I'm treating the easy part of a bonus as another tossup-worthy answer that needs to be found). I'm willing to believe there are more than 2 African myth answers that are tossup-worthy, but I don't think there are enough to do 2 per year and keep things fresh. There used to be an issue with certain answers showing up frequently in SCT/ICT sets because writers would submit multiple questions on the same topic [see: Cryptonomicon, L'Africaine]; I think asking for 1 African myth question per tournament will produce a similar situation with, e.g., Anansi--not that writers will write 10 Anansi tossups in one go, but they'll be sent back to Anansi time and again as one of the very few accessible African myth topics they can use for that required African myth question. Alternatively, they'll start asking about Gu.

Anyway, here's a counter-proposal with a total of 15/15:
6/6 Classical
1/1 Norse
1/1 Egyptian
1/1 Indian
1/1 European (including Celtic/Arthurian, Eastern, etc.)
1/0 or 0/1 Mesopotamian
1/0 or 0/1 East Asian
1/0 or 0/1 American
3/4 or 4/3 whatever, including mixed-pantheon stuff

If space is made for a full 1/1 per round, I'd add 1/1 to Classical and 2/2 to whatever. I think it's good to have some minimum coverage in various traditions, but past that it's probably safest to leave a decent buffer of "whatever" questions.

Moving on from myth to physics... based on what I've seen of typical physics curricula, I would say that the core of the physics distribution should look something like:
20% quantum mechanics
20% electricity and magnetism
20% classical mechanics (including some continuum/fluid mechanics)
15% statistical mechanics and thermal physics

The remaining 25% can be on relativity, particle physics, optics, electronics, solid state, plasmas, nuclear/atomic physics, or more of the core stuff.

Again, please feel free to post with comments on the myth and physics distributions I've proposed, or with proposals for distributions in other topics. This isn't meant to generate ideas for questions on the survey so much as give people a chance to argue for a particular distribution before the survey goes up.

-Seth
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by theMoMA »

Norse myth offers a lot of tossup-worthy answers relative to its size in this proposed distribution, I think.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by msaifutaa »

setht wrote:Anyway, here's a counter-proposal with a total of 15/15:
6/6 Classical
1/1 Norse
1/1 Egyptian
1/1 Indian
1/1 European (including Celtic/Arthurian, Eastern, etc.)
1/0 or 0/1 Mesopotamian
1/0 or 0/1 East Asian
1/0 or 0/1 American
3/4 or 4/3 whatever, including mixed-pantheon stuff

If space is made for a full 1/1 per round, I'd add 1/1 to Classical and 2/2 to whatever. I think it's good to have some minimum coverage in various traditions, but past that it's probably safest to leave a decent buffer of "whatever" questions.
This gives a lot of wiggle room, which is probably a good thing. With the understanding that "whatever" shouldn't be more Classical unless it's part of mixed pantheon, it could definitely work. I'd prefer to cut down on Indian to 1/0 or 0/1 (or 0/0 with the understanding that a bit of Indian could make it into Whatever) and just let others of that be in Religion, giving the 1 or 2 newly freed up questions to Norse or European (or the Whatever category).

Of course, for me, it's much more important that the numbers increase than that the subdistributions be just so. Even if they did "12/12 Classical, 2/2 Norse, 2/2 Egyptian, 2/2 Other" or something like that, I'd be okay with it.

EDIT: On a random side tangent @numbers of toss-ups at Myth Singles, I can think of more toss-uppable answers in several of those subdistributions off the top of my head, but it might just be because I have too high a threshold for what's toss-upable. I haven't read Myth Singles yet on the off chance that some day my team will let us compete on those at practice, so I don't know which of them you used and which not. Maybe it's in part due to the overlap for too-similar answers.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by millionwaves »

Lest I forget to mention this, I really enjoyed ICT this year, and I look forward to playing it again many times.

Like Seth, I'll keep my comments to two areas that I care about, literature and social science. I enjoyed the social science at ICT quite a bit; with the caveat that my memory isn't great for specific questions sometimes, I really can't think of anything that seemed over or underrepresented to me at all.

I thought the literature questions were of a similar (high) quality, but I wonder if NAQT might consider raising the number of questions about literature from Africa, Asia, and Latin America? I'm not sure how they subdivide the literature category (perhaps it's English/non-English?), but I didn't really notice much world literature at ICT this year. Plenty of tournaments try to include 1/1 per round, which I think is a pretty good number, and since NAQT gets an extra 6/6 to work with, it seems like it would be even more doable to include. I think that unlike Seth's concerns about non-classical mythology, world literature has plenty of fresh topics that would be answerable, and I think plenty of people would enjoy hearing more questions from that area.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Susan »

I hope I'm not posting this twice.
Andrew wrote:Norse myth offers a lot of tossup-worthy answers relative to its size in this proposed distribution, I think.
I guess I agree with Seth on treating Norse, Egyptian, Hindu, and Celtic/European mythology equally (though if there's a least among equals here, it's probably in Celtic/European mythology; I think both Seth and I like it more than most). Would you say that there are tons more tossupable subjects in Norse myth than in the other mythologies that get 1/1 in Seth's proposed distribution?

I could get on board with making an 18/18 distribution that added 1/1 each to Norse, Egyptian, and Indian in Seth's proposed 15/15 distribution, but I think Seth's 18/18 distribution is fine too.

Also, (no longer directed at Rob but now at the MIT person whose name I'm afraid I don't know) I disagree with the notion that Hindu myth should be lumped in with religion because Hinduism is a currently-practiced religion; certainly you could write a religion tossup with, say, "Manu" as the answer that focused on clues from religious practice and doctrine and whatnot, but if you're asking about Skanda with clues from the Puranas, you've written a myth tossup.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by msaifutaa »

myamphigory wrote:I hope I'm not posting this twice.
Andrew wrote:Norse myth offers a lot of tossup-worthy answers relative to its size in this proposed distribution, I think.
I guess I agree with Seth on treating Norse, Egyptian, Hindu, and Celtic/European mythology equally (though if there's a least among equals here, it's probably in Celtic/European mythology; I think both Seth and I like it more than most). Would you say that there are tons more tossupable subjects in Norse myth than in the other mythologies that get 1/1 in Seth's proposed distribution?

I could get on board with making an 18/18 distribution that added 1/1 each to Norse, Egyptian, and Indian in Seth's proposed 15/15 distribution, but I think Seth's 18/18 distribution is fine too.

Also, (no longer directed at Rob but now at the MIT person whose name I'm afraid I don't know) I disagree with the notion that Hindu myth should be lumped in with religion because Hinduism is a currently-practiced religion; certainly you could write a religion tossup with, say, "Manu" as the answer that focused on clues from religious practice and doctrine and whatnot, but if you're asking about Skanda with clues from the Puranas, you've written a myth tossup.
I'm saying rather than Hinduism questions can be put into Religion. Because of this, if you do have the Manu question from religious practice (and others), you could wind up with quite a bit of Hinduism in the end, which is why I figured you could stuff it into Seth's "Whatever" category and leave it to the tournament editors' judgment call how many Hinduism myth questions are appropriate given the number of Hinduism religion questions they get. And that's assuming they do increase Myth to a higher amount--if not, I think all Hinduism should go in Religion simply because it can and because the Religion distribution is larger (not because it always should).

As for Celtic/European questions, I also have an inordinate fondness for them, but I agree with your analysis of the existence of the 'second tier'. I also thought of bumping Norse and the others up a bit from Seth's proposal--you could grab an extra 1/0 or 0/1 from the "Whatever" category for each of them. But I'm also cool with leaving that in the "Whatever" category--after all, those big categories seem like they'll almost certainly be the beneficiary of many of the "Whatever" questions if "Whatever" specifically disallows Classical.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Susan »

...I think all Hinduism should go in Religion simply because it can and because the Religion distribution is larger (not because it always should).
Sorry if I misunderstood what you were saying before. Since you bring up the religion distribution, what I'd really like is to see that pared down and filled only with religion questions, with more room made elsewhere for philosophy and myth, because it sounds like "religion" (or "religious literature", or whatever) is not a very well-defined category in the current distribution, to the detriment of RMP in general.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by grapesmoker »

Seth's proposed myth subdistribution is a little too classical-heavy for my tastes, but if it were actually implemented at NAQT, I would certainly enjoy playing on it regardless (but probably not against Seth). Likewise, the physics breakdown seems ok too, although I guess I'd probably make the "special topics" area equal in size to all the others. Again, not really an important point.

I'm wondering, though, if subdistributions are necessarily a good idea. Certainly the ACF and mACF tournaments I've worked on never had them explicitly. Or, rather, we had them at a secondary level, whereas this is now addressing subdistributions at the tertiary level. What I mean by that is that science, in an ACF packet, typically breaks down as 1/1 each of physics, bio, chem, and "other." And then you just keep track of what you write so you don't wind up with 5 tossups on thermodynamics but quantum mechanics. Likewise literature, which mandates a 1/1 non-Western distribution but that doesn't mean you need to also specify how much Africam, Latin American, and Japanese literature there should be in the set. Of course, editors try to spread things out in time and place, but I'm not convinced mandating particular subdistributions specifically in this way is beneficial. Take physics for example: is a tossup on the Meissner effect a tossup on E&M or quantum mechanics? There's no good answer to that question; in fact, the question itself is pointless. If anything, it's a tossup on superconductors, which means you probably don't want a tossup on BCS in the next packet, but the subdistribution doesn't seem to help you much there. Of course, there are topics that neatly fall into particular categories, but many of them bridge different areas of physics and mathematics.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

myamphigory wrote: Since you bring up the religion distribution, what I'd really like is to see that pared down and filled only with religion questions, with more room made elsewhere for philosophy and myth, because it sounds like "religion" (or "religious literature", or whatever) is not a very well-defined category in the current distribution, to the detriment of RMP in general.
Actually, I think this claim is more true of the circuit in general (where "R" is usually the odd man out in the "RMP" subcluster) than of NAQT, which does a pretty good job with religion questions. There's a literature subdistribution for religious stuff, which is itself divided into Judeo-Christian (e.g. Bible questions) and non (e.g. Popul Vuh questions). There's a religious history subdistribution (for church councils, etc.). And there's a pure "theology" subdistribution (which included things like the Rosh Chodesh tossup). At a lot of circuit tournaments, my sense is that people are more likely to think "well, this packet has a history tossup on a Pope; I don't really feel like researching some hardcore ahimsa lead-ins; I'll just call that 'religion' and be done with it."
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Pilgrim »

Gengangere wrote:I thought the literature questions were of a similar (high) quality, but I wonder if NAQT might consider raising the number of questions about literature from Africa, Asia, and Latin America? I'm not sure how they subdivide the literature category (perhaps it's English/non-English?), but I didn't really notice much world literature at ICT this year. Plenty of tournaments try to include 1/1 per round, which I think is a pretty good number, and since NAQT gets an extra 6/6 to work with, it seems like it would be even more doable to include. I think that unlike Seth's concerns about non-classical mythology, world literature has plenty of fresh topics that would be answerable, and I think plenty of people would enjoy hearing more questions from that area.
This was definitely my biggest problem with the lit in the set (at least Division II). Looking back over my notes of what we heard, I'm seeing a total of 0/0 Latin American, 2/0 Asian, and 0/0 African. Now, I almost certainly missed some, but the fact that I'm even able to come close to such numbers is kind of ridiculous.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Maxwell Sniffingwell »

Pilgrim wrote:
Gengangere wrote:I thought the literature questions were of a similar (high) quality, but I wonder if NAQT might consider raising the number of questions about literature from Africa, Asia, and Latin America? I'm not sure how they subdivide the literature category (perhaps it's English/non-English?), but I didn't really notice much world literature at ICT this year. Plenty of tournaments try to include 1/1 per round, which I think is a pretty good number, and since NAQT gets an extra 6/6 to work with, it seems like it would be even more doable to include. I think that unlike Seth's concerns about non-classical mythology, world literature has plenty of fresh topics that would be answerable, and I think plenty of people would enjoy hearing more questions from that area.
This was definitely my biggest problem with the lit in the set (at least Division II). Looking back over my notes of what we heard, I'm seeing a total of 0/0 Latin American, 2/0 Asian, and 0/0 African. Now, I almost certainly missed some, but the fact that I'm even able to come close to such numbers is kind of ridiculous.
Before the ICT, I had the lit girl on my team study seven Japanese authors: Oe, Mishima, Kawabata, Akutagawa, Ishiguro, Murakami, and Abe. I told her not to bother with Shonagan or Lady Murasaki, as if NAQT wrote another freakin' Genji or Pillow Book question, I'd be able to fraud it. The ONLY work of Japanese lit that we saw in the entire tournament was a tossup on, you guessed it, the Pillow Book.

If I had told her to study Latin American lit and given her the top 7 authors in that subdistribution, we would've gotten a similar NOPOINTSFORYOU.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Yeah, like Jerry, I think the whole idea of working out a meticulous subdistribution is a silly pursuit. You know, when you're writing packets or editing them, just do your best not to write too many things in one area...if you do that, and you're writing a good academic tourney, everything will work out just fine. You'll say to yourself "hey, I've already seen a lot of Latin American lit so far, let's write some African lit now." And, I don't really much care whether you classify something as "religion" or "myth." Just write a bunch of different tossups and bonuses on different things and then look over the packet to make sure there are no subdistributional issues; this has always worked fine for me. I'm with people who say that religion should be de-emphasized as a category if it's very limited (i.e. doesn't include stuff like Hinduism, religious history stuff, etc.). Also, I find it annoying when people complain (hasn't happened here, but people often do) - that whatever little topic they like didn't come up enough at the tourney. Eh, give it time and it'll all average out in the end...and while you're waiting, go learn about other topics.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

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Ryan Westbrook wrote:Yeah, like Jerry, I think the whole idea of working out a meticulous subdistribution is a silly pursuit. You know, when you're writing packets or editing them, just do your best not to write too many things in one area...if you do that, and you're writing a good academic tourney, everything will work out just fine. You'll say to yourself "hey, I've already seen a lot of Latin American lit so far, let's write some African lit now." And, I don't really much care whether you classify something as "religion" or "myth." Just write a bunch of different tossups and bonuses on different things and then look over the packet to make sure there are no subdistributional issues; this has always worked fine for me. I'm with people who say that religion should be de-emphasized as a category if it's very limited (i.e. doesn't include stuff like Hinduism, religious history stuff, etc.). Also, I find it annoying when people complain (hasn't happened here, but people often do) - that whatever little topic they like didn't come up enough at the tourney. Eh, give it time and it'll all average out in the end...and while you're waiting, go learn about other topics.
Well, I don't know how well a no sub distribution system would work with NAQT's writing system. Unlike traditional packet submission tournaments (or even house written mACF tournaments), there are a ton of writers for these tournaments who are writing a bunch of questions at different times. Just getting 10 people to write 12/12 myth or whatever could result in a really skewed distribution and then leave the editors scrambling for more questions in certain areas at the end.

I agree the system could maybe a little more flexible, but I don't think that a subdistribution system in itself is a problem, it's more some weird choices with how those subdistributions are implemented.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
Ryan Westbrook wrote:Yeah, like Jerry, I think the whole idea of working out a meticulous subdistribution is a silly pursuit. You know, when you're writing packets or editing them, just do your best not to write too many things in one area...if you do that, and you're writing a good academic tourney, everything will work out just fine. You'll say to yourself "hey, I've already seen a lot of Latin American lit so far, let's write some African lit now." And, I don't really much care whether you classify something as "religion" or "myth." Just write a bunch of different tossups and bonuses on different things and then look over the packet to make sure there are no subdistributional issues; this has always worked fine for me. I'm with people who say that religion should be de-emphasized as a category if it's very limited (i.e. doesn't include stuff like Hinduism, religious history stuff, etc.). Also, I find it annoying when people complain (hasn't happened here, but people often do) - that whatever little topic they like didn't come up enough at the tourney. Eh, give it time and it'll all average out in the end...and while you're waiting, go learn about other topics.
Well, I don't know how well a no sub distribution system would work with NAQT's writing system. Unlike traditional packet submission tournaments (or even house written mACF tournaments), there are a ton of writers for these tournaments who are writing a bunch of questions at different times. Just getting 10 people to write 12/12 myth or whatever could result in a really skewed distribution and then leave the editors scrambling for more questions in certain areas at the end.

I agree the system could maybe a little more flexible, but I don't think that a subdistribution system in itself is a problem, it's more some weird choices with how those subdistributions are implemented.
I find myself oddly agreeing with Westbrook on this one. I'm guessing the number of editors for a single category isn't on the order of 10; even if it is, just assign one head editor and have him pick the answer choices to his liking, then distribute them out.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by setht »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
Ryan Westbrook wrote:Yeah, like Jerry, I think the whole idea of working out a meticulous subdistribution is a silly pursuit. You know, when you're writing packets or editing them, just do your best not to write too many things in one area...if you do that, and you're writing a good academic tourney, everything will work out just fine. You'll say to yourself "hey, I've already seen a lot of Latin American lit so far, let's write some African lit now." And, I don't really much care whether you classify something as "religion" or "myth." Just write a bunch of different tossups and bonuses on different things and then look over the packet to make sure there are no subdistributional issues; this has always worked fine for me. I'm with people who say that religion should be de-emphasized as a category if it's very limited (i.e. doesn't include stuff like Hinduism, religious history stuff, etc.). Also, I find it annoying when people complain (hasn't happened here, but people often do) - that whatever little topic they like didn't come up enough at the tourney. Eh, give it time and it'll all average out in the end...and while you're waiting, go learn about other topics.
Well, I don't know how well a no sub distribution system would work with NAQT's writing system. Unlike traditional packet submission tournaments (or even house written mACF tournaments), there are a ton of writers for these tournaments who are writing a bunch of questions at different times. Just getting 10 people to write 12/12 myth or whatever could result in a really skewed distribution and then leave the editors scrambling for more questions in certain areas at the end.
I guess I wasn't very clear when I started this thread: I'm not directing my suggestions at (m)ACF events. I'm not even really directing my suggestions at house-written events. As Ryan says, it's probably best to let the central writers/editors keep track of subdistributions, and in the end, if a circuit event winds up having an overabundance or underabundance of questions in some niche areas, I don't think that's a big deal. But I think NAQT's SCT/ICT sets are a somewhat different beast: first off, you're trying to rank teams on a national scale, so if you wind up with a tournament set with 1/1 Latin American literature per round, or no classical myth at all, that might skew things, just as having a set where the science questions are more consistent (and consistently harder) than the rest of the questions might skew things. To some extent, it's fine to say "Oh well, it'll all average out in the end," but we're talking about a national championship; why not try to get it right to start with? Given how NAQT is set up, I don't think it would be that odious to implement some level of subdistribution in large enough categories like physics and myth. Second--and I hope I'm not revealing stuff that's not supposed to be revealed--the packets aren't generated by having a bunch of NAQT editors go through the question files in their categories and picking out questions by hand, so you can't even out the subdistributions by telling the editors to keep an eye out for random fluctuations of niche areas. The packets are generated by a program that randomly picks out questions from the available files, subject to whatever (sub)distribution requirements NAQT implements. If you have an undifferentiated "physics" category, it'll pick out 20/20 (or whatever the number is) at random; if you tell it you want 3/3 E/M, 3/3 quantum, 3/3 classical mechanics, 2/2 stat. mech./thermo, and 9/9 whatever, it'll pick that out. Also, if there's some subject that's short on questions a couple weeks before the tournament, writers start getting emails listing needs; if you get an email saying "We need 5/5 more physics," you have no idea whether there's already 4/4 quantum in the set, or only 1/1, and it's not easy to figure that out (in particular, if you're a still-active player writing for SCT because you're not playing for whatever reason, you're not allowed to look at what's in the set already, in case something gets bumped out and winds up in some later set you're going to play). Having a sub-distribution, at least in the major categories, makes it easier for writers, especially still-active circuit players, to see what areas are still needed in the set.

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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Yeah, and even having a subdistribution with a whole lot of writers won't really help, unless you do a great job of coordinating. I guess you could tell them all from the get-go "hey, you write x/x Greek myth" and "you write x/x Norse." But you don't really need a subdistro for that, so much as just say something reasonable, and when you get submissions take the ones you like. Or you might have some sort of answer sheet with things already written on - in which case, writers could just look at that and select something to write on which hasn't been overcooked.


Oh, I see Seth has posted something. I would respond to him, by saying: well then, the system NAQT has for selecting questions is dumb. Start going through and picking things out by hand, and things would work out fine. It can't be all that onerous.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by setht »

grapesmoker wrote:the physics breakdown seems ok too, although I guess I'd probably make the "special topics" area equal in size to all the others.
My suggestion puts it at 25%, slightly bigger than any other category; do you mean you think it should be ~50%?
ToStrikeInfinitely wrote:I'm guessing the number of editors for a single category isn't on the order of 10; even if it is, just assign one head editor and have him pick the answer choices to his liking, then distribute them out.
I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure NAQT's packet-generating system is not set up to allow this, and I don't think that's likely to change. Also, given NAQT is short on science writers, I can easily envision a scenario in which a science editor is going through the questions in their category and realizes they've only got 3/3 non-organic chemistry questions available, or 1/1 quantum physics. I think it makes more sense to put in some subdistribution in all the major categories (leaving some wiggle room--not every question has to be assigned to a specific niche, but there should be some minimal number of question in certain niches), because that's something that writers, including still-active circuit players, can help with.
Ryan Westbrook wrote:Yeah, and even having a subdistribution with a whole lot of writers won't really help, unless you do a great job of coordinating. I guess you could tell them all from the get-go "hey, you write x/x Greek myth" and "you write x/x Norse." But you don't really need a subdistro for that, so much as just say something reasonable, and when you get submissions take the ones you like. Or you might have some sort of answer sheet with things already written on - in which case, writers could just look at that and select something to write on which hasn't been overcooked.


Oh, I see Seth has posted something. I would respond to him, by saying: well then, the system NAQT has for selecting questions is dumb. Start going through and picking things out by hand, and things would work out fine. It can't be all that onerous.
Okay, I think you're operating under some false assumptions of how NAQT works. I think there are some categories, like science, that don't have tons of questions lying around, but I'm pretty sure there are some other categories that do have tons of questions lying around. I don't think asking the editors to wade through that is going to work well. Also, part of the point of using a computer program is that it can select questions based on all sorts of criteria: for instance, it can tag all the questions written by still-active players and yank out the ones written by people that will be playing a particular tournament. I suppose you could have the program select all the eligible questions, dump them into a file and then have editors comb through that, but I just don't think it'll work well. To some extent there is some picking by hand: editors do go back over the packets after they've been randomly generated and cut questions because they don't like them or they see a near-repeat or whatever. I didn't mean to imply that the packets are completely randomly generated and no one touches them after the questions have been put in by the program.

I guess my take on NAQT is that they should try to shift things as much as possible onto the writers, and I think the writers could easily handle being presented with a subdistribution: why is it so hard to imagine that out of 100+ writers, no one will sit down to write 2/2 quantum or 1/1 Egyptian myth if an email goes out a couple weeks before a tournament asking for those questions? Perhaps this qualifies as "a great job of coordinating," in which case I can tell you that NAQT already does a great job of coordinating (writers can also take a look at a running total of question needed in all sub-categories), so why not take advantage of that and have a sensible subdistribution? If the writers can't handle it, I don't see why the editors should be better-equipped to deal with it; if questions in some niche aren't available in the question database, the editors will either get stuck writing them, or they'll go unwritten and the distribution will be skewed. Once the editors start writing questions to fill niches, we're back where we started (asking writers to work on a specific subdistribution), except we've put more of the burden on a few writers.

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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Kyle »

Does anyone know whether the history tossup on Khadija was classified as history or religion? I don't have the set and I could be imagining a lot of this, but I feel like there was less non-Western history than I would have liked. I can think of one bonus on African history (Ghana) and a bunch of tossups on African geography (Gabon, Gambia, Angola). Sometimes it feels like geography tossups (which I like, of course) are standing in for parts of the world that don't get asked about in other distributions. Similarly the Middle East, where Kuwait and Tel Aviv were tossup answers...but where were the Middle Eastern history tossups? I realize that Jeff and others tried to put history into some of the geography clues (as in Qattara/Tobruk/Sidra), but it still feels like the geography and history distributions have shifted away from one another. Even the rare American or European geography tossup was usually on some place marginal like the Faroe Islands or Billings, Montana. There's almost a division between those places civilized enough to have history and those places that merely have geography (I don't mean that as an indictment, it's just that I've been reading a lot of anti-Western rhetoric in the last few days and it comes easily to mind). Why can't there be a geography question, for example, on Germany or France?

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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by grapesmoker »

setht wrote:My suggestion puts it at 25%, slightly bigger than any other category; do you mean you think it should be ~50%?
No, I think 50% would probably be too much, but again, I think there's a lot of ambiguity in what constitutes a "special topic." For example, if you take most of the things studies in a standard undergraduate QM course, you will find that people work out solutions to various potentials (particle in a box, harmonic oscillator) followed by the solution of the hydrogen atom (typically a chapter or two in most QM books) followed by corrections to the hydrogen spectrum; the second semester is typically perturbation theory. If you collect the amount of askable things in that space, you're actually not going to get very much. So it turns out that most of the interesting things to write and ask about have to do with applications of those principles of QM, and not so much about the material itself. Let me be clear, I have no ojections to questions taken out of those textbooks; I'm just not sure that most of the things we care about writing are neatly divisible into special categories. I do think that if you wanted to, you could fill an entire ICT's worth of physics questions using the scheme you suggested; however, I am afraid that sticking to it rigidly would lead to a reuse of the same questions year after year.

All that having been said, I think that trying out such a distribution in physics, and in science in general (and really across the board at ICT), is probably a worthwhile experiment. I think the key is, as Seth does, to break the distribution down into relevant subcategories rather ones like "elements." I think this way of doing things would probably be an improvement.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Important Bird Area »

Non-western history from the ICT:

Asian (including the Middle East) (7/7)

Tossups (Yuan dynasty, Treaty of Shimonoseki, Sassanid empire, the Great Game, Bangladesh, Seleucus I Nicator, Byzantine emperors named Michael)

(Observationally, this skews ancient more than I would have liked- there should have been a tossup on the history of the modern Middle East somewhere in a set this size.)

African (2/2)

Tossups (Mali, Bokassa)

Latin American (3/6)

Tossups (Potosi, Battle of Puebla, viceroys of New Spain)

Whatever (4/2)

Tossups (Uighurs, Khadijah, Barbados, Samoa)


There was 4/5 European geography in this set. Tossups (Faeroes, Slovenia, River Shannon, Neva) Bonuses (British mountain ranges, seas of northern Russia, cities in Austria, streets in European capitals, and cities along the Rhine)

It's probably worth noting that the smaller the subdistribution, the more vulnerable it is to the existence of timed rounds. Nobody notices if a few tossups out of the 20+ in British literature are buried at the end of the packet, but if you have 2/2 African history and one of them ends up at tossup 26, people will show up here with "how could you cut half the African history out of this set?!?"
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by grapesmoker »

bt_green_warbler wrote:Non-western history from the ICT:

Asian (including the Middle East) (7/7)
the Great Game, Seleucus I Nicator, Byzantine emperors named Michael)
Do these really count as "Asian," though? To my memory, the Great Game tossup was essentially about British people. Neither Seleucus nor the Byzantine empire strike me as being particularly "Asian," in the sense that they were both emergents of Western cultures even if geographically they were positioned close to Asia.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Kyle »

There was a tossup on Uighurs? I wrote a paper about the Uighurs. They're awesome. When was it?

I feel like a lot of the questions Jeff posted must have been things we just didn't get to. We played kind of slowly and only finished the packet against Chicago. I take back what I said about European geography; there was some of it. But I'm with Jerry — the Great Game was kind of a European history tossup set in Asia. So were the Byzantines named Michael. And shouldn't China or Japan or Korea get at least one tossup from the 20th century?

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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Brian Ulrich »

grapesmoker wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote:Non-western history from the ICT:

Asian (including the Middle East) (7/7)
the Great Game, Seleucus I Nicator, Byzantine emperors named Michael)
Do these really count as "Asian," though? To my memory, the Great Game tossup was essentially about British people. Neither Seleucus nor the Byzantine empire strike me as being particularly "Asian," in the sense that they were both emergents of Western cultures even if geographically they were positioned close to Asia.
Speaking as someone a few weeks out from getting his Ph.D. in Middle Eastern history, you're on dangerous ground. To be honest, I agree that Byzantine questions should count as Greek despite the location of its capital in today's Turkey, but in general "Western Civilization" has been an invention of recent centuries. Seleucus definitely played a role in the history of the ancient Middle East, even if he began as a general from a Macedonian conqueror. What you're essentially saying, too, is that questions dealing with colonial Latin America, Africa, or India shouldn't count as non-Western because most of the clues will probably involve Europeans and European policies. And is Russia European, or is it a Mongol successor state and one of the five major agrarian empires that dominated early modern Eurasia, much like Ming China, Ottomans, Mughals, and Safavids? After all, Peter the Great reminds me of Kemal Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi far more than, say, King Louis XIV of France.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by pray for elves »

Uighurs are awesome, and I too have written a paper on them. One of my friends is finishing off a thesis on them, too.
Kyle wrote:And shouldn't China or Japan or Korea get at least one tossup from the 20th century?
BUT THE TREATY OF SHIMONOSEKI IS 1895...THAT'S PRACTICALLY 20TH CENTURY :kenj: :kenj: :kenj:

What were the early clues on Tel Aviv? Having spent so much time there last summer I'd expect to have gotten it relatively early.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Kyle »

Eh, not exactly. I'm saying that things actually done by people from Asia deserve to come up too. And the parts of the Great Game tossup that I heard were historiographical (this dude named it, this dude wrote about it). When I buzzed in, I hadn't yet heard the name of a single Asian person. There is nothing wrong with writing a tossup on the Great Game. But people in the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia have done stuff in the last century.

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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

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Brian Ulrich wrote:Speaking as someone a few weeks out from getting his Ph.D. in Middle Eastern history, you're on dangerous ground. To be honest, I agree that Byzantine questions should count as Greek despite the location of its capital in today's Turkey, but in general "Western Civilization" has been an invention of recent centuries. Seleucus definitely played a role in the history of the ancient Middle East, even if he began as a general from a Macedonian conqueror. What you're essentially saying, too, is that questions dealing with colonial Latin America, Africa, or India shouldn't count as non-Western because most of the clues will probably involve Europeans and European policies. And is Russia European, or is it a Mongol successor state and one of the five major agrarian empires that dominated early modern Eurasia, much like Ming China, Ottomans, Mughals, and Safavids? After all, Peter the Great reminds me of Kemal Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi far more than, say, King Louis XIV of France.
I'm not trying to get into an academic argument about whether or not such a thing as "Western Civilization" exists, although I think it's easy enough to find paradigmatic cases on either side of the divide. I'm also not going to get into the question of whether Russia is a European state or not; even Russia itself doesn't know the answer to that question. What I'm talking about is the issue of how to classify questions on various things. Let me now turn your argument back on you: if questions on colonial Africa, for example, count as questions on Africa even if they are mostly full of clues about Europeans, then it seems to me like you're running the risk of not actually covering any African history outside of colonialism at all, and I think that would be equally poor and would make it seem like, as far as quizbowl knows, Africa is only remarkable for being colonized, which is obviously not true.

In fact, I think questions on colonial issues can probably fall on either side of the divide; I would make that determination based on which group has the preponderance of clues. I would be inclined most of the time to put a question on Byzantium or Seleucus in the Western category (although actually most ACF history distributions explicitly call for a general "ancient history" subdistribution, and a question on Seleucus would definitely go in there first). Likewise, I interpreted tossups on Samoa and Barbados as geography and not history, so according to my admittedly biased and possibly mistaken counting, there were only about 10 non-Western history tossups. Then there were those we didn't hear because they were in the tiebreaker packets, so that's unfortunate. In general, I think it's not all that important where the question winds up as long as there's enough to go around. Since the non-western distribution tends to be pretty small, losing a question because it gets put as #26 in the packet or having a bad question on the topic is more noticeable, as Jeff pointed out. I just think that in general, there should probably be 1/1 good non-Western history per round (in the first 22 questions) and then it wouldn't really matter all that much how you classify these things.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by grapesmoker »

Kyle wrote:Eh, not exactly. I'm saying that things actually done by people from Asia deserve to come up too. And the parts of the Great Game tossup that I heard were historiographical (this dude named it, this dude wrote about it). When I buzzed in, I hadn't yet heard the name of a single Asian person. There is nothing wrong with writing a tossup on the Great Game. But people in the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia have done stuff in the last century.
The main problem with that tossup, in my opinion, was that it was essentially a 15-or-nothing kind of question. I mean, if you know about the Great Game, the first clues essentially tell you that a) it's a term and b) it involves stuff the British did in India.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Important Bird Area »

More on this when I don't have to run to class in ten minutes, but a few quick notes.

Yes, there are some suboptimal things about how NAQT classifies its nonwestern history questions, and I will be sending notes to R accordingly.

Now some commentary on questions I wrote.

1. The Uighurs were in the unread final packet. Something non-western has to go there too unless you want all ties to be broken on dead white European male content...

"This ethnic group's Karabalgasun inscription records their conversion to Manichaeism, which took place after their second khagan, Tengli, plundered Loyang in 762. That inscription is trilingual in Sogdian, Chinese, and (*) their own Turkic, the last two of which are still spoken in the region that includes Kashgar, Khotan, and Urumchi. For 10 points--name these Muslim residents of China's Xinjiang autonomous region."

2. Here's the text of my Barbados tossup, Jerry. I don't see how anything but the final word is geography. Are people reading NAQT's sets seeing extra ghost geography just because they expect to see tons and tons of it?

"One account of this place was written by Heinrich von Uchteritz, a German mercenary captured at the Battle of Worcester. Christopher Codrington, who became deputy governor at age 29, was a leader of its planter class, many of whom fled to South Carolina rather than live among a hostile Irish and African labor force. By 1673 (*) slaves outnumbered free men on--for 10 points--what sugar island whose capital is Bridgetown?"

3. Finally, the Great Game:

"This phrase may have been coined by Arthur Conolly, who was beheaded by the Emir of Bukhara. Another casualty of this activity was Alexander Burnes, who was killed trying to enthrone Shah Shuja during the (*) 1841 Elphinstone expedition. Literary participants included Colonel Creighton from Rudyard Kipling's Kim. Control of Central Asia was at stake in--for 10 points--what 19th-century contest between Russia and Britain?"

This is in fact a decidedly mediocre tossup with a leadin that was probably too easy for the ICT, but I still think that it's pyramidal, since the material at the end is a lot more famous than what's in the power zone.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by grapesmoker »

bt_green_warbler wrote:Are people reading NAQT's sets seeing extra ghost geography just because they expect to see tons and tons of it?
I guess so! I retract my mistaken statement about that tossup.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Brian Ulrich »

grapesmoker wrote:
Brian Ulrich wrote:Speaking as someone a few weeks out from getting his Ph.D. in Middle Eastern history, you're on dangerous ground. To be honest, I agree that Byzantine questions should count as Greek despite the location of its capital in today's Turkey, but in general "Western Civilization" has been an invention of recent centuries. Seleucus definitely played a role in the history of the ancient Middle East, even if he began as a general from a Macedonian conqueror. What you're essentially saying, too, is that questions dealing with colonial Latin America, Africa, or India shouldn't count as non-Western because most of the clues will probably involve Europeans and European policies. And is Russia European, or is it a Mongol successor state and one of the five major agrarian empires that dominated early modern Eurasia, much like Ming China, Ottomans, Mughals, and Safavids? After all, Peter the Great reminds me of Kemal Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi far more than, say, King Louis XIV of France.
I'm not trying to get into an academic argument about whether or not such a thing as "Western Civilization" exists, although I think it's easy enough to find paradigmatic cases on either side of the divide. I'm also not going to get into the question of whether Russia is a European state or not; even Russia itself doesn't know the answer to that question. What I'm talking about is the issue of how to classify questions on various things. Let me now turn your argument back on you: if questions on colonial Africa, for example, count as questions on Africa even if they are mostly full of clues about Europeans, then it seems to me like you're running the risk of not actually covering any African history outside of colonialism at all, and I think that would be equally poor and would make it seem like, as far as quizbowl knows, Africa is only remarkable for being colonized, which is obviously not true.
My own purpose wasn't to start arguments, but rather to suggest that Western/Non-Western is a problematic means of categorization, especially for premodern history. NAQT uses geography, which I think is better. You're right that it would be a problem if all African history were based on colonization, and I guess it could be solved by invoking date codes, but that seems like it's taking sub-category division to an extreme that just isn't worth it, as opposed to making sure people write a variety of questions. Even your idea of using people's national origin runs into problems. Is the Boer War an African history toss-up? Apartheid?

NAQT does have an "Ancient history non-classical" distribution, covering everything outside of Greece and Rome prior to 1000. However, those questions can also count as Asian, South American, or whatever.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

This discussion is endlessly pedantic. I'm guessing people care so much about it because, when you finally do get to an academic tossup on something like "African history" after wading through an ocean of trash and current events, you want it to be on something you like. Good hardcore academic knowledge buzzes at NAQT are like precious treasures that come once a millenium. Anyway, whatever, blabber on about ideal subdistribution all you want, I just have a theory:



Theory 6.153: Anyone who has an ironclad theory about which subdistribution certain topics fall into, where those topics clearly seem to fall between two or more different categories, very likely is not a good quizbowl player - even within the discipline under discussion.

Corollary to Theory 6.153: If, in order to solidify said ironclad theory, said person uses his/her "qualifications" or employs an extended discourse/lecture on "the proper modern understanding" of whatever discipline is under discussion, said person is almost certainly not a good player.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by yoda4554 »

DeisEvan wrote: What were the early clues on Tel Aviv? Having spent so much time there last summer I'd expect to have gotten it relatively early.
This city's more than 4,000 Bauhaus and International Style buildings made it a World Heritage Site under the nickname of "The White City." Along with Holon and Bat Yam, it forms the Gush Dan metropolitan area. It was founded in 1909 as a suburb of an orange-producing city it eventually absorbed, the (*) port of {Jaffa}. South of Haifa and northwest of Jerusalem lies--for 10 points--what second-most populous city of Israel?

answer: _Tel Aviv_(-Jaffa) (or _Tel Aviv_-Yafo)
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by Brian Ulrich »

Ryan Westbrook wrote:This discussion is endlessly pedantic. I'm guessing people care so much about it because, when you finally do get to an academic tossup on something like "African history" after wading through an ocean of trash and current events, you want it to be on something you like. Good hardcore academic knowledge buzzes at NAQT are like precious treasures that come once a millenium. Anyway, whatever, blabber on about ideal subdistribution all you want, I just have a theory:

Theory 6.153: Anyone who has an ironclad theory about which subdistribution certain topics fall into, where those topics clearly seem to fall between two or more different categories, very likely is not a good quizbowl player - even within the discipline under discussion.

Corollary to Theory 6.153: If, in order to solidify said ironclad theory, said person uses his/her "qualifications" or employs an extended discourse/lecture on "the proper modern understanding" of whatever discipline is under discussion, said person is almost certainly not a good player.
I didn't really mean to come off that way; the point was more that I've had to look at a lot of this stuff professionally, and am someone who would want "real" Middle Eastern history, or whatever. In any case, I was suggesting a problem with someone else's understanding. Whether or not something is or is not Western is subject to heated debate. Whether or not something happened on the continent called Africa is not.

It is, of course, open to debate as to whether current academic understandings should play a role in what you frequently remind us all is primarily an academic competition.
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Re: Sub-distribution suggestions

Post by pray for elves »

yoda4554 wrote:
DeisEvan wrote: What were the early clues on Tel Aviv? Having spent so much time there last summer I'd expect to have gotten it relatively early.
This city's more than 4,000 Bauhaus and International Style buildings made it a World Heritage Site under the nickname of "The White City." Along with Holon and Bat Yam, it forms the Gush Dan metropolitan area. It was founded in 1909 as a suburb of an orange-producing city it eventually absorbed, the (*) port of {Jaffa}. South of Haifa and northwest of Jerusalem lies--for 10 points--what second-most populous city of Israel?

answer: _Tel Aviv_(-Jaffa) (or _Tel Aviv_-Yafo)
Thanks.
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