ACF nationals discussion

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ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

The set isn't quite ready to be posted, but I and the other editors are anxious to hear what people thought of it. As most of you probably know, we had our science and arts editors decide not to do their jobs a couple weeks before the tournament, so we had to scramble a bit on those subjects, but we certainly still want to know what you thought of those questions and the rest. Additionally, if you have any thoughts on how the tournament was run, please let them be known.

As always, complete honestly is appreciated.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo »

While there were a few kinks left in some questions which other people will recall better than I, on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was challenging enough but still fun, although this was my first trip to ACF nationals so I can't really speak for anyone else. Still, well done.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by The Logic of Scientific Disco »

Overall, this was a pretty good tournament, I thought, and it got better as the day went on, which is unusual but obviously a really good thing. We had a lot of fun, and it was a testament to the quality of bonuses that each of us got to thirty a bonus or two, but not more. Given the editor desertion issue, it's a little unfortunate that most of my opinions are about music and science questions, but oh well--those are the ones I was paying the most attention to all day.

First of all, things I liked: tossups on Reissner-Nordstrom, Ragtime, Janacek, octopus in literature (now I'm definitely reading Gravity's Rainbow over the summer), carbocations (this was a pretty clever tossup, since it required knowledge of actual mechanisms), Manuel de Falla, and the Kerr effect. These were all more or less appropriately difficult; in particular, I can't see Kerr or Reissner-Nordstrom being tossed up anywhere else, which makes them pretty cool for ACF Nats. I also liked the bonuses on Ziegler-Natta (though it was a little easy) and Friedel-Crafts, as well as a few others that I won't remember without the set in front of me.

Now, the not-so-good: some of the early rounds seemed pretty lacking in real science or music, and even the late rounds had some questionable things. In particular, I'm somewhat annoyed that in the six prelim rounds we heard, there were 4 tossups on obscure composers or their work and only one on a work by someone well-known. Now, I have nothing against asking for off-the-beaten track stuff, but I'd much rather hear a tossup on the Waldstein Sonata than on Arvo Part. This problem was considerably ameliorated later on, as there were nice tossups on things like The Thieving Magpie and The Seasons, and less "obscure composer shootout".

On the science front, I was not impressed by some of the early-round stuff. For example, the round 3 packet (Irvine?) had tossups on the cornea (fine), cold fusion (more on this below), a vague tossup on optimization (which the two CS people on my team were thrown off by), and the Gibbs Phase Rule (again fine). Now, 2 out of 4 isn't bad, but I'd expect better from Nats. That round, and the one after it, also didn't have a science tossup in the first half.

As a side point, which probably doesn't bear much discussion because it's one tossup, but which is nonetheless interesting, is the cold fusion tossup. On the one hand, I'm disappointed to see literal junk science showing up in the science distro, since cold fusion is, you know, fake. On the other hand, the tossup had legitimate science-based clues in it, which, if you know why/how cold fusion experiments failed or were faked, would cause you to get the question. So I'm on the fence about this one--anyone who knows more about it want to weigh in?

So yeah, overall, this tournament was pretty darn good, and it was pretty neat to face six teams we've never faced before. I don't think I realized until yesterday how much I appreciate good hard questions in my areas.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

First off, thanks to all of the editors for producing the set. It was for the most part very enjoyable, and I'm pretty sure it was more accessible than last year which was nice for our team (although this could more be due to me probably being better than last year).

I'll probably comment on the questions a bit more later, but for now I'll focus on the running of the tournament. The tournament just took too long to play. It took until 10:30 to finish 15 rounds, which is really just unacceptable. In my opinion, having a tournament that goes this late really hampers the enjoyment of the tournament for a lot of people. I understand that things happen, but there were a number of things that should have been improved to make the tournament end at a more reasonable time.

First, having moderators for 2/3 of the rooms having to travel from one building to another was not a great idea. This added probably 5 minutes of walking time in between each round which when combined with some 14 rounds of play delayed the tournament significantly.

Maybe computerized packets are the wave of the future, but this tournament really showed the shortcomings of computerized reading. We wasted a lot of time waiting for the files to be transfered to computers, not only at the start of the tournament (this always seems to happen! If you're running a paperless tournament, please try to get the packets on computers beforehand as much as is possible), but at various points during the tournament. Apparently files got corrupted or something, which I guess happened because of the zip files used in each round. I know in the past I praised the password system as a novel idea, but I think it really slowed things down in this tournament. I think for a tournament like this, if you're going to do computerized packets, just give them all to the moderators and clearly mark which packets are which (i.e. not "Round 1", "Round 2", ... "Round 10" so you don't get people reading Round 1 than Round 10).

Next, the tournament took way too long to start. Starting the tournament at 9:30 was a bad idea in the first place. I understand that people are coming by public transportation, but it's pretty annoying that everyone has to be delayed by 30 minutes to an hour by pushing the start time back to accomodate just a few local teams (that face the least burden in staying late). We were further hampered by what appeared to be editors showing up late and no one really taking charge in handling registrations.

Yeah, I realize shit happens. But having a tournament end at 10:30 really is not conducive to the idea of expanding ACF to more teams (which I assume was one of the goals of this tournament thanks to that whole $1 CBI thing).

Anyways, once again, the actual questions were very enjoyable and I'd like to thank everyone who worked hard producing them. The tournament was fun to play despite the late end (although of course I wish it would have ended earlier).
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Regarding computerized packets: I don't know that there's any reason to transfer packets one by one. You can just email them out beforehand with passwords and have all packets be available at the same time, or you can distribute them on a flash drive all at once at the start of the day.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

grapesmoker wrote:Regarding computerized packets: I don't know that there's any reason to transfer packets one by one. You can just email them out beforehand with passwords and have all packets be available at the same time, or you can distribute them on a flash drive all at once at the start of the day.
Well, this seemed to have happened, but due to the zip file policy (I think) files got corrupted somehow. This was fixed in the middle of the day, but it seems like this wasn't all done at once for some reason.

Anyways, another issue with zip files is that they seem to be an issue for Mac users. I guess if you're going to go with computerized packets and especially ones in zip files, make sure that you double check that your passwords all work and that the files are all non-corrupted.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

There were some problems with the set and tournament administration that I would like to comment on as one of the people in charge of both.

First, the tournament. There were some real problems, though the road was paved with good intentions. The paperless tournament idea was good in theory, but in practice it really slowed a lot of us down. The glare was bad in some of the rooms with big windows, and I know I personally just was reading slow and mispronouncing things because of it. Additionally, it had occurred to me earlier this week that we probably should have put the stat room in Olin-Sang, as that would reduce the time it would take the readers overall to get stats in (as we would have put our fastest readers in Golding). That did contribute to the length. That being said, the biggest problem might have been that the readers overall in the morning were just too damn slow (including myself). As to the late start, most of our staff came from MIT, who could not get to Brandeis earlier than 9:15. I agree that optimally we would have started a lot earlier, but we just couldn't. ACF Nationals is going to be a long tournament, but this one could have unquestionably gone better.

Second, the set. I'm only going to talk about the categories I worked on. First, the lit. I left two clues hanging in questions (as in, in one tossup a sentence abruptly ended before the thought was complete and in one bonus no clue was given for the second part). That's inexcusable. As to the content, I really can't say whether the difficulty level was off or if the bonuses were inconsistent and/or too hard overall. I hope we'll get some comments on that front. As to the arts, as I said, we had to scramble at the last minute to get them finished. In response to Chris' criticisms, there was a pure music tossup in five or six of the prelim packets. In those that didn't have one, there was a pure music bonus. Remember: you submit 3/3 arts, but usually either 3/2 or 2/3 will make it into the first 20. As to your content critique, yes, there were too many composer tossups, and I can tell you why. I don't have the theory knowledge that people like Matt Nance and Chris Frankel do, so when I was going quickly and had to insert music tossups, I went with composers, which, I know, is not optimal. As to your assessment of the specific questions you mentioned, I can't say I agree, but I don't want to get hung up on single questions.

The final thing I want to say in this post is that I and the other editors were incredibly disappointed in the quality of most of the packets submitted. I or another editor will probably talk more about this in another post or another thread entirely. If you'd like specific feedback on your packet, feel free to email me and I'll arrange for that to happen.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by kactigger »

Now, I have nothing against asking for off-the-beaten track stuff, but I'd much rather hear a tossup on the Waldstein Sonata than on Arvo Part. This problem was considerably ameliorated later on, as there were nice tossups on things like The Thieving Magpie and The Seasons, and less "obscure composer shootout".
This is an interesting comparison, in the sense that Arvo Part is heard far, far more frequently today in concert than the Thieving Magpie. As far as I can tell, for instance, the Metropolitan Opera hasn't put on the Thieving Magpie since the late 1880s. The overture is famous, of course, but not as often played as Arvo Part these days. I'm not quite sure what the definition of "obscure, off the beaten track" is, but from today's standards, the Thieving Magpie is a very obscure work, while Part's work gets performed a lot. He's not that obscure:)
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

I agree that the length of the tournament was crazy. Part of it was that we didn't plan ahead as much as we should have, but part of it is that we ran a 16-round event, and it's just not that easy to get things done before sundown with that many rounds (in any format). I think ACF Nationals could be a 1.5-day tournament, but I'm thinking instead of doing it ICT-style, we could run it until early Saturday evening and then finish on Sunday morning. What do people think about trying this next year?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Eärendil »

I thought that the overall tournament set was put together very well, which for me made playing this tournament extremely fun. Thanks again to the editors for their hard work. I'd be interested in hearing how much the nearly one month in advance packet deadline helped. For now, I'll just comment on some distribution issues.

First, there seemed to be a lot of economics, moreso than at other events. At least in the prelims, it felt like there was 1/0 or 0/1 econ in the first 20. Maybe that's just me, but I'd like to see what other people thought about that.

Kevin brought this up and the Stanford team talked about this after the tournament, but he felt that there was a lack of British poetry relative to the rest of the lit distribution. Based on our collective memory, there were questions about the Brownings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the Auden clue in the Caliban tossup. I'm probably missing some more, but it's an interesting observation.

The biology distribution overall was good, though I wish there would have been a little more plant biology and some less taxonomy. This is less personal preference and more wanting to just diversify the answer space. The only quibble I can remember having is with the 1/1 bio in the Irvine packet. While cornea is a fine answer choice for a tossup, and angiogenesis is a fine topic for a bonus, I don't think the two should be in the same packet. The cornea (and the lens) is an important anti-angiogenic structure, which makes it the subject of some interesting cancer-related research. The thing is, someone who knows a lot about angiogenesis is probably going to know a thing about or two about corneal avascularity, and (vice versa) someone doing research on the cornea will probably know about angiogenesis. Both are really cool subjects, but pairing that tossup with that bonus is essentially asking about two sides of the same coin.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Coelacanth »

Matt Weiner wrote:I think ACF Nationals could be a 1.5-day tournament, but I'm thinking instead of doing it ICT-style, we could run it until early Saturday evening and then finish on Sunday morning. What do people think about trying this next year?
I'm sorry, I can't resist pointing this out...

So what you're saying is that you think ACF Nationals should be more like CBI?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

For what it's worth, here is the list of British poetry answers that came up at nationals (not including single bonus parts and tossup clues):

Robert Southey (TU)
Death of a Naturalist (TU)
P. Shelley (Bonus)
Chapman (Bonus)
Thomas Hardy (Bonus)
Prosody (Bonus)
One more question in the unread third editors packet.

I tried very hard to adhere to the genre, nationality, and time period subdistribution, but it's often hard to do so exactly, especially when you're dealing with submissions. In total, there was more American poetry than British poetry and more British poetry than European poetry, with only one World poetry question. Now that I'm looking at the answer set I can see that ultimately there was more drama in the set than poetry, and they should be equal.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Coelacanth wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:I think ACF Nationals could be a 1.5-day tournament, but I'm thinking instead of doing it ICT-style, we could run it until early Saturday evening and then finish on Sunday morning. What do people think about trying this next year?
I'm sorry, I can't resist pointing this out...

So what you're saying is that you think ACF Nationals should be more like CBI?
How is this productive? Thanks for trying to derail the thread.

As to the 1.5 day structure, it's not a bad idea. The only real trouble is that you can't predict the schedule of the tournament until you have the final field, which means it's tough to say when the cutoff will be on Saturday. We could probably make it work, though.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Coelacanth »

Wasn't trying to derail anything; sorry if my weak attempt at humor caused distress.

I do think that the Sat-Sun model is a good one for a national tournament, particularly if you are running 15-16 rounds. In a Saturday-only event, nobody is planning their return flights or roadtrips for Saturday night anyway.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Okay, well, I want to get out some fairly quick preliminary remarks before I probably go into hiding and do some things I neglected in order to edit ACF Nats.


First of all, I really enjoyed the set while reading it. It's tough to get a feel, with so many editors and questions flying by, of how a set is going to be while you're editing it. Even when you're sitting up at 4 in the morning and putting questions into packets, it's really tough to know whether what you've got is globally good or deficient or what.

Kwartler briefly mentioned that we were helped out by a number of people in producing this set, as a result of panicked necessity. In terms of substantive question writing, I want to offer the most hearty thanks to Matt Lafer, Paul Litvak, Wesley Matthews, and Matt Nance. They each stepped up and did a really competent job at editing/writing stuff that was foisted upon them.

There were some obvious problems with clumping of questions and sorting - one packet had a whole bunch of science bonuses together, and one had none in the first ten, etc. But, overall, I want to say that I was really pleased with the job that people (like Weiner, Silberman, Kwartler, myself too) did at very late hours of the night and very extreme levels of exhaustion - at sticking questions into packets, deciding which questions should go where, which should be tiebreakers, how bonuses should be arranged, etc. There were also a very small handful of repeats (elixir of love, etc. - know there were a few others) But, overall, I don't think this part of the tournament can be faulted too much and nothing stood out as too unfortunate/unfair to me in the course of reading.

On the outcome of the tournament - the final match was one of the most exciting I have ever seen. I don't think I've never been as nervous during a qb match, except for the nats final I actually played in...it was really great stuff. Couldn't have been more compelling, with the Mukherjee-Koo showdown on organic chem on the 19th tossup and Jerry's clutch buzz on Some Prefer Nettles on the 20th. Brown did not deserve to lose the way they did -by failing to get more than 10 on a really hard physics bonus. I don't think anything in the packet was unfair on the whole, it all seemed to even out, it was just heartbreaking to have it end that way. Brown played outstandingly and fought all the way; I was certainly rooting for a second packet. But, I want to say too that I think there has never been a funnier moment in quizbowl than when Selene negged that diol tossup and Mukherjee declared "Oh, thank God"...then again, I'm kind of a fan of dark comedy (not a pun on Dark Eric).

On the length of the tournament, my feeling is that it's just the nature of the beast. Nats should go about as long as it did, I like the feeling of it being a marathon. Sure, some things could have went faster or more efficiently than they did, but I've no problem with the tourney ending when it did. It's not like we were sitting there at 1 in the morning in an abandoned warehouse. At the same time, I'm amenable to the fact that some people are maybe not as purist or hardcore as I am, and to the argument that it may not be optimal for some people/teams.

So, overall, I was really pleased with what I saw. Did people think this set was more accessible than others like last years? I'm mildly surprised by that, since I think it was of a pretty healthy difficulty level (and I'm known for liking high difficulty)...but I will say that, while reading in the second bracket, I was really happy with where teams were buzzing and the amount of points they were putting up. That's a credit firstly to the teams involved (and several players on them who I don't get to see very often and who I was pretty impressed with). It also convinced me that difficulty was appropriate by and large.

So, what I ended up editing was history, geography, chemistry and a smattering of other science like astro, as well as a few other random questions. I will certainly give feedback to anyone by email or answer questions here on anything I edited.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

At least in History, the set seemed less "accessible" than last year, and by that I mean there were fewer tossups of the "hard clues, easy answer" school that Kwartler complained about in his earlier post, but under no circumstances shall this post be construed so as to express or imply an opinion on whether that is a positive or negative development.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Kyle »

I thought it was really hard. I didn't play last year, so I can't compare the two sets. And I don't mean "it was really hard" as something bad at all. I just thought it was hard.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by dtaylor4 »

I played both last year and this year, and found this year's set to be much more accessible. I had heard of a lot more of the answers this year, though some of that may be due to having more experience.

One thing that stuck out to me was the amount of "common link" tossups. I have no problem with a bonus having such a structure, but in my opinion, they do not make for good tossups. The ones that come to mind: rocks/stones, sheep, cats, invading Poland, "savage". I did not have my notebook, so I cannot recall any more. I remember Jerry complaining about one that I believe was in social science that he felt was a hose, but cannot recall it off-hand. My view is that these are marginally better than list tossups, as they contain actual clues, but the way the clues bounce around and have almost no tie-in except for the answer makes them difficult to play on. One counter to the previous sentence is in history, when you can narrow it via location and time period.

If people disagree and think that such tossups are good and should remain, please feel free to explain.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Well, both "invading Poland" and "savage" were placed post-20, and I think with good reason. They would both be pretty frustrating for me to play on. Cats and sheep were okay (though the Sheep Well clue may have been early) because there were good clues that let you get them if you had knowledge, and they were difficult to make guesses at. I think the tus on rocks (and east too) would have been better reconsidered - since they sort of invite guessing, which isn't good.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Quick preliminary comments before I make a more detailed post.
Ryan Westbrook wrote:There were some obvious problems with clumping of questions and sorting - one packet had a whole bunch of science bonuses together, and one had none in the first ten, etc. But, overall, I want to say that I was really pleased with the job that people (like Weiner, Silberman, Kwartler, myself too) did at very late hours of the night and very extreme levels of exhaustion - at sticking questions into packets, deciding which questions should go where, which should be tiebreakers, how bonuses should be arranged, etc. There were also a very small handful of repeats (elixir of love, etc. - know there were a few others) But, overall, I don't think this part of the tournament can be faulted too much and nothing stood out as too unfortunate/unfair to me in the course of reading.
Its really too bad editors bailed on you; I'm guessing that's one of the things that caused some of these issues.
Ryan Westbrook wrote:On the outcome of the tournament - the final match was one of the most exciting I have ever seen. I don't think I've never been as nervous during a qb match, except for the nats final I actually played in...it was really great stuff. Couldn't have been more compelling, with the Mukherjee-Koo showdown on organic chem on the 19th tossup and Jerry's clutch buzz on Some Prefer Nettles on the 20th. Brown did not deserve to lose the way they did -by failing to get more than 10 on a really hard physics bonus. I don't think anything in the packet was unfair on the whole, it all seemed to even out, it was just heartbreaking to have it end that way. Brown played outstandingly and fought all the way; I was certainly rooting for a second packet. But, I want to say too that I think there has never been a funnier moment in quizbowl than when Selene negged that diol tossup and Mukherjee declared "Oh, thank God"...then again, I'm kind of a fan of dark comedy (not a pun on Dark Eric).
Thank god K. Barry Sharpless [hail!] has more than one reaction named for him; I almost made the same reflex buzz that Selene did, then remembered that. That game was probably one of the best I've played, impossible superfluidity bonuses aside. I suppose its not really productive to say that the bonuses didn't really fall our way in that round, but it'll make me feel better anyway.

One difference between this years and last years set is that the ppb and place in the top bracket tended to correlate almost perfectly; this year, this is far from true. I'm sure at least part of this is due to idiosyncracies in our playing style, but there were more than a handful of bonuses that were either easy enough that both teams would have thirtied or either team would get 10 or zero (The Radha and Butler bonus are example of the former, superfluidity the latter). I realize this seems to be a complaint about every tournament nowadays, but the bonuses really did waver quite a bit. I'm not sure if this was a function of there being no head editor, or lack of time, or a statistical matter, but it really was a serious issue that I would like to see resolved in future versions of nationals.

More later.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

I can answer that last question. The science editors bailed on us, so we had 0 ability to modulate much of the science bonus difficulty. Additionally, our arts editor bailed on us, which meant we all had more work to do that led to our late finish. Our original plan was to leave time to go through every tossup and bonus to try to modulate difficulty, spot clue placement issues, and excise repeats. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for that to happen. I really wish we had, because you're right, there were some bonuses that were impossible to 30 or even 20, and some that were just too easy. That being said, I'm not sure that's why bonus conversion overall was the way it was. It's not like every bonus was one or the other, and in the long run I'd think it would probably even out. If I'm wrong, I'll accept that, and perhaps we'll all have a better idea once the set is ready (tonight or tomorrow depending on when Weiner next surfaces).
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Please take everything I say with a grain of salt, since we literally just hit a wall once we went from undefeated to second bracket in two games (and then other non-quizbowl-related stuff started happening that just caused a snowball effect).

First off, this tournament felt less accessible than last year's. The within-packet difficulty seemed inconsistent (maybe it was just gaping holes in our knowledge base, but several packets had bonuses we considered easy 20's mixed with bonuses on things we'd never heard of), and it was hard to get a grip on what the difficulty was intended to be. For people who don't use exclusively the Mackenzie Method, this can be frustrating. Despite this, I can't remember tossups on things like "electrospray ionization" or "A Vision" or anything that could be similarly construed as coming way out of left field.

Second, this tournament just dragged on and on. If I recall correctly, both 2006 and 2007 ACF Nationals had the last match end sometime between 8:00 and 9:00; our last match ended around 9:30 and we just left because being hungry and tired outweighed watching what ended up being a thrilling final. I wasn't around during the Golden Age of Marathon Tournaments when catatonic buzzing was considered fun, and so I'm of the opinion that if you can't end the tournament at a time when, if the participants so chose, they could all go out to eat at a reasonable time, then there's a problem. I was also led to understand that due to shortsighted logistics some of the staff was unable to use the lunch break to, you know, actually eat lunch. This is a problem at any tournament whether it's ACF Nationals or Ghetto Warz.

Lastly, I understand the reason prelim records did not carry over, but it still seemed a little unfair that Dartmouth over Chicago and Illinois over Brown ultimately meant absolutely nothing. This tournament left me with the taste that half the tournament meant pretty much nothing.

I'm not going to argue vehemently that we deserved to be in the top bracket, since I can't exactly quantify how much the deflation of learning we got bumped down led us to brainfart our way through the playoff bracket, and Minnesota apparently did an admirable job of taking their top bracket lumps. I will say that, in hindsight, had we been allowed after round 7 to retroactively forfeit our prelim game against Vanderbilt, we would have been 4-2 with a bonus conversion of 14, which would have put us in the top bracket since Rom and Friends was ineligible, instead of 5-1 with a bonus conversion of around 12.5. Much like the nonsense that is the BCS, this format apparently penalized us for winning in a method that did not please the computers.

Perhaps my expectations for the tournament were too high, but I did not enjoy this tournament as much as I had hoped. From talking to my teammates, it sounded like they had a downright miserable afternoon. UC Irvine is unlikely to return to ACF Nationals in the near future, which is a shame because I still think it's a good, if flawed, tournament.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by dtaylor4 »

Ryan Westbrook wrote:Well, both "invading Poland" and "savage" were placed post-20, and I think with good reason. They would both be pretty frustrating for me to play on. Cats and sheep were okay (though the Sheep Well clue may have been early) because there were good clues that let you get them if you had knowledge, and they were difficult to make guesses at. I think the tus on rocks (and east too) would have been better reconsidered - since they sort of invite guessing, which isn't good.
From what I recall, invading Poland was not post-20. If memory serves, it was in the first half (which I was not in for), and I believe was round 9 or 10.

Also, to respond to Dwight: I believe the main reason some of the staff were unable to eat lunch was because of the protests surrounding the Illinois-Brown match (one tossup, two bonus parts). To expound: there were three protests lodged by Illinois during the game, and the initial final score was 200-180. One bonus protest was denied, and the tossup protest was upheld, after which a bonus was read (which we 10'd to tie the game.) The third protest was still pending, so while it was being resolved, a tiebreaker tossup was read, which Jerry negged, thus making the last protest moot. I believe this took around 30-45 minutes, and involved several of the main staffers (Eric, Matt, and Ryan I know were involved.)
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

As the author of the "invading Poland" tossup, I want to say a few words:

First, when I read the packet to Minnesota and Chicago B, it was tossup #21.

Second, I disagree that common-link tossups are anti-pyramidal or just "one step above list tossups". The clues in list tossups can be ordered in terms of difficulty; I would like to think that the clues in that tossup are. Moreover, if they are bad quizbowl, why have they been widely used by Weiner, Yaphe, etc?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Dwight, I'm really sorry that you feel the way you do. Weiner and I were both really upset that things turned out the way they did in terms of putting teams into the top bracket. Unfortunately, the rules stated that the top two teams in each bracket automatically go, and the 7th team is determined by bonus conversion.

As to the lunch bit, yes, the protest involving Brown and Illinois did take up a lot of time, then my ill-conceived quest to find unleavened lunch delayed us further. A MAJOR reason the tournament ran late was because MIT couldn't get to Brandeis before like 9:15. It's not their fault, but nonetheless it was a problem. If we could have we would have started at 8:30 or 9, but that just wasn't possible.

We are planning changes for next year, both logistical and editorial, so I hope you'll reconsider your decision not to return. Hopefully those changes will make things run more smoothly and help get the teams out of there at a more reasonable hour.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Diplomacy Guy »

dtaylor4 wrote:From what I recall, invading Poland was not post-20. If memory serves, it was in the first half (which I was not in for), and I believe was round 9 or 10.
I moderated this match so hopefully I can resolve this dispute. On the first tossup, there were buzzer issues (hadn't been reset), so I threw the question out and read #21, invading Poland, as a replacement.

As for general comments on difficulty, I would second Kyle's general comment (not necessarily a criticism) that things were really hard. Predictably, I'm more sympathetic to that level of difficulty in my own field, economics: instead of the Phillips curve again, it was nice to see tougher stuff like Cobb-Douglas functions - or, indeed, Daniel Kahneman. One criticism we did have on my team was on distributional clumping in packets: you'd get four science tossups in the first half and none in the second half. Did anyone else notice this?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Sorry, I don't want to sound dismissive of Dwight's complaints, but they seem pretty silly to me. If your decision of whether to play acf nats or not is premised upon whether the tournament finishes in time to allow you to "go out and eat lunch at a reasonable hour," then that's a shame. As for the part about the bracket assignment, I can see both sides of the argument - on one side, yes, the first half of the tournament did end up not mattering as much. On the other hand, it was probably more fair for the top teams to have their records determined by playing each other head to head, and not determined by playing different teams in other brackets.

Now, if you have substantive complaints about the questions, I'll do my best to address those. But, sorry, ending a tourney at around 9:30 and then a final is not in the realm of "catatonic buzzing." We played 14 rounds with acf nats style questions, that takes a while. ACF Nats is not some amusement you partake in for a lark on Saturday afternoon, it's a national tournament that takes all day. Is your normal bedtime around 9:00 or what?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Ryan Westbrook wrote: If your decision of whether to play acf nats or not is premised upon whether the tournament finishes in time to allow you to "go out and eat lunch at a reasonable hour," then that's a shame.
I am not basing my decision on any such thing. I accept that playing 14 rounds of ACF style questions takes a long time. Based on the 2006 and 2007 tournaments, which I enjoyed even though they took a long time, I convinced other members of the Irvine club to give ACF Nationals a try.

I accept that there was an anomalous situation in which a team that finished two games worse in the preliminary standings than another team made the top bracket. The tournament rules came straight out and said how the 7th spot was to be determined, and I was thankful there were no arbitrary CBI-style hijinks that changed the rules in the middle of the tournament. It was a deflating blow, but in no way was it unfair. I seriously doubt that a similar situation is likely to happen again. It could have been prevented had we just converted more bonus parts.

Perhaps I had somehow overhyped the awesomeness of ACF Nationals, I don't know; in any case, the Irvine team collectively was not having fun. One of our players was experiencing shoulder pain that apparently wasn't being dulled by Advil and I was still recovering from that incident in Round 8; had I not been feeling better by the middle of Round 10, it's entirely possible that we would have just left in the middle of the tournament. There seemed to be a multitude of reasons why by the end of the tournament it had ceased to be fun for us, and I'm pretty sure that question quality was not one of them; question difficulty may have been a contributing though not overriding reason for people other than me, I thought the difficulty was fine and was just angry at myself for brainfarting stuff I knew.

Three of the members of our team tried ACF Nationals for the first time and concluded that they did not like it. I entered the tournament with what in hindsight may have been unrealistic expectations, and the fact that my teammates weren't enjoying themselves probably contributed more than anything else to me not having as much fun as I had during the 2006 and 2007 tournaments. I know that it may sound strange to some people that not everybody enjoys playing a 14th round of ACFy Goodness at 9:00 at night, and if we have somehow lost all the goodwill we have gained on the circuit this year by declaring that the Irvine team does not find playing ACF questions at 9:00 after a full day of playing ACF questions to be fun then so be it. Now that they have tried it, and apparently not liked it, I would find it very hard to convince my teammates to come again. If there were a cost-effective way for me to come to ACF Nationals as a free agent, I would consider doing so; however, as a West Coast quizbowler, the existence of such a cost-effective way is extremely unlikely and finding one is likely to require more effort than I am willing to expend.

I am pretty sure that our team has nothing against the style, quality, or mission statement of ACF. We will, lack of conflicts permitting, attempt to attend ACF Fall, Winter, and Regionals. I am also pretty sure that the views of the Irvine team seem silly to people who have been attending ACF Nationals for years and know exactly what to expect. First-time ACF Nationals teams and players are the secondary audience at ACF Nationals, and for a tournament that prides itself on crowning the "true" national champion that's fine. Perhaps my teammates will post on exactly what it was they didn't like and everyone can laugh at the wussy Irvine team or maybe they will contact the editors and we can figure out whether it was just a boatload of circumstantial problems or inherent ideological differences that caused us to not enjoy it. I hope that I have not sidetracked or pre-empted any constructive criticism of ACF Nationals, as despite my opinions or those of the Irvine team it is still a fine tournament with much merit.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

So, as next year's ACF Nationals coordinator, let me make it clear that:

*The tournament ending at 10:30 was not good and will not happen again.
*The tournament deciding a playoff spot based on a paper tiebreaker was not good and will not happen again.

Such things happened this year for defensible reasons. For example, we would have had plenty of time to write an additional playoff packet if 80% of the submissions were not lazy and horrible, requiring total rewriting to make acceptable.

If Irvine is going to continue to be a contender at local tournaments, NAQT ICT, and so on, then they should definitely come to ACF Nationals. I doubt half of your team is going to suffer medical trouble halfway through the tournament again, and I also think it's likely that this fact colored your enjoyment of this year's event. I can guarantee that the tournament will not end so late, and will not eliminate anyone from the playoffs based on stats. I also think it's fairly likely that we will use a crossover playoff format that preserves at least some of your prelim record; though this depends on field size and can't be certain until April 2009, it is my preferred way of doing things.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Well, Dwight, I didn't really mean to come off as calling you or your team wusses, especially ones that have medical problems. But, these "unrealistic expectations of awesomeness" you keep speaking of - I'm confused as to which aspect of Nats failed to meet those expectations. If your "expectations" were simply that your team would have fun and they didn't, well, that's a shame and I'd like to hear from them about why. If the expectations are just that it would have ended earlier...well, I'm pretty unsympathetic with that, just cause I don't think 9:00 is that late. Tourney started a little late, so you get a little more sleep, then it goes a little later...eh, I don't really see the big deal, it's a day of quizbowl - that's what ACF Nats is.

UCI seemed to be fairly competitive team and, as they get better, my feeling is that they'll enjoy this type of tournament more. Maybe I'm wrong about that...but ACF Nats is the definitive place to prove yourself and your skill as a team, where's the competitive spirit?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Matt Weiner wrote: *The tournament ending at 10:30 was not good and will not happen again.
*The tournament deciding a playoff spot based on a paper tiebreaker was not good and will not happen again.
So next year the tournament will feature two additional rounds, but finish earlier?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

DJ Shadow wrote:So next year the tournament will feature two additional rounds, but finish earlier?
There is a lot that could have been done this year to eliminate delays just in a pure logistical sense, and that I will make every effort to do next year. This includes starting round 1 by 9:00, finishing rounds in about 30 minutes each, and getting everyone back from lunch on time.

On top of that, I am very strongly in favor of the 1.5-day ACF Nationals that plays the first 11 or 12 rounds on Saturday until around 5 PM, then finishes on Sunday morning, which will allow for more flexibility on formats. Unless I hear some really good objections to this plan, I'm going to push forward with it in mind for the next 12 months.

Lastly, I believe that if we had a three-team playoff for a championship bracket spot, it would most likely happen on two half-packets rather than on two full packets. However, I do not plan to use a format that guarantees the necessity of such a tiebreaker unless the field size absolutely requires it.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by canaanbananarama »

I will agree with Dwight that the whole prelims were effectively made a waste of time. There was absolutely no incentive for Maryland to go 6-0. We could have just taken a siesta against Stanford, Minnesota, and Florida State, let them blow us out as we get some much needed sleep, cranked it up to 75% for our games against MIT, ROM, and Chicago B, and our laughable 3-3 team would have been in the playoffs, crushing UC-Irvine beneath the wheels of the Bonus Conversion Express. At that point a 9-3 record gets us in an advantaged final, and 8-4 puts us down a game in an advantaged final. 7-5 gets us solo third. Having played the opposite system at ACF Nationals 2006, where we played the opposite system and were disadvantaged there (that being the fault of comically bad prelim bracketing; we beat Princeton in the playoffs, but finished beneath them because we'd taken three losses in the prelims), I have to say that system is still better. And it would have worked fine Saturday, because to the TDs' credit, they did a fairly admirable job of balancing the brackets. The only team that gets possibly screwed there is Minnesota, who played in the toughest bracket, but, sorry guys, you didn't even deserve to be in the playoffs anyways (5-1 UC Irvine should have been there instead of 3-3 Minnesota; that was a ridiculous example of overvaluing bonus conversion). Of course, I have some self-interest in this, because in this situation, Chicago finishes 11-1, Maryland and Brown finish 10-2, Brown's out on bonus conversion, and Maryland's in the final. But Chicago and Brown lost games. And it didn't mean jack shit. The argument that they played the teams again in the final rounds and therefore it would unbalance the tournament is really a poor one. It's not like Maryland, Brown, and Chicago were in the same damn prelim bracket, beat the hell out of each other, and Mike and Illinois survived enough through the playoffs to make it to the finals despite lower stats. By casting out the prelim stats, you are inherently suggesting that the prelims were unfair and that we just put teams in crapshoot brackets and hoped that we didn't screw up enough. It's ridiculous to entirely base a national championship on just six rounds when six others were played.

On the questions themselves, I generally really enjoyed them. I found the difficulty generally appropriate except for some packets which I felt on the whole to be much easier than other packets. The Harvard packet was inappropriately easy for this tournament and, from what I've heard, was largely written for another tournament which was not ACF Nationals level. The Chicago A packet (at both ACF Nats I've been to, I've noticed this with Chicago A packets) felt like my team and the other team were going to Goodwill in our crummy hobo clothes and just picking up 20's off the rack (except for some bonuses that fell off the difficulty cliff...Dolce & Gabbana and then, what's going on? Easy 10 and then you want me to name more doubly eponymous fashion lines?). I think these packets should have been written and edited more to make them ACF Nationals packets so that teams weren't having to time travel back to ACF Regionals; unfortunately, I think only one of my teammates doesn't get slightly seasick when making that time voyage. They were generally good packets in terms of tossups (although the Mayas tossup was probably one of the worst at the tournament, and the only example of a really bad tossup I can think of off the top of my head; writing a tossup on that is just as neg-baiting and idiotic as writing a tossup on "Greeks;" thank goodness I didn't say "Palenque" after Pakal II; if you want a good example of how to write a tossup on that subject, see the excellent "Quiche Maya" tossup at some other tournament this year that I don't remember), but the bonuses were kind of irrelevant. The history and geography were generally okay (although writing a tossup on the Thousand Islands that I'm familiar with less than another same-named island group seems kind of pointless). Maybe when I have the tossups and bonuses in front of me I'll have more detailed analysis of that stuff.

Charles

Edit: If Minnesota had won a game they should have won against MIT, Maryland would have made the top bracket with a 2-4 record (beating MIT and your choice of Chicago B and Billy Beyer; we would have automatically gotten the third slot in the bracket since ROM and friends were ineligible for that slot as evidenced by Minnesota being moved up to third despite finishing fourth in that bracket). Again, my whole point is that the prelims were just made irrelevant by the way the tournament was structured.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

I don't think "what if five games turned out differently and Maryland decided to throw half of their matches for some reason? WHAT THEN?!?!" is the best argument for anything.

With that said, the optimal way to deal with prelim records seems, to me, to do crossover playoffs, and to count playoff teams' wins and losses against other playoff teams but drop their records against non-playoff teams, since, for example, Dartmouth lost to Irvine, but Maryland never had to play Irvine, so Dartmouth shouldn't be penalized for that loss when comparing their record to Maryland's (or credited for any wins in similar circumstances). This approach is what I plan to do at 2009 Nationals.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

Well if we're going to start the "these questions weren't so great" train, here are some of the ones that stuck out in my mind:

Chandrasaker Limit - The Champagne Supernova is pretty much a stock clue at this point, and it was the first clue in that tossup. Even if you don't know what it is, it pretty much establishes that it's a limit from astronomy right from the get go which probably isn't the greatest thing ever for a first clue.

IPV6 - This clue established that it was a network protocol that was being delayed implementation. That pretty much leads us down to one path, which is IPV6. I hear other non-CS players were also buzzing really early on this question.

Maya- Yeah, as Charles mentioned, this was a tossup that had me and probably a lot of poeple not buzzing out of disbelief that it could be such an obvious Mesoamerican civilization so early in the question.

Homosexuality - This wasn't anti-pyramidal really but it did seem like a weird thing to write a tossup on. I thought it sort of led to buzzer races and maybe could have had better clues. In general, I would have preferred a tossup on a different subject.

9th of Av - This made it really clear pretty early in the question that it was a holiday where a lot of bad shit happened to the Jews. At least to me that is what the holiday is best known for, and it became pretty much a "get it now or don't" thing with half of the question left.

I'll also add that the randomization was in general really bad in this tournament. One packet contained 5 science tossups in the first 10 questions and also didn't have a non-HSL question until question 12. Other packets also featured things like 3 history tossups in a row, etc. These things really can affect the flow of the game.

Besides that and maybe some bonuses that I don't remember, the questions were pretty good.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Right, the obvious flaw in Charles argument is that - even if you're the best bracket organizer in the world - sometimes there's just going to be inequity because, for example, there might be four teams clearly better than the rest and only three brackets to put teams in.

Still, I sympathize with not wanting the prelims to be meaningless. I think Weiner's solution here is a good one, if it can be done given the number of teams, etc.

Notwithstanding Dwight's post and Charles, I still am a big supporter of bonus conversion as the best way to distinguish teams. Not cause it's perfect (cause, like Dwight says, bonus difficult inevitably varies between packets and etc.), but just cause everything else is less perfect. If you want the team with the most knowledge in - I can't see how you're going to beat bonus conversion.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by The Goffman Prophecies »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Well if we're going to start the "these questions weren't so great" train, here are some of the ones that stuck out in my mind:

IPV6 - This clue established that it was a network protocol that was being delayed implementation. That pretty much leads us down to one path, which is IPV6. I hear other non-CS players were also buzzing really early on this question.
This is the only one I can comment on, as I wrote it to fill in a last-minute hole in the Minnesota packet. I had some lingering doubts about clue structure in this one, and while it's not nice to see, I suppose it's good to know that some of my fears were validated.

Making the jump to my first attempt at editing anything resembling a Nationals-level set wasn't easy, considering I've spent most of the last 3 years working on VHSL-related contributions. I'd appreciate any feedback anyone has to offer about the CS subset in general - either here or via email - dgoff at asaltypieceofdan.net
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

GoffmanProphecies wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Well if we're going to start the "these questions weren't so great" train, here are some of the ones that stuck out in my mind:

IPV6 - This clue established that it was a network protocol that was being delayed implementation. That pretty much leads us down to one path, which is IPV6. I hear other non-CS players were also buzzing really early on this question.
This is the only one I can comment on, as I wrote it to fill in a last-minute hole in the Minnesota packet. I had some lingering doubts about clue structure in this one, and while it's not nice to see, I suppose it's good to know that some of my fears were validated.

Making the jump to my first attempt at editing anything resembling a Nationals-level set wasn't easy, considering I've spent most of the last 3 years working on VHSL-related contributions. I'd appreciate any feedback anyone has to offer about the CS subset in general - either here or via email - dgoff at asaltypieceofdan.net
Overall the CS was decent. I certainly appreciated that there was a healthy amount of it, much more than the 1 CS bonus I heard last year at Nationals. The Quicksort tossup was pretty good, as was the bonus with Huffman Coding with it. My own tossup on Virtual Memory probably could have been a good bit clearer, as it's hard to distinguish between them and caches early on. The tree bonus seemed to be a pretty easy 20 for most people, but almost an impossible 30 as I don't really think scapegoat trees are well known or widely used (certainly Roman and I had never heard of them). I don't really know what Optimization is, but Roman who is apparently doing PHD level research in the area was very confused by the tossup, so it probably could have been better.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by BuzzerZen »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:I'll also add that the randomization was in general really bad in this tournament. One packet contained 5 science tossups in the first 10 questions and also didn't have a non-HSL question until question 12. Other packets also featured things like 3 history tossups in a row, etc. These things really can affect the flow of the game.
I was responsible for 50% of the randomization, and I'll certainly take the blame. All I can say in my defense is that it all sure as hell looked random at 5 in the morning.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

BuzzerZen wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:I'll also add that the randomization was in general really bad in this tournament. One packet contained 5 science tossups in the first 10 questions and also didn't have a non-HSL question until question 12. Other packets also featured things like 3 history tossups in a row, etc. These things really can affect the flow of the game.
I was responsible for 50% of the randomization, and I'll certainly take the blame. All I can say in my defense is that it all sure as hell looked random at 5 in the morning.
Yeah seriously someone (probably me, I've been saying I'm going to do this for a long time) needs to write a good randomization program that spreads categories out in a reasonable manner and is way faster than doing it by hand. As trivial as it seems, hand randomizing a tournament can take as long as 2 hours. Pure randomization leads to clusters of questions like what happened at this tournament.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
BuzzerZen wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:I'll also add that the randomization was in general really bad in this tournament. One packet contained 5 science tossups in the first 10 questions and also didn't have a non-HSL question until question 12. Other packets also featured things like 3 history tossups in a row, etc. These things really can affect the flow of the game.
I was responsible for 50% of the randomization, and I'll certainly take the blame. All I can say in my defense is that it all sure as hell looked random at 5 in the morning.
Yeah seriously someone (probably me, I've been saying I'm going to do this for a long time) needs to write a good randomization program that spreads categories out in a reasonable manner and is way faster than doing it by hand. As trivial as it seems, hand randomizing a tournament can take as long as 2 hours. Pure randomization leads to clusters of questions like what happened at this tournament.
If the program just told you where to put the questions, given an input of 20-24 categories for both tossups and bonuses, that would save lots of time.

For example, you would select off of the tossup menu: 4 lit, 4 science, 5 history, 3 arts, 2 RMP, 1 trash, 1 social science, and the program would spit out a balanced order.

What I mean is, the program wouldn't even have to physically move the questions; it would be useful enough if it told you where to put them.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

theMoMA wrote:If the program just told you where to put the questions, given an input of 20-24 categories for both tossups and bonuses, that would save lots of time.

For example, you would select off of the tossup menu: 4 lit, 4 science, 5 history, 3 arts, 2 RMP, 1 trash, 1 social science, and the program would spit out a balanced order.

What I mean is, the program wouldn't even have to physically move the questions; it would be useful enough if it told you where to put them.
That's very simple. I should be able to whip up a program that does that when I get some free time. The big limited factor in a more comprehensive program is parsing questions, which is a bit difficult.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
theMoMA wrote:If the program just told you where to put the questions, given an input of 20-24 categories for both tossups and bonuses, that would save lots of time.

For example, you would select off of the tossup menu: 4 lit, 4 science, 5 history, 3 arts, 2 RMP, 1 trash, 1 social science, and the program would spit out a balanced order.

What I mean is, the program wouldn't even have to physically move the questions; it would be useful enough if it told you where to put them.
That's very simple. I should be able to whip up a program that does that when I get some free time. The big limited factor in a more comprehensive program is parsing questions, which is a bit difficult.
Yeah, I figured it would be pretty simple. If you just had a quick-and-easy interface that let you pick the number of tossups and bonuses per subdistro category, then told the program to find random configurations that were even in terms of the first and second halves, and avoided clumping.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by vandyhawk »

Overall, I had a good time at the tournament. This was actually the first time I've played solo, and ACF Nats is a rough choice for doing so. I managed to have fun, though, besides a couple rounds where I went brain-dead and severely missed having teammates to pick up the slack. I don't have much to add on the logistics issues besides agreeing with people that it should start earlier and try to cut down on between-round time. I'm not sure I'm a fan of finishing on Sunday morning, though. If other things are worked out, I don't see an issue with it finishing at like 9:00. If it rolls over to Sunday, semi-local teams can't leave that night, local teams have to go home and come back again, and others can't fly/drive home as early as they might like on Sunday. Plus, people theoretically wouldn't be able to relax and have a good time on Sat. night.

I mostly enjoyed the questions, esp. given the unusual editing circumstances. I felt like they were on average of about equal difficulty compared with last year. Comparing the stats from the two years seems to back this up. Bonus difficulty certainly could have been more consistent, but then again, when is this not true? It's just really hard for a small group of people to accurately estimate what specifically a big group of people will know, and it wasn't that major of a complaint. The biggest area where this was apparent was in science, but there was a pretty good reason for this I guess. On the whole, science bonuses were quite difficult. When I am regularly getting 10 on bio/chem/physics bonuses, that's probably too hard. It was also odd that my only science 30 was on earth science, though there was 1 bio and 1 physics bonus I could have 30'd, and were the only two I felt like were too easy; those being the ADH/aquaporin/diabetes insipidus, and MACHO/WIMP/axion. Having fewer editors, and them having much more advance notice, would theoretically have improved the situation. As far as science tossups go, the Madelung constant one was quite the hose. It would have been a fine question if it had noted from the beginning that it was a "constant," not called a quantity, leading me and several others to neg with lattice energy pretty early on. The sigma protein one was pretty bad too, seeming to indicate many different answers along the way. Those are the main ones I remember for now, without having the set yet.

For non-science stuff, I was confused on the Ragtime tossup, where it talked about a buried bi-racial baby, which made me want to buzz except for the race part. Assuming it's the part of the work I was thinking of (Coalhouse and Sarah's baby), it's not so much a bi-racial baby. In that same round, the Izanagi tossup was kind of transparent, as I doubt I know more about him than Seth or Susan but was rewarded against them for buzzing with the seemingly obvious choice. I don't mind somewhat formulaic tossups on composers, of course within reason. Some works just don't lend themselves well to tossups. Personally, I'm a little tired of clues like saying the second movement is an andante con molto in E minor, followed by a scherzo in G major. If these sections are really famous for being that tempo/key, and related as such or related to other more defining characteristics, that's fine, but too often, they wind up as unhelpful clues I think. This is more of a general comment, but I think I remember a couple questions like this from Saturday. I felt like the arts questions were mostly of about the right difficulty. Though I answered it, I'm not sure Symphonie Espagnole is tossup-worthy; I could be wrong though. Also, a whole bonus on Glazunov seems a bit much. There have to be at least 10-12 Russian composers more worthy of an entire bonus devoted to them, even at nats.

Anyway, that's it for now till we see the set. Thanks a lot to the editors. Despite some critiques, I enjoyed the questions and the tournament.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Having recovered from the exertions of this past weekend, I'll give my feedback. I'll split it into two posts, one on questions and one on logistics.

But first, let me congratulate Chicago on repeating as champions. We played them close in two excellent games and just couldn't quite pull away, so congratulations to Seth, Susan, and Selene for a tournament well played.

Anyway, on to discussion of questions. Personally, I enjoyed this set greatly. I thought it was a great mixture of the new and familiar, with a lot of challenging questions. Of course, I was not privy to the editing situation, but given what we now know it was, I think the set that was produced was very good. I usually bitch about science a lot, but there were many great science questions in this set (although there were a couple clunkers, notably the Chandrasekhar limit tossup). I though the rest of the distribution was mostly great as well; it was nice to see more 20th century philosophy and I didn't notice any of the distributional problems that Chris was referring to, although I did notice that some packets did have science clumped near the beginning. Generally, the tossups were top-notch, with a few exceptions, and I only once did I feel like I got hosed (the tossup on "time" which I'll explain later).

I think the major shortcoming of this set was in the bonuses. They were often of variable difficulty, with some containing relatively easy 20s or 30s, while on others you were lucky to get 10. In particular, this set exemplified a pernicious tendency that I would really like to see eliminated from all non-masters' sets, which is the fuck-you 30. On a large number of questions, you could not possibly get the 30, even if you had some great knowledge in the subject. One example that comes to my mind is the bonus on Kobo Abe, where the "middle" part was Inter Ice-Age 4, and the hard part was an Abe play I'd never heard of. Now, I'm not tooting my own horn, but I've probably read more books by Abe and know more of his works than anyone else at ACF Nationals (except maybe Jonathan, but I'm not sure of that); I figure if anyone should be able to convert 30 points on an Abe bonus (and as someone who can actually name a Kobo Abe play), I probably have as good a chance as anyone. And yet, that third part essentially reduced the potential advantage I might gain through my superior knowledge to 10 rather than 20 points. Similar things happened in many other bonuses throughout the day, where the hard part would be essentially impossible because it's never come up before and you had to be a specialist to even have a shot at getting it, and sometimes not even then.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that while ACF Nationals can and should push the boundaries of the canon, it should do so in a way that still allows you to potentially distinguish between two good teams. If you've got a situation where the bonus only allows a team to get 10 points no matter what, you're not really helping distinguish between varying levels of knowledge between teams. There are some tournaments like Manu where the whole point is to go nuts and write about things people might never have heard of, but I don't think that's productive when you're actually in charge of a national tournament. I felt like a fair number of bonuses suffered from this problem, and I hope it's something that gets fixed next year.

Other than that complaint, and one tossup which hosed me by beginning with a clue about how this term was paired with "technics," causing me to buzz and answer "civilization" with Mumford's "Technics and Civilization" in mind, I thought it was a pretty good set, with a lot of interesting questions. I do feel like some packets should have had their difficulty modulated slightly upwards, but that didn't really bother me all that much.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Regarding the logistics:

I am more sympathetic than Ryan to Dwight's concerns, but I think that aiming for ACF Nationals to run in one day and not last until 10 is not realistic. There were definitely things that the TDs could have done to speed it up, including a faster resolution of the protest in the game between us and Illinois, but ultimately, they might have shaved off half an hour, or maybe an hour at the very most. People have proposed a two-day nationals, but personally, I am not a fan of this setup. I feel that over the course of two days I lose focus in a way that I don't during a single day, and besides, Sunday is usually for getting back. I'm very much in favor of just starting earlier, which I realize wasn't possible this year, but if it has to run until 10, so be it. However, I could support a two-day tournament if there were more rounds to play each day (like 8 or 9) but I don't think that's realistic given the editing constraints.

There are definitely things that can be done to make tournaments run more efficiently. The only real shortcoming of Brandeis seemed to be the difficulty of getting to food (and, for some of us, by which I mean me, the difficulty of getting back due to Waltham having been planned by imbeciles). If that hadn't been an issue, lunch could have been shortened to gain some time. Other than that, I don't think there's a whole lot you can really do other than to try and keep things moving to minimize time spent languishing between rounds.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by marnold »

Speaking as someone on the exact opposite end of the tournament as Jerry and most others posting in this thread, I also enjoyed this tournament a lot. Since at this point in my career I belong to the class of players that Ryan Westbrook once so eloquently termed "a vast desert of mediocrity", I had no expectations that the tournament would cater to players of my ability; but that said, I had some decent level of knowledge on pretty much every toss-up in the areas I like and had heard of a vast, vast majority of answers in the areas I have even the slightest knowledge of. Even though the tournament was long, I was way less tired and frustrated as I was at the end of other tournaments this year. Of course this tournament should be about legitimately crowning a national champion, but I think this set also deserves praise for being pretty uniformly enjoyable for those in the bottom bracket too.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by vandyhawk »

grapesmoker wrote: The only real shortcoming of Brandeis seemed to be the difficulty of getting to food (and, for some of us, by which I mean me, the difficulty of getting back due to Waltham having been planned by imbeciles). If that hadn't been an issue, lunch could have been shortened to gain some time.
Heh, if you thought Waltham was confusing, I can only imagine how you have probably felt driving around Cambridge. I spent some quality time Sunday trying to get to a friend's place near Harvard Square, and only got turned around about 4-5 times. Also, we only had an hour for lunch, or at least were only supposed to have that long, so shortening that more isn't really an option.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

vandyhawk wrote:
grapesmoker wrote: The only real shortcoming of Brandeis seemed to be the difficulty of getting to food (and, for some of us, by which I mean me, the difficulty of getting back due to Waltham having been planned by imbeciles). If that hadn't been an issue, lunch could have been shortened to gain some time.
Heh, if you thought Waltham was confusing, I can only imagine how you have probably felt driving around Cambridge. I spent some quality time Sunday trying to get to a friend's place near Harvard Square, and only got turned around about 4-5 times. Also, we only had an hour for lunch, or at least were only supposed to have that long, so shortening that more isn't really an option.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by STPickrell »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Yeah seriously someone (probably me, I've been saying I'm going to do this for a long time) needs to write a good randomization program that spreads categories out in a reasonable manner and is way faster than doing it by hand. As trivial as it seems, hand randomizing a tournament can take as long as 2 hours. Pure randomization leads to clusters of questions like what happened at this tournament.
For VHSL, I wrote a Perl program that ensured each 5 questions had one science, one social studies, one English, one miscellaneous, and one other (there's only 2 math tossups, and the other 4 in this spot are filled.)

Each input file was by subject (I had one for directed questions and the other for tossups) that went like this:

# Question
(blank line)
ANSWER: _HERE_
(blank line)
.. etc.

If the input files (packets) can be standardized then we are good to go.

The program also randomized the input files, too, by splitting them into individual four-line files then piecing them back together.

Only downside was that I had to go in and underline by hand in Word in the finished products. OTOH, judicious placement of tags could help there.

I lost my personal UNIX server in some changes at work, so I don't use this script anymore. :(
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