The mystery of stepping stone theory.

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The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Important Bird Area »

Let's talk about collegiate tournaments run on NAQT IS questions.

Matt wrote:
"The Stepping Stone Theory states that holding collegiate tournaments on high school questions will allow new players to acclimate to collegiate quizbowl on easier material, and thus act as "stepping stones" to participation in more mainstream events."

I'll take a shot at explaining this mystery. I think these tournaments are a holdover from the late 1990s. Back in 1998, my very first collegiate tournament was one of these events, and back then the stepping stone theory made sense. It's a mystery today for the following reasons:

1. The spread of quality high school quizbowl. In 1998 the NAC was the dominant high school national championship. Today NAC teams are largely restricted to a handful of regions, and the HSNCT and NSC have effectively replaced it. When I played IS #10 in Boston in October 1998, I needed a stepping stone because I had only ever played one pyramidal tournament in high school. Today's high school players, who play a steady diet of IS questions from freshman year on up, don't need the stepping stone because they're repeating the same level they just played for four years. Indeed, if they qualified for HSNCT or NSC, an IS set would be a stepping stone down, which doesn't make any sense.

2. The existence of independent collegiate novice questions. The stepping stone role for today's novice college players is occupied by tournaments like ACF Fall and EFT, which didn't exist prior to 2001. Those tournaments were created to meet a demand that the independent circuit had not previously filled; hence the existence of IS tournaments as a stopgap.

So, my preliminary conclusion is that the college tournament on IS questions is, like the vestigial leg bones of modern whales, an anachronism. I'll go a bit further and say: a harmless anachronism.

Matt wrote:

"Teams who play high school questions tend to play high school questions forever, and collegiate players who play high school questions tend to drop out of quizbowl when the opportunity to play high school questions ends."

I'm not sure the available evidence supports either half of this claim. Carleton has a decade worth of results posted, so we might expect to see either or both of these effects in action by now. Instead we see the following:

1. Every team that has played CUT at least twice has also played NAQT SCT. Teams that play these tournaments do move on to collegiate-difficulty questions; they don't create a sub-circuit of teams that play high school questions and nothing else.

2. Lots of players who have played at CUT over the years have gone on to play, write, and edit much more difficult questions. This is a very consistent pattern ranging from CUT 1 in 1999 (won by Subash) to CUT 10 in 2008 (won by Brendan Byrne).

The end of Carsten's post in the other thread reads: "...you should stop hindering people who want to improve."

To sum up: I would need to see additional evidence that these tournaments are actually hindering anyone from improving. I'm sympathetic to the argument about opportunity cost in team budgets and tournament scheduling, but would expect that to work itself out through the operation of the market as teams would prefer to save their time and money for more difficult tournaments. I'm quite willing to believe that they are neutral quizbowl, and that the circuit would be better off if they were replaced by MUT and ACF Fall-style tournaments. But I'm not convinced that they are bad quizbowl.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Might IS sets be bad because they have less of a "teaching power"; i.e., that you are less likely to learn new clues from them that would be useful at other, more difficult collegiate tournaments? Also aren't IS sets more expensive than the mirror fees for something like MUT or Illinois Novice?
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by DumbJaques »

I'm not sure the available evidence supports either half of this claim. Carleton has a decade worth of results posted, so we might expect to see either or both of these effects in action by now. Instead we see the following:

1. Every team that has played CUT at least twice has also played NAQT SCT. Teams that play these tournaments do move on to collegiate-difficulty questions; they don't create a sub-circuit of teams that play high school questions and nothing else.

2. Lots of players who have played at CUT over the years have gone on to play, write, and edit much more difficult questions. This is a very consistent pattern ranging from CUT 1 in 1999 (won by Subash) to CUT 10 in 2008 (won by Brendan Byrne).
Considering Carleton made the gigantic dick move of bailing on a tournament for being omgimpossible despite it being located about 20 minutes away from them early this year, I'd say they are not the best example. In fact, I think Carleton is THE prime example of a club that's too preoccupied with playing high school/NAQT only events at the expense of real competition. I distinctly remember the lack of a Carleton packet/attendance at MUT last year causing packet problems at our site, and I'm sure there are numerous examples of which I'm not aware.

The issue is not that some CUT teams went on to play SCT; that's something of a false statistic because many teams only play the SCT and are likewise largely absent from the larger circuit, which is no less a significant issue than if those teams only played CUT tournaments. The issue we're debating is whether it's damaging for new players to get stuck in an atmosphere of playing high school questions, because that hurts their enthusiasm for real quizbowl. If they play 2 tournaments a year instead of one, for my money that's still pretty bad.

Lastly, the fact that one CUT player was a major architect of the game and another goes to lots of good events and plays at a top level, or some others play Chicago Open finals packets for fun while listening to Arvo Part in the dark - that's all irrelevant. If the tournaments are having a damaging effect, then they don't stop damaging 80% of their younger attendees because someone really good shows up for the 200 ppg pants party. I don't see the logic here.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

CUT and Undergraduate-only tournaments are also harmful to teams who rely primarily on older players (especially graduate students) as a means of transport.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Yeah, my first impulse here is to question the examples cited by Jeff. When you talk about someone like Subash in 99, you're talking about a pretty different era of quizbowl - one which didn't have the stepping stones of today, as you say. Brendan strikes me as an aberration, someone who worked his way out of nowhere, and I can't think of many parallels to him.

And, I agree with Chris that, even if you can point to a small handful of people who have played these tournaments and go on to become good high-level players, it doesn't say much about the development of all the other people who have been persistently exposed to these tournaments. I'm persuaded to think that there are probably a small number of people who will naturally rise and find their way to the light no matter where you start them off. But, I'm not persuaded that miring most people in the dungeons of CUT-dom doesn't work any ill effect on their progression toward better quizbowl.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by cornfused »

One positive example for stepping stone theory working: St. Olaf is coming to a mirror of T-Party.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by cornfused »

Negative example: Wisconsin (who sent four teams to CUT) isn't, despite said mirror being at the closest university (with an active quizbowl team) to Wisconsin.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Whig's Boson wrote:Might IS sets be bad because they have less of a "teaching power"; i.e., that you are less likely to learn new clues from them that would be useful at other, more difficult collegiate tournaments? Also aren't IS sets more expensive than the mirror fees for something like MUT or Illinois Novice?
This is an important concept. Even if you know the answers to only twelve of twenty tossups at ACF Fall, instead of fifteen of twenty on an IS set, and maybe you're beaten to eight of those twelve--you still hear more clues and harder clues (and I would argue that more of the clues are "real," though that would spawn a different discussion we should defer to later). You still learn more, I would contend, from converting fewer tossups at a higher level.

That said, my argument up there has some flaws, since otherwise I could extend it to abolish Fall and start all novices on Winter, or Regionals, or MO--and that's obviously not desireable. There is definitely a distinction present between the level at which a team can learn and the level at which a team can compete and experience meaningful results (put eight entirely green novices in a room and have them play the finals packet from this year's CO; I contend that the 10-(-5) slugfest that might result would say little about the two teams' relative merits). Consequently, the question is reduced to: do there exist novice teams that can't be differentiated by ACF Fall's questions? I don't think so, though I think statistics from either side would be powerful.

I think that the real evidence that there is something wrong inherent in the CUT model is that there are solo teams consisting of players who played ACF Nationals like two years ago who clearly don't need to compete on high school questions. It renders them no benefit at all; they can play harder questions and receive meaningful results.

So I think what we have, in reduction, is:
1) If there exist novice teams that can't be differentiated meaningfully by the easiest tournament on what we call "college questions"--ACF Fall--then while they would learn more by playing college questions, and they arguably should, there is nothing too wrong with them playing high school questions, because that way they receive meaningful game results.
2) Once a novice team can be differentiated by playing college questions, that team should not play high school questions.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

This seems like an opportune place to voice a general gripe that's been nagging at me since I started reading these boards. The people who dominate the discussion on this board seem to forget that quizbowl is, at heart, a circle-jerk (no offense to the limited female following.) People play quizbowl at first because they are nerdy people who know a lot about the things that interest them and thus score points and have fun. For some subset of these people, quizbowl becomes important and they put in effort to learn past answers and those nebulous pieces of quasiknowledge known as "clues." Some subset of these people get good enough that they feel qualified to act as tournament editors, and thus to judge the "difficulty" of questions and thereby reinforcing the existing canon and guiding its expansion.

Now, there isn't any problem with any of this, it's hard to see how quizbowl would work well in some other way. The problem is that the group of elite players at the top fail to see their massive conflict of interest in judging what is "good" or "bad" quizbowl. In spite of the verbose and articulate arguments that are frequently presented by these very intelligent people, fundamentally, good quizbowl generally boils down to "quizbowl where I get points and get to beat people whom I secretly see as in some way inferior." The opinions of everyone who is put off by quizbowl as it stands go completely unheard. I'm not saying quizbowl should try to be :party: for everyone :party: . The vast majority of people will be totally uninterested in quizbowl in any form. Nevertheless, I think quizbowl could be interesting or fun for, say, some large portion of the people who enjoy Jeopardy. Jeopardy is clearly not good quizbowl for all sorts of reasons, it's unfair, random and usually superficial, but quizbowl should be asking itself what makes it so much more entertaining to so many more people. I don't think quizbowl gets better by adding three more lines to every tossup in order to increase the correlation coefficient between wins and the objective scale of knowledge (as if one existed) from .83 to .87. I think quizbowl gets better by being more fun for more people, by getting colleges to care about teams and fund them, by getting a national tournament on TV. If it can do these things while making a legitimate and strong effort to reward knowledge and not to reward ignorance (like, say, CBI), then the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Jerry and Matt can be disregarded entirely.

To link this back to this topic, IS sets try to be fair and fun, and I think that they do so admirably (notwithstanding the claimed decline in NAQT quality in the 2 years since I last played any). To call them high school questions is simply a powergrab of determination by people with ulterior motives. Just because the other team has heard of the answers too and many matches between excellent teams will contain buzzer races doesn't make it bad quizbowl. Since when has buzzer skill not been an integral part of quizbowl anyway? That's like a basketball player saying that his team has great offense and defense but the size of that damned hoop prevents their superiority being recognized (oh noes! a sports analogy!)
Last edited by SepiaOfficinalis on Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Matt Weiner »

I admit it. I couldn't possibly beat you on a high school packet, that's why I've constructed this terrible argument that questions written for use at high school tournaments are somehow "high school questions." It's all secretly about you, everyone who disagrees with you is a "nerd," the goal of quizbowl is to get on television, and the last several thousand years of attempts to define "knowledge" were all an enormous, conspiratorial sham designed to cover up how good at quizbowl you actually are. You heard it here first!
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by cornfused »

Ut oh.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

Matt Weiner wrote:I admit it. I couldn't possibly beat you on a high school packet, that's why I've constructed this terrible argument that questions written for use at high school tournaments are somehow "high school questions." It's all secretly about you, everyone who disagrees with you is a "nerd," the goal of quizbowl is to get on television, and the last several thousand years of attempts to define "knowledge" were all an enormous, conspiratorial sham designed to cover up how good at quizbowl you actually are. You heard it here first!
Thanks for demonstrating my point about self-interest by taking this as an ad hominem which must have the subtext that I'm better than you at quizbowl in some plausible world. I'm not, and I've never played a high school tournament and have no idea what would result (except that I would neg a lot and lose to you). That said, IS questions have never been for high schoolers, and thus this does not make any more than a rhetorical effort to claim this distinguishing power for yourself. High schoolers play them and I'm sure they do a better job of ordering knowledge between high schoolers than collegiate players. I don't know how you could think this is an attack on nerds, I mean, I'm talking about quizbowl.
Last edited by SepiaOfficinalis on Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Cheynem »

I respectfully disagree with my esteemed teammate "Ulric."

1. I don't think quiz bowl is better as it gets more fun for more people. To use your sports analogies, bowling is more fun for more people if you use bumper lanes. Softball is more fun for more people if you play slow-pitch. College bowling and college softball teams should not use bumper lanes or play slow-pitch because they do not determine a proper winner.

2. Buzzer skill is the WORST possible way to determine a winner. If you are playing on packets in which it comes down to "buzzer skill" for a majority of questions, than you are either playing on packets not suitable for you or there is something wrong with the packets. I agree that if you took the best possible quiz bowl players and had them play ACF Fall, there probably would be a lot of buzzer races. But those packets are novice level. Now if a series of average level teams played tourneys with a lot of buzzer races, there are problems. That is telling me that the clues are not pyramidal enough, teams are having to wait for giveaways, and that teams with actual knowledge are not being rewarded. Those are big problems.

Now, I have no inherent problem with NAQT. I played at a NAQT-affiliated tourney this year--one of my teammates found it a painful, despicable experience, but I found it enjoyable for what it was. But I do not agree that NAQT/IS represents a more ideal way to play quiz bowl, even for novices, than the kind of good quiz bowl seen (just this year) ACF Fall, Illinois Open, EFT, etc. I didn't play CUT, but I find it hard to believe it would serve novices better than these tourneys, and I also can't believe that novice teams would find these tourneys impossibly unappealing.

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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Matt Weiner »

So anyway, this brings to light something that was bound to hit the thread sooner or later: The other side of the coin from the people who defend the use of NAQT high school questions at collegiate events goes something like "they aren't stepping stones to anything, and that's fine; people who aren't interested in playing at higher levels should have tournaments they can play at too." I've seen this argument made (I think by Yaphe, maybe by Hentzel too? I can't find the posts offhand) without the weird "and p.s. there is no such thing as knowledge or good quizbowl" coda that was put onto it above. My problem with it, as with my problem with the non-ludicrous portions of the above post, is that collegiate quizbowl is played by teams, rather than individuals, and the idea that just parts of a program can become dedicated to high school questions seems very unrealistic. I also question the unspoken assumption behind the defense of high-school-question tournaments on the grounds of "stop telling people what to do," which is that NAQT has the right to "recruit" programs to its model of play, while independent quizbowl apparently does not.

I further question why people who are not interested in higher difficulty levels cannot have casual fun playing ACF Fall or MUT or Illinois Novice, since, despite the increasingly-less-comprehensible objections of someone who is violating the board rules by using a fake name, those questions are not tremendously more difficult than NAQT high school sets, just more well-structured and well-distributed for use in collegiate tournaments.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I think quizbowl gets better by being more fun for more people
Why aren't questions that presuppose that you've completed high school fun for you?
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:by getting a national tournament on TV
In whose circle-jerk world are you living that this activity is any more fun with a national audience? You accuse us of being masturbatorily promoting good quizbowl that only helps us win and then you contend that the point of quizbowl is to show off?
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Jerry and Matt can be disregarded entirely.
Allow me to wail and gnash my teeth for a bit. I'm terrible at quizbowl, particularly when compared to players like Jerry and Matt; I regularly get demolished on hard questions and am pretty good at losing on easy questions, too. And yet I support good quizbowl. I am good at computational math and frankly fucking fantastic at fraud. And yet I support good quizbowl.
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:IS sets try to be fair and fun, and I think that they do so admirably
Hello, false premise; nice to meet you! They're a lot less fair than college questions when you're playing two college teams against each other, and they're a lot less fun for most everyone who's used to playing age-appropriate questions.
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:To call them high school questions is
actually just calling them what they are, not
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:simply a powergrab of determination by people with ulterior motives.
which is mostly your LANGUAGE FASCISM fantasy.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Sir Thopas »

Matt Weiner wrote:I also question why people who are not interested in higher difficulty levels cannot have casual fun playing ACF Fall or MUT or Illinois Novice, since, despite the increasingly-less-comprehensible objections of someone who is violating the board rules by using a fake name, those questions are not tremendously more difficult than NAQT high school sets, just more well-structured and well-distributed for use in collegiate tournaments.
As a somewhat extreme example, I would like to point to my esteemed teammate's post-CO post: viewtopic.php?p=90866#p90866
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

I agree with all of Mike's points except that IS sets do not "serve" people as well as ACF Fall. Will ACF Fall/Winter do a better job judging who is better at quizbowl as it stands now, and also improve the players' skills more? Sure, I think so. Will many people be bored as hell sitting through 5 lines of stuff they don't know or care much about at the beginning of every question? Yes. Am I one of those people? Not at all. Does quizbowl become better by driving them away? I don't see how.

I agree that buzzer skill is the worst way to determine who wins a match, but it does determine who wins a match. We're playing a game, it has rules, and those rules necessitate some deviation from the ideal of a computer that does a mind meld with both teams and then indicates the team with more knowledge by flashing a > sign towards them.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

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SepiaOfficinalis wrote:Will many people be bored as hell sitting through 5 lines of stuff they don't know or care much about at the beginning of every question? Yes. Am I one of those people? Not at all. Does quizbowl become better by driving them away? I don't see how.
If you are not interested in learning things or learning about things, you should not play quizbowl.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Cheynem »

If you are someone who gets bored from sitting through 5 lines of question at ACF Fall, then frankly, I don't think quiz bowl is right for you. Perhaps I was in the wrong room, but at ACF Fall and EFT these years, I did not see teams bored and frustrated.

Your argument about buzzer races is mystifying. You admit it is the worst way to determine a winner, but you accept that it is a part of quiz bowl to determine a winner. I agree that in any given packet and any given team, there will be a buzzer race. Fine. That's the name of the game. But if a good deal of the packet is buzzer races, then THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE PACKET.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

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everyday847 wrote:
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:Will many people be bored as hell sitting through 5 lines of stuff they don't know or care much about at the beginning of every question? Yes. Am I one of those people? Not at all. Does quizbowl become better by driving them away? I don't see how.
If you are not interested in learning things or learning about things, you should not play quizbowl.
I want to make this more explicit. Chess is hard. I'm not too good at it. I don't create a version of chess where I win if I throw my opponent's king the farthest. That would be a lot less boring for someone who knows nothing about chess, presumably; challenge a normal preschooler to a game of chess and something similar will happen. But it's also stupid. If you don't want to learn things, you don't want to play this game. If you don't want to play this game, don't play this game.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Sir Thopas »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:Will many people be bored as hell sitting through 5 lines of stuff they don't know or care much about at the beginning of every question? Yes. Am I one of those people? Not at all. Does quizbowl become better by driving them away? I don't see how.
I don't accept this premise at all. ACF questions tend to have interesting and informative lead-ins, so that, even when I've never heard of something, I can laugh at the absurd plot points or funny stories about a Polynesian god or something. If you want to maintain interest in the question throughout, there are ways to do so.

I challenge you to convince me that AN ANSWER FROM THIS YEAR'S SETS, or an actual tossup from an IS set a couple of years back that went as follows:
"His first wife was Creusa. His father-in-law was Latinus. His second wife was Lavinia. His son was Ascanius. His father was Anchises. For 10 points, name this Roman hero of an epic by Vergil."

is more interesting than this question (which I'm writing off the top of my head; excuse any inaccuracies and apyramidality):
"His son gets into trouble by running circles around his hunting band with his horse hoping that he'll catch a boar, and his marriage proposal to Amata's daughter causes Amata to go insane and ultimately kill herself. He wishes that he could have been one of the heads being rolled up by the Simois River, instead of having to go back and look for his dead wife Creusa. He meets his old compatriots Helenus and Andromache, who provide hospitality for him, before travelling to Carthage and causing Dido to go mad with love and commit suicide. For 10 points, name this slayer of Turnus, the subject of an epic by Vergil."
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Sir Thopas wrote:
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:Will many people be bored as hell sitting through 5 lines of stuff they don't know or care much about at the beginning of every question? Yes. Am I one of those people? Not at all. Does quizbowl become better by driving them away? I don't see how.
I don't accept this premise at all. ACF questions tend to have interesting and informative lead-ins, so that, even when I've never heard of something, I can laugh at the absurd plot points or funny stories about a Polynesian god or something. If you want to maintain interest in the question throughout, there are ways to do so.
For added comedy, Guy isn't even in college and he rejects your silly premises about why college students should play high school questions!
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Cheynem wrote:If you are someone who gets bored from sitting through 5 lines of question at ACF Fall, then frankly, I don't think quiz bowl is right for you. Perhaps I was in the wrong room, but at ACF Fall and EFT these years, I did not see teams bored and frustrated.

Your argument about buzzer races is mystifying. You admit it is the worst way to determine a winner, but you accept that it is a part of quiz bowl to determine a winner. I agree that in any given packet and any given team, there will be a buzzer race. Fine. That's the name of the game. But if a good deal of the packet is buzzer races, then THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE PACKET.
Excellent, Mike. For someone who hasn't played since high school, you're an awesome player and understand the game for what it is.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Tom wrote:Fundamentally, good quizbowl generally boils down to "quizbowl where I get points and get to beat people whom I secretly see as in some way inferior."
If you seriously think this is why I play quizbowl, you have deep inferiority issues.

Anyways, there are many within the quizbowl community who feel that winning is not the most fundamental part of this game; rather, learning is. I would hope that you would try to include everyone in your description of quizbowl, not just those people who like to win and be on tv.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Sir Thopas »

William Afham wrote:
Tom wrote:Fundamentally, good quizbowl generally boils down to "quizbowl where I get points and get to beat people whom I secretly see as in some way inferior."
If you seriously think this is why I play quizbowl, you have deep inferiority issues.

Anyways, there are many within the quizbowl community who feel that winning is not the most fundamental part of this game; rather, learning is. I would hope that you would try to include everyone in your description of quizbowl, not just those people who like to win and be on tv.
Yeah, of the 66 threads currently in the Collegiate Discussion forum, maybe two are about winning. The prediction thread, and the fantasy QB thread.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Matt Weiner »

I think this is getting pretty far afield from the purpose of this thread; coming in here with the "nobody ever knows the early clues at ACF Fall and every theory on what is good is just circle-jerking justification" thing is basically trolling, and I'm sorry I responded to it.

This isn't even another "pillory NAQT because it keeps doing ill-conceived things" thread, as much as the continued doing of ill-conceived things by NAQT deserves a regular pillorying until such time as it stops. I think Jeff wanted to talk about the "stepping stone theory" itself as well as why I chose to write that article. I can provide a definitive answer to part 2: because the idea was alluded to in the thread about the high school question/CUT event that may or may not be forced on an uninterested Southern California next fall. I thought we needed some place to point people to where the arguments of the past could be summarized.

As for the first part, I think the comparison of the CUT field to SCT is only one part of the picture. There's also things like the "Big South Tournament," the A-series (A SERIES!!!!!) tournament at Macalester, and so forth, where I don't think enough is being done to even give teams the option of playing other things by making them aware. Dip into those fields and you'll find plenty of teams who do not even play SCT. I want to know if NAQT is even telling people that non-NAQT quizbowl exists when they try to recruit new/College Bowl programs. Are they giving people true information about the whole picture of collegiate quizbowl, or are they just selling them $200 worth of "new college program" crap that is partially recycled from old high school speed check sets?
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

There's nothing wrong about playing quizbowl because you derive pleasure from winning. Multiple quizbowl players whom I deeply respect have told me in private that beating other people is why they play.

At the end of the day "quizbowl is about learning" and "quizbowl is about letting 'superior' people beat up on 'inferior' people" are two roads that lead to the same place: pyramidal, clue-dense tossups. As do most other aesthetic ideals of quizbowl. They converge on that as the basic requirement of good quizbowl.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Hentzel runs the Minnesota Quizbowl Alliance and the MN High School Quizbowl League, and their site sometimes has links to tournaments not run on NAQT questions. Unfortunately for colleges, the only one up for this year was Ubu Roi for high schoolers. Generally speaking, Hentzel doesn't actively or personally promote non-NAQT options in our area, but he is perfectly willing for us to promote other tournaments at NAQT events.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Whig's Boson wrote:There's nothing wrong about playing quizbowl because you derive pleasure from winning. Multiple quizbowl players whom I deeply respect have told me in private that beating other people is why they play.

At the end of the day "quizbowl is about learning" and "quizbowl is about letting 'superior' people beat up on 'inferior' people" are two roads that lead to the same place: pyramidal, clue-dense tossups. As do most other aesthetic ideals of quizbowl. They converge on that as the basic requirement of good quizbowl.
Bruce, I wasn't trying to claim that playing for winning is somehow inferior, for winning is great fun. I was just pointing out the flaw in the argument presented.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Sir Thopas »

William Afham wrote:Hentzel runs the Minnesota Quizbowl Alliance and the MN High School Quizbowl League, and their site sometimes has links to tournaments not run on NAQT questions. Unfortunately for colleges, the only one up for this year was Ubu Roi for high schoolers. Generally speaking, Hentzel doesn't actively or personally promote non-NAQT options in our area, but he is perfectly willing for us to promote other tournaments at NAQT events.
Wow. This site sure seems like a conflict of interest. Whether or not it's being used for the active suppression of non-NAQT tournaments, I don't know, of course, but it seems extremely plausible that it might be.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Sir Thopas wrote:
William Afham wrote:Hentzel runs the Minnesota Quizbowl Alliance and the MN High School Quizbowl League, and their site sometimes has links to tournaments not run on NAQT questions. Unfortunately for colleges, the only one up for this year was Ubu Roi for high schoolers. Generally speaking, Hentzel doesn't actively or personally promote non-NAQT options in our area, but he is perfectly willing for us to promote other tournaments at NAQT events.
Wow. This site sure seems like a conflict of interest. Whether or not it's being used for the active suppression of non-NAQT tournaments, I don't know, of course, but it seems extremely plausible that it might be.
I personally don't feel that he tries to suppress actively but rather ends up doing that passively by promoting tournaments like Tartan Tussle on A sets. It still is frustrating at times to coexist with someone who claims to be spreading good quizbowl for all levels of play when there are many options outside of NAQT that are more appropriate for most, if not all, collegiate clubs.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by magin »

There are certain principles of good quizbowl that, in my opinion, make tournaments written like ACF Fall 07 and 08 superior to IS sets as "stepping stones" for college quizbowl teams.

First, a question should allow someone with deeper knowledge of a clue/answer to buzz in before someone with more cursory knowledge of that clue/answer. Secondly, each clue, when looked at by itself, should enable a player who knows it to state the answer. Furthermore, a clue is "good" if it gives important (and interesting) information about the answer. "Important" is a difficult to define apart from the context of actual answers, but there exists a finite (though quite large, in many cases) set of important clues about an answer.

From what I've seen of IS sets, they often contain clues/questions at odds with these basic principles (I'm sure other people can supply relevant examples). Unrelated to question length or distribution, I promote using sets like EFT and ACF Fall instead of IS sets because EFT and ACF Fall both adhere to those basic principles consistently, whereas IS sets do not. Moreover, I think it's true that mACF-length questions of normal length (6 lines) and bonus parts of 1-2 lines each allow players to learn more clues and get more out of questions than the relatively shorter length of IS sets.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by OctagonJoe »

One reason I said that hosting a tournament on high school questions was hindering people was in the case of high school set tournaments conflicting with real tournaments, such as CUT being hosted on the same day as IO. If my teammates had gone with me to IO, I have a feeling that they would have gained a lot more of this mysterious "knowledge" than by staying home and playing the same IS sets we already play in practice (for some more mysterious reason). Also, at least in my team's specific case, I know my teammates were good enough to do just fine on the IO questions, and there was no reason we should have been hosting an IS set tournament that conflicted with a chance for them to improve as players. I think it's horrible that a college tournament on real questions had to conflict with a tournament on high school questions, which could naturally be avoided if the latter were dropped altogether.

As for the Stepping Stone Theory, I don't think using A series or IS sets will help any player do well at the college level. The canon for those sets is not very well defined, as any thing is tossupable as long as there is a cutesy giveaway. If an answerline happens to be something that might actually belong in the ACF Fall canon, the clues are generally lacking, either through the inevitable trash clues, cutesy giveaway, or shortness of the question. This makes it pretty hard to learn valuable information off these questions, unless knowing that Vega is both a star and a Street Fighter character is valuable. As for eventually stepping into the college scene, I don't think IS sets do the job. My team has currently sent a large group of novices to two tournaments, Tartan Tussle and CUT. 3 Freshmen attended Feuerbach and 2 attended ACF Fall. As for ACF Fall, the reason, so far as I could tell, that most of them did not attend was not because they couldn't make it. It was because in the 2 months of practicing almost exclusively on A series/IS sets and listening to Tom Sullivan gripe about ACF being impossible they had already gained an aversion to anything without the nice NAQT label. As Carleton is an established team that attends some circuit events, I wonder how easy it would be for a non-circuit team to fall prey to this same line of thinking.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by ecks »

OctagonJoe wrote:It was because in the 2 months of practicing almost exclusively on A series/IS sets and listening to Tom Sullivan gripe about ACF being impossible they had already gained an aversion to anything without the nice NAQT label. As Carleton is an established team that attends some circuit events, I wonder how easy it would be for a non-circuit team to fall prey to this same line of thinking.
Truman State was pretty much in this situation three years ago; when I first came, we practiced exclusively on NAQT question sets and the ACFISIMPOSSIBLE mantra was repeated regularly. It wasn't until I started coming to this board that I really learned about other quizbowl. Since Ifirst came we've had significant changes in our leadership and now we read ACF/mACF questions pretty much exclusively at practices, unless we have some NAQT event coming up. Now we still have a long way to go in terms of competitiveness and knowledge, but attitudes at the club have changed significantly. New members don't generally freak out when they hear ACF questions, and actually when we read NAQT questions for the first time about halfway through the semester the first year people were aghast at the quality when compared to the mACf/ACF stuff we had been reading and playing.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Gautam »

I think whole discussion could use a healthy dose of "quizbowl is something I enjoy because I get to hear about all these things I don't know " rather than "quizbowl is something I enjoy because I can answer about things I know."

This year, 5 schools sent teams to Tartan Tussle (A series tournament) but not to ACF Fall. That number was 8 last year, though perhaps it's more understandable given that there was a scheduling conflict. I think it is a good thing that the number of programs going to tournaments is increasing. My only problem, though, is that I haven't seen some of these teams move on to general circuit tournaments at all. There is absolutely no reason why, in a state with so many teams, ACF Fall 2008 at the U of MN had a grand total of 3 (non-house) teams from Minnesotan institutions one of which was a high school (HIGH SCHOOL) team. Unless I start seeing more of these young teams at circuit events, I am going to consider this stepping stones IS theory to be not just a harmless anachronism but a dangerous poison.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Important Bird Area »

Thanks for the commentary, everyone.
Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:From what I've seen of IS sets, they often contain clues/questions at odds with these basic principles (I'm sure other people can supply relevant examples).
In so far as this is true, I would note that it also makes IS sets bad high school quizbowl. Obviously I've tried to avoid that outcome in the history questions, but I won't presume to speak for NAQT's other editors.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Important Bird Area »

Matt Weiner wrote:I want to know if NAQT is even telling people that non-NAQT quizbowl exists when they try to recruit new/College Bowl programs. Are they giving people true information about the whole picture of collegiate quizbowl, or are they just selling them $200 worth of "new college program" crap that is partially recycled from old high school speed check sets?
NAQT's article on how to start a college team is worth reading.

Of particular relevance to this thread:

1. The very first piece of advice is "read this board for tournament announcements."

2. The first source of practice material recommended is the Stanford archive.

3. There is an explicit injunction that "It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of learning to write quality questions... In any case, most collegiate tournaments are run on packets of questions submitted by competing teams."
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by cchiego »

I would be eager to hear feedback from new college players (i.e. ones who didn't play in HS) and teams who didn't play IS questions and instead started with mACF questions, like some of the teams at the UWashington ACF Fall site. Did anyone get feedback from them? Or can anyone else think of other examples of teams that started off with mACF and how they turned out? There seem to be plenty examples of teams who start on IS who don't do much more, but I'd like to see how that stacks up to the mACF-first schools/players.

My personal experience is that IS series tournaments might be a good initial introduction to quizbowl for college players who didn't play pyramidal questions in high school. I know that I really enjoyed "powering" questions and wasn't as concerned in that first tournament about question quality so much as knowing a good number of the answers and having the questions move by quickly. Of course, once I got into the quizbowl world the deficiencies of IS questions and the advantages of greater difficulty, longer questions, and a more consistent distribution became readily apparent. But I don't think I would've stuck with it had I not enjoyed the first time that I played. Maybe there should be some kind of one-and-done policy for players playing on IS questions? Something like DII eligibility, except even more rigorous?
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by dtaylor4 »

I had relatively few chances to play on pyramidal questions in high school, and played on mACF from the get-go once I got into college. Seeing as I initially couldn't make novice practices during my first semester, I went to veteran practices which featured Mike Sorice, Sudheer Potru, and sometimes Dom Ricci, so simply getting a question anywhere was an accomplishment in and of itself, and there were frequently times where I wouldn't buzz a single time during a 3 hour practice due to simply getting beat to it. I also made sure to bring a notebook to write down clues for stuff that came up in all areas, even science, which I fraud 99% of the time.

Now: I'm obviously not that great of a player, but I've heard of most of the stuff that comes up. When freshmen bring notebooks to practices I attend, I try to get them to write stuff down like I did.

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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by cornfused »

uga_chris wrote:Maybe there should be some kind of one-and-done policy for players playing on IS questions? Something like DII eligibility, except even more rigorous?
I would support this - I took a team of freshman to an IS-A tourney last year, and after we won easily, we stopped IS play forever. The top of an IS tourney's field needs to stop play IS sets... and everyone else should only be allowed a year or two of IS play, max.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by cornfused »

cornfused wrote:
uga_chris wrote:Maybe there should be some kind of one-and-done policy for players playing on IS questions? Something like DII eligibility, except even more rigorous?
I would support this - I took a team of freshman to an IS-A tourney last year, and after we won easily, we stopped IS play forever. The top of an IS tourney's field needs to stop play IS sets... and everyone else should only be allowed a year or two of IS play, max.
That would also hold NAQT to their IS-sets-are-for-new-collegiate-players line.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

cornfused wrote:
cornfused wrote:
uga_chris wrote:Maybe there should be some kind of one-and-done policy for players playing on IS questions? Something like DII eligibility, except even more rigorous?
I would support this - I took a team of freshman to an IS-A tourney last year, and after we won easily, we stopped IS play forever. The top of an IS tourney's field needs to stop play IS sets... and everyone else should only be allowed a year or two of IS play, max.
That would also hold NAQT to their IS-sets-are-for-new-collegiate-players line.
It would also require them to take down their page explaining how to run a CUT-style tournament, which details how to work people who have played DI ICT into the schedule. I don't think their website, at least, even pretends to hold to that line.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by manary »

Tangentially related:

As a member of a not-that-great team, we still are trying to attend lots of tournaments, even the harder ones. And we have tons of fun. At WIT (Illinois Open Mirror) we got crushed, but enjoyed ourselves. Having fun in quizbowl is not about being better than other people, nor is it really about winning. At least for our team, quizbowl is relaxing. School is tough and super stressful, so quizbowl is our 'down time.' This relaxed style probably explains why we suck kinda hard, but it doesn't matter. I play intramural sports at Caltech because it's fun, and ignore the fact that we get destroyed in everything. I never work out or practice or that sort of serious preparation. In quiz bowl, hearing cool things, learning interesting facts, and getting things right once in a while is fun - and we practice at quizbowl a lot more than we practice at sports.
Point: Bad teams don't have to play on IS sets and win to have fun - they can play on collegiate sets and lose and have fun too.

I frequently wonder how very good teams feel about this style of play. At WIT, playing Stanford was just listening to Stanford get questions. Is this fun for them? Do they wish we weren't there, or that we were better? Is there any resentment from top tier teams that mediocre teams also like to play? Someone speak to this without sounding too presumptuous.

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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Cheynem »

I'm not an elite player, so I don't speak for them, but I can say personally I like to play against any team that enjoys playing. I don't like playing against teams who have a negative attitude, whether they be "good" or "bad" teams. If you're enjoying yourself, making an effort to compete, and doing your best, I got no problem with that.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Mike Bentley »

uga_chris wrote:I would be eager to hear feedback from new college players (i.e. ones who didn't play in HS) and teams who didn't play IS questions and instead started with mACF questions, like some of the teams at the UWashington ACF Fall site. Did anyone get feedback from them? Or can anyone else think of other examples of teams that started off with mACF and how they turned out? There seem to be plenty examples of teams who start on IS who don't do much more, but I'd like to see how that stacks up to the mACF-first schools/players.
In general, most of the people at ACF Fall at UW had at least played Knowledge Bowl or CBI before. However, I believe for most of them this was their first mACF/NAQT style tournament.

From my perspective as a reader, things went over pretty well. Pretty much everyone who played at least got a question, and some people were making some very good buzzes. I think the fact that pretty much everyone at the tournament was a new player helped out a lot. The tournament, except for maybe a handful of packets, was not too hard for the field and I think most teams had heard of a lot of the answers, even if they weren't able to come up with them all.

In our first practice we read stuff from old Maryland spring high school tournaments, and people seemed to take those questions pretty well. I've also read those type of questions to an Indian Quzzing Club at Microsoft consisting mainly of people who had never played quizbowl before and they also took the questions well. I think there's nothing inherently scary about a good high school mACF packet or ACF Fall. Teams of inexperienced players will largely have a good time playing on these questions, and will put up a respectable amount of points.

That being said, I think an IS Set featuring the field from ACF Fall NW would have probably also gone over pretty well. It probably would have distinguished the teams fine enough, and I'm sure that people would be learning important clues when playing in the tournament. I don't really see these tournaments as a problem for new teams to attend. There is a bit of a problem when people start playing these types of tournaments exclusively, but at least these teams are playing some sort of quizbowl. It's a lot easier to get teams that play mainly just IS sets to transition to playing mACF events than when there is no quizbowl team at a university (and you don't have people like Auroni or Charlie matriculating and forming a team on their own).
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

uga_chris wrote:I would be eager to hear feedback from new college players (i.e. ones who didn't play in HS) and teams who didn't play IS questions and instead started with mACF questions

My personal experience is that IS series tournaments might be a good initial introduction to quizbowl for college players who didn't play pyramidal questions in high school.
I think reading IS packets in early practices might be a good introduction to new players, but I don't think a whole IS tournament is necessary for that. I didn't play any good quizbowl in high school, and was introduced to pyramidal questions in college at the first few practices of the year that were intended to show freshmen what college quizbowl is and stuff (I think it was some combination of intramural and IS-level that we read). I was converted from :chip: (which was all I had previously known) very easily. The first tournament I went to was PARFAIT 2007, where I was a buzzer rock but loved pretty much every minute of it anyway. I'm still not even close to being a good player (yet, I hope), so (±dis)regard what I say in light of that…but I do enjoy going to tournaments, getting one or two questions a round, and using the answer space for suggestions of what I should read and/or read about (and/or write questions about). So in my case, any "stepping stones" that happened were in practice and didn't require a separate event.

So I'll agree with Micah's statement and add that a bad player doesn't have to play on easy questions, in order to power things and have more PPG, to have fun – she can mainly ride the coattails of her better teammates, but occasionally say stuff during bonuses and answer questions about things like classical music and the Kalevala, and have fun too.
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by Captain Sinico »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:...It's a lot easier to get teams that play mainly just IS sets to transition to playing mACF events than when there is no quizbowl team at a university (and you don't have people like Auroni or Charlie matriculating and forming a team on their own).
I don't know if this is actually true, though. My experience is that, as a single motivated person (which is all anyone can be,) it's a lot harder to change a program's focus than it is to focus a new program. An established program has all the apparatus (mainly in the form of continuing players) that supported whatever previous practices and, consequently, a lot of inertia behind continuing those practices; changing things is consequently difficult if not impossible as long as those players remain and continue to attract like-minded people. Conversely, a new program faces a none of those issues (though it certainly faces many other difficult challenges) so one focused, knowledgable individual can easily instill good (or bad) practices for years to come.

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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by at your pleasure »

I would also like to note another reason why "stepping stone theory" is invalid. In general, the the HS game is looking more and more like the novice college game by the day. There are more and more good HS sets, paticuarly those produced by HSPAQ and housewritten tournaments like NNT and HFT that . Most of these housewrites get mirrored in a variety of locations, increasing the audience for good quizbowl. Moreover, it is becoming more and more common for HS players to play college tournaments. If anything, the big transition is from lower-level HS to good HS quizbowl.
Douglas Graebner, Walt Whitman HS 10, Uchicago 14
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No Rules Westbrook
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Yeah, I think people have covered why the "stepping stone IS theory" has outlived its use - there are stepping stones now in place, from "good high school events" to "high schoolers playing collegiate events" to "novice and introductory collegiate events" to "regular difficulty events" to "harder events" - and all of those steps have events which conclusively qualify as good quizbowl.

I'll respond to Micah's question, though. Certainly, better players and teams don't "resent" less-skilled teams for showing up to a tourney - I can pretty confidently speak for every elite player I know in saying that. It's true that a lot of better players particularly enjoy playing against other good players - it's more fun for me, admittedly, to play tight competitive games where I feel like I have to play well in order to win (i.e. contrary to SepiaOfficinalis' ridiculous nonsense above, I'm not interested in creating a fake game where only I can win to prove my superiority). But, the only way to create more and more good players is to expose more and more people to the game - we all understand that only a certain fraction of them are going to have the drive to be "hardcore" or whatever, and that's okay. It's in the interest of all types of players to have as many teams and people as possible come to tournaments.
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SepiaOfficinalis
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Re: The mystery of stepping stone theory.

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

To summarize what I said above, my main point is that the people most invested in quizbowl have unique blind spots in judging what makes quizbowl better. I wasn't positing that these are conscious motives or biases, but that doesn't make them less real. I think we will generally agree that we play quizbowl because we enjoy learning or whatnot but that this has very little bearing on why it actually is that we enjoy quizbowl. I put out that we enjoy it because of social hierarchy effects that are pretty well established as contributing to well being and low stress, but that's freeform speculation.

I'm surprised that there would be any good quizbowlers in our post-postmodern era who think that there's something else to knowledge than our efforts to reproduce and reinterpret the social power structures of today and yesterday, I mean, we're pretty much the cult of the "noted" and the "famous," not exactly examples of ahistorical objectivities.
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