An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

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An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by matt979 »

Happy New Year Everyone,

This post is a companion to viewtopic.php?f=6&t=6993. Most of what I would have written there has already been expressed better than I would have, but I'd like to use a well-known, well-written set of standards as a benchmark to address a particular set of premises:

1. Community standards for good quiz-bowl continue to evolve and improve
2. NAQT has (according to many posters here) willfully ignored those standards
3. NAQT has therefore (again according to many posters) willfully produced bad quiz-bowl questions

More specifically I will stand up for some "binary matching" bonuses (as opposed to long bonus parts) and NAQT tossup length. [NAQT topic distribution has already been covered extensively in this forum over the years. For example, nothing I wrote here could make Current Events questions "academic," nor take away the importance of understanding what's in the news.]

The first part is demonstrably true but I strenuously disagree with the second two. (Getting my background out of the way: I started playing quiz-bowl as a high school freshman in 1988, mostly on Chip's questions, and began writing practice questions soon after that, mainly to improve as a player. I became an NAQT member in 1999. My highest priority is a well-run tournament; my question output varies directly with the urgency of shipping deadlines. And I of course speak only for myself.)

One of the best sources of best question writing practices is http://www.acf-quizbowl.com/documents/packetsub.php (of course see also http://www.acf-quizbowl.com/documents/howtowrite.php, though I'd like to think that NAQT questions live up to the basic standards set forth there), starting at "Additional Packet Penalties." Most of that document is well-written, spot-on advice. However:
If you write a "given the x, name the y" binary matching bonus with no prose clues at all, that's +$5 for each bonus of that kind
If I correctly understand the guidelines' Hemingway example then this hypothetical bonus (off the top of my head) would also be prohibited:

For 10 points each, who was president of the U.S. when...

A. Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor?

B. Commodore Matthew Perry led four ships into Tokyo Harbor?

C. Yoshinobu resigned, ending the Tokugawa Shogunate?


Now this specific example would be mediocre at best. (I surmise Jeff would return it if he found it in his NAQT history editing queue.) Part C in particular doesn't fit the theme set out by A and B. It might be in the bottom quartile of a good packet's question quality. Nonetheless I'd happen not to think twice about a packet with a handful of bonuses that read this way.

However, I'm not at all convinced that this bonus alone would be one-third as bad as "A large amount of minor formatting problems" combined, except perhaps by analogy to brown M&Ms (Van Halen used the brown M&Ms clause as a test to see whether concert promoters actually read the contract).

NAQT bonuses frequently use this structure, where each part completes the sentence that the lead-in began. Up to a point, this is a style I would vehemently defend:

1. It is relatively quick to write. An individual writer can then spend the "extra" time on quality control, on additional questions, or on anything else (life is short!).

2. It is relatively quick to read. If you're writing questions with a very large body of use, your target audience will include not only "the slow reader" (most untimed tournaments will have a room that consistently leaves the next round's teams waiting at least 5-10 minutes; at timed tournaments this would be the 16-18 tossup room) but also any audience members, who deserve at least a fighting chance to follow the question.

Of course there's a thin line between this and the patently unacceptable "for 10 points each, who wrote [...]." New writers should be actively discouraged from those, and maybe a blanket ban on "non-prose" bonus parts is what it takes to enforce the ban, but I'd rather see a packet where 10 bonuses resembled my hypothetical than a packet with even one factual error, misleading pronoun, or incomprehensible sentence.

From the Hemingway example:
See how the second example teaches something and recaps interesting parts of the story so that even people who don't know the answers get something out of the question?
A well-written prose bonus "teaches something" and is "interesting"; however, many attempts at interesting teaching are just a long-winded fail. Many times I suspect a writer throws a half-dozen unrelated things about the subject matter into a bonus part just to see what sticks. This gets very tedious, as very little of the prose actually makes a difference to whether the team with the bonus knows (or solves) the right answer.

Before we get to topic distribution, quite a few Quotes For Truth from the ACF writing guide (it's not that I disagree with anything I haven't quoted, but that I especially like these):
Any clue with Wikipedia as its only source: +$25
5-10-15 bonus: +$5 each
(I was railing against these 10 years ago (likewise 30-20-10s), because the people who wrote/structured them weren't numerate enough to understand expected bonus conversion rates)
Dead tossups are the enemy of having fun at quizbowl tournaments
omit useless nonclues
please do not tell us where or when someone was born, what their father's profession was, or where they went to college
(Go to any packet archive that has questions from the mid-1990s or earlier and despair.)

The notes about answer lines are particularly good; my biased observation is that NAQT has tended to be slightly ahead of the curve there.

Moving on to tossup length, the ACF guidelines include:
The question should then talk about some material likely to be encountered in an undergraduate course [...] but still lesser-known to the casual person:
Mind you, this is for the third sentence of a seven-sentence tossup. For a high school tournament (to say nothing of a tournament for novice players), if you assume that every clue of a tossup plays at least some role in distinguishing a good buzz from a not-as-good buzz then the difficulty ceiling on the first clue will be much lower.

Dispensing with some obvious points: Yes, I strongly agree with the pyramid model, along with unambiguous pronoun usage and similar standards. No, there is absolutely no reason to put an easy clue early on purpose. (When HSQB posters have complained about this, I suspect either that some writer or editor vastly misapprehended the clue in question, or that tossup actually went on to get progressively still easier, and was just not at the right difficulty level for the set.)

Anyway, despite the length of this post, I strongly support efficient wording, thick clues, and getting smoothly to the point. One particular issue I have with long tossups for newer writers is the kitchen sink implication that one should work in every single thing one knows about the subject. This approach often leads to questions with sentences that come off as non sequiturs, where one sentence doesn't quite acknowledge the existence of the ones immediately before and after it.

None of this is meant to attack longer college tossups, and certainly not ACF tossups. They've found the right length for their target audience, and I believe at the high school level NAQT has chosen the right lengths for our target audiences. (For what it's worth my typical Invitational Series tossup is six lines of Courier New with the right margin at 6.)

One last note that leads us to what I think particular NAQT editors prioritize and why:
Pronunciation guides are usually a waste of time, to be honest.
Customer feedback suggests quite the opposite, in fact (to my great surprise). Consider, again, a fairly large high school invitational. A handful of readers are likely to be parental volunteers, perhaps some who've never read a quiz-bowl packet out loud before. To some extent their performance will be unavoidably brutal. The cadence of compound-complex sentences will lead to stumbles, as will words that the writer falsely assumed were universally known. (Yes, a good reader would know to give a good-faith phonetic pronunciation and just keep on reading, but not every moderator at a given tournament will have been trained appropriately.)

So for the sake of all readers, my own ideal is for NAQT questions to be clear and concise, without any 40-minute rounds (or 17-tossup rounds) and with relatively few post-tournament sore throats. An inscrutable typo is arguably worse than an out-of-order clue; in the original thread the accusation of badly written sentences was the most devastating critique I saw. (The alleged bias against Eastern Seaboard Jews would have been far worse, of course, were there any merit to the allegation.)

It goes without saying that commercially available questions (NAQT or anyone else) must be free of factual errors, protest bait, or neg bait. I expect NAQT to be held accountable for any of those. As a general rule every question should be rewarding to those who know the material and interesting (or at very worst, mercifully quick) to those who do not. Neither prose bonuses nor six-line (Times New Roman) tossups strike me as necessary to that goal, and both of those strike as very strange places for a line in the sand or a categorical label of "bad quiz-bowl."

I will shift my own bonus writing substantially away from the structure I cited (and probably more towards "Ten years after U.S. ships sailed into Tokyo harbor, a Shogunate ended. For 10 points each") but I'm not nearly prolific enough anymore for this to cause a discernible difference. As mentioned before my main personal motivation to write these days is to make sure we never, ever miss a shipment. As such I'd much rather spend 15 minutes on a solid question (that essentially faded into the background within that packet) than an hour on a masterpiece. Your mileage will obviously vary, though you can see why it initially baffled me that "let's make a group pledge never to write for NAQT" would be perceived as an effective question-improving tactic.

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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by AndyShootsAndyScores »

I will probably write a longer reply after I get some sleep, but I just wanted to address this point:
matt979 wrote:2. It is relatively quick to read. If you're writing questions with a very large body of use, your target audience will include not only "the slow reader" (most untimed tournaments will have a room that consistently leaves the next round's teams waiting at least 5-10 minutes; at timed tournaments this would be the 16-18 tossup room) but also any audience members, who deserve at least a fighting chance to follow the question.
While I enjoy spectators (not only in quizbowl but in almost everything else I do), I think the audience is something a question writer should never take into consideration when writing a question. One can argue that without doing so, it will not be interesting for an audience to watch; however, this is how we end with stuff like :chip:. A question should never be designed to garner any reaction whatsoever from an audience: that responsibility should be left to the players and their ability to answer said question. Quizbowl is not a sport meant to dazzle crowds of dozens of people, and I'm not arguing that w should we be trying to change it to one. If anyone wants that happen, they should hope for the average person's interests to change rather than sacrifice question quality in order to achieve that.

I realize that you probably weren't trying to make a case for writing questions in a way to please an audience, but that's how that clause came off to me.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Susan »

Matt wrote:Mind you, this is for the third sentence of a seven-sentence tossup.
Good God, I hope you mean "lines" rather than "sentences".
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Captain Sinico »

matt979 wrote:...I'm not at all convinced that this bonus alone would be one-third as bad as "A large amount of minor formatting problems" combined...
I see no compelling reason to have either, nor any reason one must not have one if one has the other. This is categorically an irrelevant alternative.
matt979 wrote:1. [My binary matching bonus] is relatively quick to write...

2. [My binary matching bonus] is relatively quick to read...
These are very poor justifications for anything and could be used to justify anything, up to and including one (or zero!) clue questions, hoses, not editing at all, etc. If you expect to win anyone over, I hope you can make better arguments than these.
matt979 wrote:...there's a thin line between [my binary matching bonus] and the patently unacceptable "for 10 points each, who wrote [...]."
I see no line, however thin! Let's look at this a little further.
The essential problem is this: this bonus doesn't provide any context or much information. For example, okay, so if I didn't already know it, the bonus will tell me (at the end) that Franklin Pierce was President when Perry reached Japan. What bearing did that have on Perry? What did Perry even do, again? I gain precious little from this bonus in every event.
So, you see that your desire to have questions that can be written and read quickly (ostensibly for the sake of spectators and bad moderators, whose existence is left as an exercise for the reader) is, in this case, directly inimical to the end of having a game that teaches. The highest goal of quizbowl should be to teach by rewarding knowledge and understanding and by providing information. Don’t you agree and, if not, what is the purpose of this game to you?
Incidentally, this example is telling about why such questions are bad. Pierce wasn't President when Perry left for Japan: presumably, he had little to no influence on Perry's actions during that first expedition. You might counter "Very well, but I just dashed this off from the top of my head." Well, exactly: your contention is that your ability to do so is precisely the merit of this style of bonus! The whole point is that it requires minimal knowledge/research. Well, as long as you're writing such a question, you are almost by definition susceptible to exactly this problem.

matt979 wrote:A well-written prose bonus "teaches something" and is "interesting"; however, many attempts at interesting teaching are just a long-winded fail.
So, I’d say that every attempt at not teaching is an epic fail, then, and that even what you'd consider well-written binary bonus is teach-something fail and a not-be-really-uninteresting fail. Your argument here is "it's difficult for some people to do what we're supposed to well in my estimation, so it’s okay for people (maybe not even the same people) not even to try." I sincerely hope you don't really believe that: that’s a not-make-terrible-argument fail.
matt979 wrote:(When HSQB posters have complained about [bad clue placement in NAQT packets], I suspect either that some writer or editor vastly misapprehended the clue in question, or that tossup actually went on to get progressively still easier, and was just not at the right difficulty level for the set.)
And... that's somehow acceptable? What does it say that there's a pattern of such complaints, even if I accept your explanation for why they're happening?
matt979 wrote:...I believe at the high school level NAQT has chosen the right lengths for our target audiences.
Who are your target audiences? Given their composition, why do you contend that NAQT's length is the right one?
matt979 wrote:An inscrutable typo is arguably worse than an out-of-order clue...
I mean, I don't necessarily agree. Certainly both are bad... However, this seems to me another instance of the irrelevant you posited above.
matt979 wrote:...you can see why it initially baffled me that "let's make a group pledge never to write for NAQT" would be perceived as an effective question-improving tactic.
To recap: people think this because NAQT produces many, many bad questions, so they're worried their labor won't contribute, or at least won't contribute as much as it otherwise might, to the important (to them) end of producing good questions. The fact that NAQT's goals and practices remain unclear is one major reason this worry exists. The further fact that you seem to be saying "As an NAQT member, I claim it's compatible with NAQT's goals for me to trade-off alacrity of writing for quality per the community's standards/the end of providing and interesting, informative game" is, frankly, not going to do much to allay people's concerns, either.

So, in summary, I find your arguments largely poor and have serious questions about your aims and motivations. I assert and continue to assert that the end of providing an interesting, informative game on quality questions is incompatible with the types of sentiments you're expressing here, e.g. "we have to cater to moderators who refuse to read even moderate length questions/non-existent spectators" and "it is necessary to write in formats that allow quick (and thus necessarily relatively research-free) writing." I hope you will address these issues.

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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

matt979 wrote:...there's a thin line between [my binary matching bonus] and the patently unacceptable "for 10 points each, who wrote [...]."
Captain Scipio wrote: I see no line, however thin! Let's look at this a little further.
The essential problem is this: this bonus doesn't provide any context or much information. For example, okay, so if I didn't already know it, the bonus will tell me (at the end) that Franklin Pierce was President when Perry reached Japan. What bearing did that have on Perry? What did Perry even do, again? I gain precious little from this bonus in every event.
So, you see that your desire to have questions that can be written and read quickly (ostensibly for the sake of spectators and bad moderators, whose existence is left as an exercise for the reader) is, in this case, directly inimical to the end of having a game that teaches. The highest goal of quizbowl should be to teach by rewarding knowledge and understanding and by providing information. Don’t you agree and, if not, what is the purpose of this game to you?
Incidentally, this example is telling about why such questions are bad. Pierce wasn't President when Perry left for Japan: presumably, he had little to no influence on Perry's actions during that first expedition. You might counter "Very well, but I just dashed this off from the top of my head." Well, exactly: your contention is that your ability to do so is precisely the merit of this style of bonus! The whole point is that it requires minimal knowledge/research. Well, as long as you're writing such a question, you are almost by definition susceptible to exactly this problem.
I'm not quite sure where this debate is heading, but I think maybe a poor choice of example is contaminating the discussion somewhat. Consider the following bonus:

Which American poet . . .

A. Wrote "Song of Myself" and paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln in "O Captain! My Captain!"?

answer: Walt(er) _Whitman_

B. Wrote about a man who was "born too late" in "Miniver Cheevy" and about a man who killed himself in "Richard Cory"?

answer: Edwin Arlington _Robinson_

C. Wrote the epic ~Paterson~ and asked to be forgiven for eating someone's plums in "This Is Just to Say"?

answer: William Carlos _Williams_

This is basically the same kind of question as Matt's hypothetical question: that is, a minimally contentful bonus with an even more minimal initial prompt line. (As it happens, I wrote this and it was used in a low-level NAQT set last year.) This bonus provides a little more information than Matt's (two clues per prompt), but it also provides almost no "context." I'm not teaching you anything, really. The bonus says something like "here are (what I assert to be) three important poets, and here are some facts about them I deem significant: given those facts, can you identify the poets?" I think Matt is saying "for low-level sets, there's nothing inherently wrong with a bonus like this." I agree with that. I think he is also saying that "in addition, it's convenient that an experienced question writer can produce this kind of question relatively speedily." That, to me, isn't really an argument for them, but it is indeed a convenience.

I think what Matt was getting at with the "thin line" comment is that there is, in fact, a thin line between the bonus I've provided and one which asks

What American poet wrote . . .

A. Song of Myself?

B. "Richard Cory"?

C. "Paterson"?

NAQT disallows the latter bonus (I'm not saying this as if it were a big achievement on NAQT's part; I'm just pointing out the fact), while allowing the former.

Here's another way of putting this. Everyone would presumably agree that there is some kind of question which would be "minimally acceptable" for a given level of play. Even at ACF nationals, not every question is a perfectly polished gem. That is, there is some question in that tournament which is the worst question in the set, but which the editors left in because they said "this isn't perfect, but I think it's good enough."

The issue here, I take it, is whether NAQT's minimal standard for its low-level sets is beneath the threshold of minimal acceptability embraced by the circuit. So maybe it would clarify things if you look at the actual bonus I've provided and decide whether you think it seems like something you could tolerate in a low-level tournament. Or, if you think it is too skimpy to be usable at any level whatsoever, you could explain your sense of a "minimally acceptable" question, and discuss why this one fails to reach that minimum.

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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Matt Weiner »

For what it's worth (which is something substantial, given that I was the person who put the "no binary matching bonuses" rule into the ACF guidelines and enforced it over the four ACF tournaments I have been officially involved in editing), I would not consider the sample question in the original post to be a prohibited binary matching question, as it uses English prose and is not just a call-and-response bonus. I might take objection to the content on other grounds; for example, while Pearl Harbor and the arrival of Perry were events in Japanese history that intimately involved the US, the fact that Johnson was President at the time had no real bearing on the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, so the question leaves the realm of historical understanding and just reduces to "do you know the exact date of this event in Japanese history? do you also know who was President at that exact date?" which falls squarely into my definition of "trivia" on both counts. But, if I received that bonus for an ACF tournament, I would just edit at least that final part to my standards of academic relevance; I wouldn't apply the binary-matching penalty.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by matt979 »

myamphigory wrote:
Matt wrote:Mind you, this is for the third sentence of a seven-sentence tossup.
Good God, I hope you mean "lines" rather than "sentences".
No, I did mean seven sentences: the example of a good Henry II tossup, given at http://www.acf-quizbowl.com/documents/packetsub.php, is (sentence numbering and linebreaks obviously added):

1. Agents of this king executed Richard Whiting at Toe Hill.

2. Earlier, he joined Aragon's war with France, winning great popularity when his general, the Earl of Surrey, defeated a Scottish force at Flodden Field.

3. Prior to authorizing the Ten Articles, he sponsored the construction of such ships as the Mary Rose.

4. He also suppressed the Pilgrimage of Grace and wrestled with Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

5. He attempted to persuade Pope Clement VII to intercede against his own violation of Leviticus, despite earlier using Deuteronomy to win the support of Julius II.

6. His chancellors Thomas Wolsey and Thomas More both fell out of his good graces, leading to the martyrdom of More during this man's creation of the Church of England.

7. For 10 points, name this father of Elizabeth I and husband to Catherine Parr, Anne Boleyn, and four other women.

In fairness, this is given as the ideal raw submission to ACF with the idea that editing for length will ensue (weakest clues cut). As stated in the link, the tossup, when put together, is noticeably longer than the 6-line cap we will be enforcing on the edited questions – again, please submit your questions this way so that we can edit them into very dense 6-line tossups for the final packets.

I suspect that the more prevalent such submission requirement became, the fewer people would choose to submit questions. (Either they would pay higher entry fees or they would decline to attend the tournaments with those requirements.) Many of those marginal (in the economic sense) writers would have written marginal questions (in the critical sense) but some of them would have done good work; the quiz-bowl world is perhaps worse off without them.

In any case, the unedited version of this question would (aside from being a strawman) strike me as far too long, as a matter of taste. The argument that this leads to bad quiz-bowl is much more subtle than the argument that shorter (let's say four lines of 10 pt. Times New Roman) tossups lead to bad quiz-bowl, because the effect is much more indirect. I strongly believe, though, that the effect is there, because it results in fewer people writing, fewer questions produced per writer, longer rounds (thus one-day tournaments that wrap up well into the evening), and simple attrition (both by the writers and by the players).
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by at your pleasure »

longer rounds (thus one-day tournaments that wrap up well into the evening),
I think that this has more to do with the fact that people prefer more rounds of quizbowl, and thus things like RR format instead of single elimination.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Matt Weiner »

matt979 wrote: longer rounds (thus one-day tournaments that wrap up well into the evening)
Ignoring the rather incredible other assertions in your post, I believe it has been shown by noted NAQT pet category arithmetic that the 10 seconds it would take the slowest conceivable reader to get through a line of a tossup * 20 tossups per round * 14 rounds in the longest of tournaments, must add no more than 47 minutes to the total length of a tournament per extra line added to every tossup question.

Since, in actuality, a six-line ACF tossup will be around 550 characters, and the current SCT/ICT length is 500 characters, we are really talking about a half-line difference, and almost never talking about the hypothetical world's slowest moderator. In other words: as has been repeatedly shown in the past, question length has no actual effect on tournament length.

I will grant that the timer does a remarkable job of disincentivizing the between-question discussions that are, in fact, the sole cause of rounds and tournaments taking longer than they must.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by matt979 »

Matt Weiner wrote:For what it's worth (which is something substantial, given that I was the person who put the "no binary matching bonuses" rule into the ACF guidelines and enforced it over the four ACF tournaments I have been officially involved in editing), I would not consider the sample question in the original post to be a prohibited binary matching question, as it uses English prose and is not just a call-and-response bonus. I might take objection to the content on other grounds
The first part is a relief. Since many HSQBers would go further than Matt, it's worth isolating an example like this as a point of philosophical difference, though Andrew is right that a bad off-the-cuff example contaminated the discussion. [If Franklin Pierce had been more involved with the Perry expedition than happening to be in office at the time, then replacing the Tokugawa part with "Threw up on prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa" might have worked.]

Andrew is also right that I'm discussing the filler questions: I can get behind the elimination of "call-and response" (excellent terminology, much more accurate than "binary matching") from any set that isn't geared towards novices, but I think that eliminating questions like Andrew's example (i.e. taking more time to write bonuses with longer, didactic parts) would be a suboptimal use of time.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Sir Thopas »

matt979 wrote:I suspect that the more prevalent such submission requirement became, the fewer people would choose to submit questions. (Either they would pay higher entry fees or they would decline to attend the tournaments with those requirements.) Many of those marginal (in the economic sense) writers would have written marginal questions (in the critical sense) but some of them would have done good work; the quiz-bowl world is perhaps worse off without them.

In any case, the unedited version of this question would (aside from being a strawman) strike me as far too long, as a matter of taste. The argument that this leads to bad quiz-bowl is much more subtle than the argument that shorter (let's say four lines of 10 pt. Times New Roman) tossups lead to bad quiz-bowl, because the effect is much more indirect. I strongly believe, though, that the effect is there, because it results in fewer people writing, fewer questions produced per writer, longer rounds (thus one-day tournaments that wrap up well into the evening), and simple attrition (both by the writers and by the players).
Matt's already taken care of the stuff about tournament length, so I'll take issue with the rest of the quoted part here. You're saying a bunch of things, but I simply don't believe that they're true. It's not like people would be writing 27/27 of 6-line questions per packet but are only writing 23/23 of 8-line questions. You submit one packet per tournament, and that amount doesn't vary. I also don't see which writers are being turned off by guidelines that they put more clues in so that they can be edited more easily. More writers than ever are coming in; I'd have to see actual evidence of your assertion before I can begin to take you at your word.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Captain Sinico »

To respond to Andrew, I find his bonus well and good: it provides enough information and context to satisfy me, given the level it's written for. I do not find Matt's Japan bonus satisfying in the same way, though the issue is perhaps a different, but maybe related, one (more on this shortly.) I acknowledge that the difference between Andrew's bonus and the hypothetical one-clue version of it is clearly one rather of extent than of kind.
I still hold, however, that the difference between Matt's bonus (or even its one-clue analogue) and Andrew's bonus (and its one-clue analogue) is a difference of kind for the reasons I said. Namely, I find that Matt's bonus is unacceptable because its leadin might as well read "Match these events that may (and, in this case, twice do) have little or nothing to do with the U.S. President at the time they happened to that President FTPE." Thus, in some sense, even a many-clue analogue to Matt's bonus would be unacceptable to me at any level of play.
I have thus perhaps seemed to muddy the waters by examining an outside issue. However, the case I'm making is that setting out to write bonuses in this way (short bonuses that require little research) will generally lead to unacceptable questions of this kind and is, therefore, a practice that ought to be abandoned. The reason the length matters, then, is that, at short lengths, it's possible to write such bonuses, but they would seem ridiculous at longer lengths.
So, to summarize my points, I'd say that we are perhaps victims of our own terms here. In the end, every bonus is matching of some kind: players are out to fit an answer to the clues they'll hear. So, rather than saying I find “matching” repugnant, I’ll rather say that I find objectionable are bonuses that:
1. Don't provide enough information/context to be pedagogically valuable (one-clue bonuses of all kinds fall into this category, regardless of their acceptability of their prolongations)
or
2. Require players to match answers to clues having little bearing on the answers (as exemplified by two parts of Matt's bonus, regardless of its length; this, I think, is what is generally meant by "matching.")
I am further claiming that seeking to write bonuses that fail under criterion 1 will generally lead to bonuses that fail under criterion 2 and would do so even if prolonged to pass criterion 1.
Obviously, the standards I imply here are imprecise and subjective: I can’t tell you how many clues are needed or how connected to the answer they must be, even in a normative sense. However, I can tell you that I think a bonus is good or bad given these standards and a level of play. I suppose that the extent to which my judgment there produces satisfied players is the measure of my worth as an editor, which underlines the point that editing good questions is an art rather than a science (a point I find myself making increasingly often.)

I'd also like to respond to Matt's claims about the deleterious effects of the increased rigor of standards on writing rates. Matt is asserting that the circuit's standards are in some sense too stringent, that they have become so recently, and that NAQT's are less so. The consequence of these assertions is: that the circuit should be depleted of writers relative to past times and NAQT should have abundant writers. However, all data available to me indicate the opposite of that: I see more writers and more good writing than ever in my decade or so in the game while, conversely, NAQT is constantly banging the drum for more writers. I'll further make the case that many of NAQT's prospective writers are reluctant to join precisely because NAQT's standards appear lower than they're comfortable with (or even because NAQT’s standards are not clear or do not exist.) It seems, therefore, that your model of writers' behavior is seriously flawed.

MaS
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by matt979 »

[I deleted lot here about time management and trade-offs, since Mike's follow-up assertion (about an abundance of college circuit writers and paucity of NAQT recruits) would defeat my argument.]

[...] Incidentally, Matt is right to scoff at what I wrote about longer tossups, but mainly because length per bonus part makes a far bigger difference than length per tossup -- both because of the obvious 3:1 ratio and because of the length difference at hand.
MaS wrote:The highest goal of quizbowl should be to teach by rewarding knowledge and understanding and by providing information. Don’t you agree and, if not, what is the purpose of this game to you?
The highest goal of quizbowl should be to reward the mastery of information ("knowledge" is a misleading shorthand at best, in that it sharply understates the value of both quick recall and critical thinking); it should also of course be fun to play. (Which is mostly irrelevant to this immediate discussion, except in that you find very short bonus parts to be no fun and I find very long bonus parts to be no fun.)

I think it's an overstatement to claim that even the platonic ideal quiz question "teach[es]" properly. In the best case you'll have a reasonably compelling narrative that inspires someone to learn more, but I don't see anyone retaining the information on a full-question level rather than a specific-clue level. For a bonus part in particular, the act of teaching is far less important (in my opinion) than the act of making a fair distribution of points available for displaying a reasonable skill. (A tossup is quite different.)
And... [misapprehended clue difficulty, or entire questions too easy for a set, are] somehow acceptable?

They're not, of course.
Who are your target audiences? Given their composition, why do you contend that NAQT's length is the right one?
Both questions deserve an answer from NAQT proper that I'm in no position to give. For the first, I think highly enough of quiz-bowl as a pursuit that obviously the more players, the better. (Perhaps that's not so obvious on this board.) If/as gaps emerge between the top and bottom teams then some difficulty segmentation is in order (which makes it a bit ironic that so many posters have diagnosed the novice sets as a source of evil). For the second, at the sub-HSNCT high school level I have only anecdotal evidence, and perhaps overemphasize the feedback hosts have given directly to NAQT at the expense of the feedback I see here. (And obviously, nobody specifically says "Thank you for writing these to exactly the right length!")
To recap: people think this because NAQT produces many, many bad questions, so they're worried their labor won't contribute, or at least won't contribute as much as it otherwise might, to the important (to them) end of producing good questions.
Assuming all of this for the sake of argument: if the worst questions exist solely for the sake of filling out a set then more of the best questions will drive those out. Likewise, the best editors would supersede the worst.
The fact that NAQT's goals and practices remain unclear is one major reason this worry exists.
What in particular remains unclear to you? This perhaps also deserves an answer from NAQT proper that I'm in no position to give but I would frame my own top goal as making good quiz-bowl available to as many teams as possible; other NAQTers' mileage may vary. Practices essentially come down to writers, subject editors, set editors, and then the final read-throughs (repeat checks, packet feng shui...), with technical infrastructure that does pretty much what you'd expect it to. You can imagine each editor as being part gatekeeper, part fixer -- but of course that's nothing you wouldn't already surmise from the model where the first submissions are particular questions rather than self-contained particular packets.
The further fact that you seem to be saying "As an NAQT member, I claim it's compatible with NAQT's goals for me to trade-off alacrity of writing for quality per the community's standards/the end of providing and interesting, informative game" is, frankly, not going to do much to allay people's concerns, either.
I apologize for implying that trade-off, since obviously it's a false one. The key point about any collaborative effort is that the cream rises. I would rather write a filler question than see a tournament host left in the lurch, but better still would be for the impeccable question already to be written. Towards the latter end I think you, like many HSQBers, make the perfect the enemy of the good.
"we have to cater to moderators who refuse to read even moderate length questions/non-existent spectators" and "it is necessary to write in formats that allow quick (and thus necessarily relatively research-free) writing." I hope you will address these issues.
One serious downside to this thread relocation is that, while the words you've put in my mouth may fairly reflect the state of the college game, the questions that hang in the balance here are to round out a high school set.

At that level, the concept of "moderators who refuse to read" is the exact opposite of (not to mention a slap in the face to) the set of teachers, parents, collegiate players' random roommates, etc., who make so many tournaments possible by giving up their day.

If I may put words into your mouth, you evidently place your highest priority on maximizing the quality of the game experience for the set of players who've already chosen to devote a considerable amount of time to it. I place my personal highest priority on maximizing the set of players who get (and avail themselves of) the opportunity to play a much higher quality of quiz-bowl than they otherwise would have. Solving for NAQT's highest organizational priority involves finding the best trade-off (or inventing a time machine to accomplish both at once).
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

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matt979 wrote:Both questions deserve an answer from NAQT proper that I'm in no position to give.
So I don't want to get too involved in this thread, because other people are generally making the points I would make better than I could make them, but goddamn do I hate seeing this. You cannot just aver something and then, when someone asks you to do something crazy like "explain your position," claim that an "official" answer is necessary. While NAQT is in fact in the best position to describe its target audience, NAQT does not need to explain why you, Matt Bruce, think NAQT's length is appropriate.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Matt Weiner »

matt979 wrote:which makes it a bit ironic that so many posters have diagnosed the novice sets as a source of evil
Does NAQT produce "novice sets"? I was under the impression that they produced "A-sets", which contain largely the same material as the IS sets, are overwhelmingly used at tournaments with no entry restrictions (including large, prestigious regional invitationals), and differ only in that the tossups are shorter. One major thrust of off-board discussion with NAQT-affiliated people in recent days has been about how great it would be if these sets were, in fact, written and used exclusively for novice high school tournaments, rather than including all sorts of inappropriately hard material and being used for regular high school tournaments 8 times out of 10, as is the actual case now.
If I may put words into your mouth, you evidently place your highest priority on maximizing the quality of the game experience for the set of players who've already chosen to devote a considerable amount of time to it.
You evidently think that only "the set of players who've already chosen to devote a considerable amount of time" to quizbowl can benefit from questions at the (far from excessive) regular IS set length, on reasonable academic topics. The idea that the casual player wants bad questions, a category in which I will in fact include the vast preponderance of 3-line tossups that ever have been or will be written, is revolting to me. I would hope we can agree that what casual players want is easier questions, and that we should thus write good questions on easy answers in order to serve the largest possible swath of interests with the resources we have available.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by matt979 »

Matt Weiner wrote:Does NAQT produce "novice sets"? I was under the impression that they produced "A-sets", which contain largely the same material as the IS sets, are overwhelmingly used at tournaments with no entry restrictions (including large, prestigious regional invitationals),
I presume you would call for NAQT to offer the "A" sets only to tournaments that adopt some specific novice-only eligibility criteria? That's a fair request, best discussed back on the HS boards. (I would tend to trust tournament directors to know what difficulty level is most appropriate for their field.)

There are probably cases, of course, when people would prefer a regular IS set but find that NAQT is sold out for the geographic exclusivity they want. For them, perhaps the "A" set is a necessary evil that for whatever reason they still find preferable to the alternatives. In the short run you'd be asking NAQT to turn people away (which may still be the right thing to do, just noting that it's the consequence).

In the longer run this is basically a resource allocation issue. We can have a very productive discussion of optimal resource allocation, or a very unproductive discussion that ignores resource constraints. (This thread already contains a lot of both.)
The idea that the casual player wants bad questions, a category in which I will in fact include the vast preponderance of 3-line tossups that ever have been or will be written, is revolting to me.
...which suggests one of these conclusions:

1. Most 3-line tossups are bad questions, yet the casual player wants bad questions, leaving Matt Weiner revolted.

2. Most 3-line tossups are bad questions, and the casual player doesn't want bad questions, but these particular bad questions are still the least bad choice available. (Leaving a void to be filled by whichever writers so choose.)

3. Most 3-line tossups are bad questions, and the casual player doesn't want bad questions, and in fact these particular bad questions are strictly inferior to some available alternative, yet the tournaments that use them continue to thrive. (Leaving a void to be filled by whichever tournament directors so choose.)

4. Many 3-line tossups are actually just fine for casual players, or at least many of NAQT's 3-line tossups are actually just fine.

I'm willing to believe any of those. In the case of #2, we can then ask what the ideal tossups for a novice high school player would look like. In theory they would be strictly pyramidal questions, the length of standard IS questions, where each successive clue still meaningfully distinguishes a good novice buzz from a not-quite-as-good novice buzz. How to achieve that is probably a good discussion topic for the high school boards.

As for bonuses, I haven't seen many novice players complain that one-sentence parts do a bad job of teaching them new things. I'm willing to believe that they would do so if they only knew what they were missing, but I'm much less convinced of this than Mike.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

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In the short run you'd be asking NAQT to turn people away (which may still be the right thing to do, just noting that it's the consequence).
If you cannot suppy a tournament with a good set, don't supply that set-tell them that someone else in the region is using that set, and either suggest a good vendor or put them in touch with a tournament that's looking for a mirror in that region.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Sir Thopas »

matt979 wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:Does NAQT produce "novice sets"? I was under the impression that they produced "A-sets", which contain largely the same material as the IS sets, are overwhelmingly used at tournaments with no entry restrictions (including large, prestigious regional invitationals),
I presume you would call for NAQT to offer the "A" sets only to tournaments that adopt some specific novice-only eligibility criteria? That's a fair request, best discussed back on the HS boards. (I would tend to trust tournament directors to know what difficulty level is most appropriate for their field.)
Yup!
There are probably cases, of course, when people would prefer a regular IS set but find that NAQT is sold out for the geographic exclusivity they want. For them, perhaps the "A" set is a necessary evil that for whatever reason they still find preferable to the alternatives. In the short run you'd be asking NAQT to turn people away (which may still be the right thing to do, just noting that it's the consequence).
Absolutely! I would love it if NAQT actually recognized the circuit and told people looking for an IS set to use HSAPQ or mirror another good tournament instead.
In the longer run this is basically a resource allocation issue. We can have a very productive discussion of optimal resource allocation, or a very unproductive discussion that ignores resource constraints. (This thread already contains a lot of both.)
What's unproductive about saying "producing as many A-sets as IS-sets is preposterous"? This is what's happening, and it leads to things like LIFT where tournaments wanting an IS-set are forced to use an A-set.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Well, I suppose Yaphe made a decent attempt to make some sense out of this thread and repackage it as something worth talking about - the intersection of basic community writing standards and the production of tolerable low-level high school question sets. But, unlike most of the posters in this thread so far, I'm not going to take the high road and shift to that worthwhile topic...sorry, there's just too much awful for me to ignore here. Sigh, I sense this may be a bit harsh...

If I were a good young writer with a grasp of the basic accepted premises of good question writing, I would see a thread like this and become ever-more-convinced never to allow my work to fall into the hands of NAQT. I understand that Matt Bruce speaks only for himself, of course, but his posts here come off as the prototype for "member of NAQT who doesn't get it, who never will get it, but who will continue working for NAQT." By it, I mean any of the standards which participating members of the circuit have developed over the years as to what constitutes good quizbowl, along with the reasoning behind those standards. Other people have done an okay job of refuting a lot of the bad ideas in this thread on substantive grounds, I haven't the time or energy to rehash that.

Sorry if I'm extrapolating too much from this one set of misguided posts, but I don't see how any member of the ever-growing cadre of players Yaphe has chosen to call "perfectionist" and elitist" could see a thread like this and not painfully wince about the prospect of writing for NAQT.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by grapesmoker »

Is anyone from NAQT going to advance some sort of coherent argument in this thread that can be summarized in three sentences or less (preferably in syllogism form) or is this going to remain an unparseable word salad?
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by rylltraka »

"The highest goal of quizbowl should be to reward the mastery of information ("knowledge" is a misleading shorthand at best, in that it sharply understates the value of both quick recall and critical thinking); it should also of course be fun to play." -MB

I'm not willing to argue about the formatting of HS questions, but I find this statement more convincing than the "quizbowl-as-pedagogy" model. Perhaps it deserves its own thread, as do many parts of this disintegrating discussion.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

rylltraka wrote:"The highest goal of quizbowl should be to reward the mastery of information ("knowledge" is a misleading shorthand at best, in that it sharply understates the value of both quick recall and critical thinking); it should also of course be fun to play." -MB

I'm not willing to argue about the formatting of HS questions, but I find this statement more convincing than the "quizbowl-as-pedagogy" model. Perhaps it deserves its own thread, as do many parts of this disintegrating discussion.
Perhaps. But it deserves a certain clarification. While rewarding quick recall is important, rewarding quick reflexes is not. While rewarding critical thinking is important (as it is essentially to the fundamental part of play), rewarding lateral thinking is not desirable. While the statement endorses the former, it doesn't protect enough against the latter.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by grapesmoker »

rylltraka wrote:"The highest goal of quizbowl should be to reward the mastery of information ("knowledge" is a misleading shorthand at best, in that it sharply understates the value of both quick recall and critical thinking); it should also of course be fun to play." -MB
There are enough qualifiers in this to render it a defense of bad quizbowl if one so desires; indeed, this is the typical tack taken by those who engage in such defenses.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by rylltraka »

I agree; while "rewarding mastery of information" and "being fun to play" address what I think attracts me to the game, they should by no means be the prime motivating factor in question-writing and packet-structuring, which are somewhat more advanced at the present time.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Captain Sinico »

matt979 wrote:The highest goal of quizbowl should be to reward the mastery of information ("knowledge" is a misleading shorthand at best, in that it sharply understates the value of both quick recall and critical thinking...)
I'm not sure what this means. For example, does this mean that you think quizbowl questions ought to be written to reward quick recall, to an extent beyond which any quizbowl question inherently already does?
As has been noted, I think one could (and that people have, frequently) used essentially this sentiment to defend practices that we both find eminently unacceptable (hoses, one-clue bonuses, etc.) Therefore, I hope you can define your position here a little further.
matt979 wrote:I think it's an overstatement to claim that even the platonic ideal quiz question "teach[es]" properly. In the best case you'll have a reasonably compelling narrative that inspires someone to learn more, but I don't see anyone retaining the information on a full-question level rather than a specific-clue level.
That may be, but that's actually an argument for more clues, isn't it, if teaching (of whatever kind) is an important end?
matt979 wrote:...the act of teaching is far less important (in my opinion) than the act of making a fair distribution of points available for displaying a reasonable skill.
This is an irrelevant alternative. Providing more information and context shouldn't shift the distribution of points in any significant way.
matt979 wrote:
And... [misapprehended clue difficulty, or entire questions too easy for a set, are] somehow acceptable?
They're not, of course.
You've misquoted me here. To recap: you asserted that issues with NAQT's questions are attributable to question producers' failures to impose the existence of standards largely concomitant with those of the circuit, rather than those producers' lack of or non-understanding of such standards. I'm saying there: Okay, suppose I accept that the problems are due to failure of execution rather than some structural problem. I see a pattern of such problems, so how is failure of implementation of principles more acceptable than (I’ll add: or even distinguishable from) a lack of principles?
matt979 wrote:...if the worst questions exist solely for the sake of filling out a set then more of the best questions will drive those out. Likewise, the best editors would supersede the worst.
If we accept your hypothesis (which I'm not sure people do) your argument still only works if you accept that NAQT will hold constant the number of questions it produces. Why should one accept that?
matt979 wrote:What in particular remains unclear to you?
Honestly, almost everything! I have no authorized categorical statement of what NAQT's principles or practices are. I hear a lot of people who are associated with NAQT saying a lot of things, some of them seemingly contradictory, some of them rather at odds with my experience of NAQT's product. So I'm left wondering.
matt979 wrote:The key point about any collaborative effort is that the cream rises.
I don't accept that as stated. The quality of the product of a collaborative effort depends sensitively on the rules governing the collaboration. In a way, ascertaining these rules is precisely what I've been trying to do here.
matt979 wrote:I would rather write a filler question than see a tournament host left in the lurch, but better still would be for the impeccable question already to be written. Towards the latter end I think you, like many HSQBers, make the perfect the enemy of the good.
I don't see how your criticism of me is quite warranted here. Further, I must again call you to account for a false dilemma. There's no reason whatsoever we can't have both good and punctual questions. Further, to my way of thinking (as a frequent director of tournaments, if nothing else) hosts are left at least as much in the lurch by timely but bad questions as by late but good ones.
matt979 wrote:
"we have to cater to moderators who refuse to read even moderate length questions/non-existent spectators" and "it is necessary to write in formats that allow quick (and thus necessarily relatively research-free) writing." I hope you will address these issues.
One serious downside to this thread relocation is that, while the words you've put in my mouth may fairly reflect the state of the college game, the questions that hang in the balance here are to round out a high school set.
Okay: I find two things seriously wrong here. First, I didn't put words into your mouth. You offered the relevant points as justification for the practice you're trying to defend. Please show me how this isn't the case before you start making accusations like this.
Secondly, I'm not ignorant of the state of the high school game or the nature of writing for it. In fact, neither of those things could be further from the truth, really. So, your presumption that my assertion applies only to the college game (and, if present, your implication that it necessarily must) is rampantly unfounded.
matt979 wrote:At that level, the concept of "moderators who refuse to read" is the exact opposite of (not to mention a slap in the face to) the set of teachers, parents, collegiate players' random roommates, etc., who make so many tournaments possible by giving up their day.
As one such person, I find it the opposite of a slap in the face! In fact, I rather find the opposite sentiment ("We'll give you shorter questions because you're too... whatever... to read longer ones") insulting.
My experience is this: high school tournaments 'round here really don't have much trouble attracting readers, even if they do use long questions. Furthermore, I'd say that, when I see people complaining about question length, they're almost without exception really saying that the length is different from what they expect, given what they've seen before (I've yet to see these mythical physiological problems from sitting around and talking, even at some length, for half a day.)
Therefore, to distill my experience, it seems to me that two things are the case. First, longer questions are categorically viable, even in areas like Illinois where shorter questions have predominated for many years (and maybe continue to do.) Second, it seems to me that we do people a disservice if we coddle their idea that shorter questions are the norm: I see no reason people shouldn't likewise be comfortable reading longer questions.
matt979 wrote:If I may put words into your mouth, you evidently place your highest priority on maximizing the quality of the game experience for the set of players who've already chosen to devote a considerable amount of time to it.
This is a very poor-quality strawman of my position. I hope you'll refrain from putting anything into anything anywhere near me from now on.
Now, to respond to the content here, you're implicitly saying here (and later more explicitly saying by your opposing view) that I place a lesser priority on having a quality game for people not in that "devoted" set. However, I must again accuse you of posing a false dilemma! I don't see how the game that is quality for devoted players is less so for the other ones. Rather, to echo what Matt said, newer players seem to want easier questions, not worse ones.
I do accept the point that "casual" players probably care less or not at all if questions are what we'd call bad. However, to me, this actually does the opposite of absolving us from proving them quality questions. To carry a point you later make, I don't think they know what they're missing but, to extend the same point, they'll probably never figure out what they're missing if they keep missing it.
matt979 wrote:There are probably cases, of course, when people would prefer a regular IS set but find that NAQT is sold out for the geographic exclusivity they want. For them, perhaps the "A" set is a necessary evil that for whatever reason they still find preferable to the alternatives. In the short run you'd be asking NAQT to turn people away (which may still be the right thing to do, just noting that it's the consequence).

In the longer run this is basically a resource allocation issue. We can have a very productive discussion of optimal resource allocation, or a very unproductive discussion that ignores resource constraints. (This thread already contains a lot of both.)
Right, see, this is being cast by everyone as a resource allocation issue, except maybe you here. NAQT is choosing to allocate its resources in such a way that it's producing IS, IS-A, and speedcheck questions in a 1:1:N ratio. It is precisely that allocation that is leading to the issues to which you refer! Nobody's asking for infinity IS sets: on the contrary, everyone's asking for fewer IS-A and speedcheck questions so that more and better IS questions can be made given NAQT's factor constraints.
To hammer this point home again, I'm further asserting that NAQT might have more luck growing its resources if it allocated the ones it has differently. That 1:1:N ratio and the quality of the questions (presumably a function of production level) are seemingly driving away a significant number of potential writers, if we take people's complaints at face value. So producing in this way seems ill-advised for the long term.

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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by grapesmoker »

The notion that good quizbowl is incompatible with serving whatever silent majority (whether it exists or not) that NAQT claims to serve is a pernicious falsehood that can only be promulgated by someone with no inclination to understand the basic questions at stake. Quality tournaments that are enjoyable by all are in fact the goal of virtually everyone who writes for the independent circuit.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

I have to say that the "quizbowl is pedagogy" argument really stands out from the awful bullshit that constitutes this thread. I can't understand how people claim to learn anything from a quizbowl tournament, it's simply not possible in the format. The single, solitary category in which I think you can say you learned something of merit from a question is myth, since I think many myths can be condensed into a comprehensible yet satisfactorily complete two-or-three sentence long form. In any other category the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl. This is the polar opposite of understanding or mastery and a very poor excuse for "knowledge." That quizbowl rewards this kind of knowledge is sad, but probably unavoidably true and not something to crusade against. Certainly quizbowl can be part of a well-rounded effort to learn: it points out things that you don't know about and might be interested in; it lets you form poorly-grounded opinions about lots of stuff you aren't interested in (certainly I can hold forth opinions in conversation about hundreds of authors I've never read and never intend to read just because of quizbowl); and it affirms, reviews and reinforces all of the stuff you have actually learned about, but it sure as hell doesn't teach.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by grapesmoker »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I have to say that the "quizbowl is pedagogy" argument really stands out from the awful bullshit that constitutes this thread.
It's you. You are the awful bullshit in this thread.
I can't understand how people claim to learn anything from a quizbowl tournament, it's simply not possible in the format. The single, solitary category in which I think you can say you learned something of merit from a question is myth, since I think many myths can be condensed into a comprehensible yet satisfactorily complete two-or-three sentence long form. In any other category the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl. This is the polar opposite of understanding or mastery and a very poor excuse for "knowledge." That quizbowl rewards this kind of knowledge is sad, but probably unavoidably true and not something to crusade against. Certainly quizbowl can be part of a well-rounded effort to learn: it points out things that you don't know about and might be interested in; it lets you form poorly-grounded opinions about lots of stuff you aren't interested in (certainly I can hold forth opinions in conversation about hundreds of authors I've never read and never intend to read just because of quizbowl); and it affirms, reviews and reinforces all of the stuff you have actually learned about, but it sure as hell doesn't teach.
Person who has never learned anything from quizbowl is shocked at the possibility of learning anything from quizbowl, quelle surprise.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Mike Bentley »

Eh, I sort of agree that "quizbowl's primary goal should be/is about learning" is a bit hard to buy. Asserting that you never learn anything from quizbowl is ridiculous, but just because you do learn some things by listening to questions (or learn more things by studying questions) I don't think that means it is or should be the end-all-be-all goal of quizbowl.

To me, quizbowl is about having fun applying things I already know in a competitive fashion. Throughout the course of a tournament I learn new things ("oh so that's what the Stark Effect is..." or "oh yeah, that's who was the losing candidate in the election of 1904"), but these things are certainly not relevant to the tournament I'm playing and really only relevant to future tournaments if I go through outside methods of hearing questions to remember/fully comprehend these pieces of knowledge.

Getting good at quizbowl certainly does encourage learning more, and it's definitely the reason I got into some of the things I now like, such as art and literature.

Anyways, quizbowl's primary goal, in my opinion, should be to provide an enjoyable knowledge-testing experience to the people playing it that fairly differentiates between those who know more and those who know less. Thus, pyramidal clues, easy/medium/hard bonus parts, etc.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I can't understand how people claim to learn anything from a quizbowl tournament, it's simply not possible in the format ... In any other category the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl. This is the polar opposite of understanding or mastery and a very poor excuse for "knowledge."
This is the sort of bullshit that makes me angry, Tom. Just because you haven't learned anything from quizbowl doesn't mean that your experience is universal. Far from it, in fact! I would say that every single person on the Minnesota team, and other teams as well, has learned something from quizbowl. I really don't like when you impose your bitterness and failure upon everyone else.
Certainly quizbowl can be part of a well-rounded effort to learn: it points out things that you don't know about and might be interested in.
Since when is that not learning?
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

tetragrammatology wrote:
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I can't understand how people claim to learn anything from a quizbowl tournament, it's simply not possible in the format ... In any other category the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl. This is the polar opposite of understanding or mastery and a very poor excuse for "knowledge."
This is the sort of bullshit that makes me angry, Tom. Just because you haven't learned anything from quizbowl doesn't mean that your experience is universal. Far from it, in fact! I would say that every single person on the Minnesota team, and other teams as well, has learned something from quizbowl. I really don't like when you impose your bitterness and failure upon everyone else.
Certainly quizbowl can be part of a well-rounded effort to learn: it points out things that you don't know about and might be interested in.
Since when is that not learning?
Note that the answer to your second question is quoted in your first comment. If you really think that sitting and listening to 12 rounds of quizbowl is a good teaching style, then go ahead and do so. I should note that I missed probably the most important learning directly involved with quizbowl, which comes from writing questions, but this is, again, not part of the format of the quizbowl game.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:
tetragrammatology wrote:
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I can't understand how people claim to learn anything from a quizbowl tournament, it's simply not possible in the format ... In any other category the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl. This is the polar opposite of understanding or mastery and a very poor excuse for "knowledge."
This is the sort of bullshit that makes me angry, Tom. Just because you haven't learned anything from quizbowl doesn't mean that your experience is universal. Far from it, in fact! I would say that every single person on the Minnesota team, and other teams as well, has learned something from quizbowl. I really don't like when you impose your bitterness and failure upon everyone else.
Certainly quizbowl can be part of a well-rounded effort to learn: it points out things that you don't know about and might be interested in.
Since when is that not learning?
Note that the answer to your second question is quoted in your first comment. If you really think that sitting and listening to 12 rounds of quizbowl is a good teaching style, then go ahead and do so. I should note that I missed probably the most important learning directly involved with quizbowl, which comes from writing questions, but this is, again, not part of the format of the quizbowl game.
There is a difference between teaching and learning that I think needs to be clarified. I do not feel that anyone is advocating quizbowl as a teaching tool; rather, many of us are pointing out that one can learn things from the game of quizbowl. As you and others have noted, teaching from quizbowl questions would be incomplete and absurd, especially since quizbowl questions are not designed as such an aide. That is not to say that learning is "simply not possible," as you have so claimed.

Writing questions may not be part of the "format," per se, but it certainly is an integral part of the game of quizbowl, and this is indeed where much learning takes place. But, again, this does not mean learning is impossible from merely hearing the questions.

EDIT: Style, syntax, grammar.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:
tetragrammatology wrote:
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I can't understand how people claim to learn anything from a quizbowl tournament, it's simply not possible in the format ... In any other category the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl. This is the polar opposite of understanding or mastery and a very poor excuse for "knowledge."
This is the sort of bullshit that makes me angry, Tom. Just because you haven't learned anything from quizbowl doesn't mean that your experience is universal. Far from it, in fact! I would say that every single person on the Minnesota team, and other teams as well, has learned something from quizbowl. I really don't like when you impose your bitterness and failure upon everyone else.
Certainly quizbowl can be part of a well-rounded effort to learn: it points out things that you don't know about and might be interested in.
Since when is that not learning?
Note that the answer to your second question is quoted in your first comment.
To attempt to parse your "note:" so the answer to "since when is [having things pointed out that 'you don't know about and might be interested in'] not learning?" is found in what Bernadette quoted from you. Okay, so the reason that discovering what you don't know is not learning... is because "the only other thing to be learned is clues that can be memorized for use in other quizbowl?" You're not making any sense, or else you're using some terribly convoluted construction to take back what you said.
SepiaOfficinalis wrote:If you really think that sitting and listening to 12 rounds of quizbowl is a good teaching style, then go ahead and do so. I should note that I missed probably the most important learning directly involved with quizbowl, which comes from writing questions, but this is, again, not part of the format of the quizbowl game.
So, like, in quizbowl, there are "tournaments," to which you submit "packets," which you write. That is part of the "format of the quizbowl game" if anything is. I suppose that you could actively avoid ever writing a question and still attend some tournaments, but come on! You're saying that quizbowl is not conducive to learning, and then you admit that there is a way to learn through quizbowl (writing questions). So if you really want to learn, you can! And quizbowl even offers you financial incentives to do so!

Honestly, I preferred your "you guys are just keeping the black man down with your power structure affirming canon blah blah blah" phase.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Jeaton1 »

"Andrew is also right that I'm discussing the filler questions: I can get behind the elimination of "call-and response" (excellent terminology, much more accurate than "binary matching") from any set that isn't geared towards novices, but I think that eliminating questions like Andrew's example (i.e. taking more time to write bonuses with longer, didactic parts) would be a suboptimal use of time."

This statement here really just makes me angry. It seems like its saying "It's okay if I produce a less interesting, less informative question for the quizbowl crowd -- as long as it saves me 10 minutes of precious time." If you are writing questions in the first place, then presumably you are part of the quizbowl circuit of your own free will and not being forced into a Malaysian question sweatshop (patent pending). If this is the case, then why would you want to create an inferior product. If you are an experienced question writer, then there should be no excuses from writing lazy bonuses and complaining about writing an extra line of text. You are writing so that people will enjoy the questions from both competitive and informational standpoints -- because face it; if you're in quizbowl you pretty much HAVE to want to learn things.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Cheynem »

My Two Cents

1. I don't think the primary goal of quiz bowl is to learn or to teach. I think the primary goal is to compete and the learning part comes along with the competing.
2. I have learned quite a lot from playing quiz bowl and I think most people do.
3. I think you can learn from writing questions and playing. Both require some initiative. I mean, it's pretty easy to not learn a thing actually by writing poor questions on pet themes and not paying attention to anything but questions you already know the answers to while playing.
4. I don't understand Tom's point about how it's sad that quiz bowl rewards knowledge of "clues."
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Captain Sinico »

I think you've missed a crucial distinction, Tom, though I can't blame you given the imprecision of my language. I'm not seeking to claim that quizbowl teaches/ought to teach per se (though it does teach to some extent, I agree with you that it's a very poor tool given the format.) Rather, I'm seeking to claim that quizbowl inherently incentivizes learning and should promote the right kind of learning* in that way. (I'll add that I now see that many other people have made this same point: good for them!)
I take it that you perhaps disagree with this, too, Tom. What, then, is the purpose for this game in your ideal world?
Also, to respond to Mike C's excellent points, I should further distinguish that I'm speaking here of the purpose of the game from the perspective of a writer/editor rather than as a player. As a player, I demand fun questions that I can compete on, too: ones that incentivize what I see as the right kind of learning are still important, but of importance precisely for the reason that I demand fun, competition-supporting questions.

MaS

*Obviously, we can further contend about what the right kind of learning is, but I take this as a secondary issue at the moment, since Tom's contention is apparently that quizbowl can't teach us anything worthwhile.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

Captain Scipio wrote:I think you've missed a crucial distinction, Tom, though I can't blame you given the imprecision of my language. I'm not seeking to claim that quizbowl teaches/ought to teach per se (though it does teach to some extent, I agree with you that it's a very poor tool given the format.) Rather, I'm seeking to claim that quizbowl inherently incentivizes learning and should promote the right kind of learning* in that way.
I take it that you perhaps disagree with this, too. What, then, is your purpose for this game? If it's "just a game for fun," why bother playing it rather than something else?

MaS

*Obviously, we can further contend about what the right kind of learning is, but I take this as a secondary issue at the moment.
I agree with this more or less. I would contend that quizbowl is just a game for fun, but since it's a game that's fun primarily for nerds who enjoy learning, I think learning is naturally the most important part of its constitution. I took you to be saying that "quizbowl should teach" was a justification for long bonus prompts without which bonuses aren't helpful. Now, I definitely agree with the context justification, but I've seen very few bonuses where more than a sentence or two was really necessary for this and many where a half dozen or more clues for a bonus part seemed more like an excuse for the writer not to try to actually work out the most salient question to ask.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

SepiaOfficinalis wrote:I've seen very few bonuses where more than a sentence or two was really necessary for this and many where a half dozen or more clues for a bonus part seemed more like an excuse for the writer not to try to actually work out the most salient question to ask.
I've seen very few bonuses with more than a sentence or two per bonus part! You do realize that lots of tossups are like four sentences long, right? Also, it's quite possible to fit six clues into one sentence, let alone two, you know, and even if having multiple clues in a bonus part is evidence of lazy writing, that's irrelevant; we're talking about its didactic value. (And Matt Bruce seems to be arguing that short, less clue-ful bonuses take less time to write, which certainly seems reasonable to me, and that's a much better indicator of lazy writing, right, taking less time per question?)
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Matt Weiner »

For the benefit of anyone interested in arguing from facts: The official ACF length guidelines (which have been strictly observed at Fall and Regionals since they were put into place in summer 2007, and taken as a very good idea for the vast majority of Nationals questions) state that tossups in the final packet should be no longer than 6 lines (10 pt Times New Roman, 1-inch margins) and bonus leadins and parts should be no longer than 2 lines (same). ACF takes no position on whether it is better to write "This author wrote Moby-Dick" or "This author, who described an automaton killing its master in 'The Bell-Tower," wrote Moby-Dick" as a bonus part for Melville. There are clear advantages to either approach (saving time vs. teaching a new clue to people who wouldn't have learned anything interesting from the shorter part) and it's always left up to individual writers and editors to decide what their preference is, so long as those who choose the latter approach do not exceed the 2-line limit.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

everyday847 wrote:Matt Bruce seems to be arguing that short, less clue-ful bonuses take less time to write, which certainly seems reasonable to me, and that's a much better indicator of lazy writing, right, taking less time per question?
I think this thread has wandered pretty far from its nominal origin, but I'll take a moment to riff on this. I'm not sure what Matt was originally trying to say, but I was trying to say that "short, less clue-ful" bonuses are not necessarily a bad thing (depending largely on the target audience for the questions). I quoted an example of such a bonus, written by me and used in a low-level NAQT set, and said "this is short and clue-light, but I think still acceptable for this level of play." I didn't see anyone disagreeing with that assessment of acceptability. An additional "convenience" of that kind of bonus is that they "take less time to write." Thus, I for one could write numerous bonuses at the level of the one quoted earlier in this thread in the time it would take me to produce one well-researched, clue-heavy bonus for ICT. Assuming that the underlying premise -- i.e., that the "numerous bonuses" I would write along those lines were in fact acceptable for their intended level of play -- is correct, then I don't see what the problem is.

Also, to cite another post, I don't see why anyone should be "made angry" by this picture -- I'm not deliberately producing an "inferior" product, but producing a product which I think will be perfectly acceptable for play at a given level. To go back to my original example, I could take 5 minutes to research a couple of facts about William Carlos Williams which I didn't already know and add them to the bonus prompt, but I genuinely don't see how that would make this a more valuable bonus for players at this level.

My point here, I guess, is that I take much less time per question producing low-level questions comparable to the one about American poets quoted above; but it doesn't obviously follow that this is indicative of "lazy" writing, or that it inevitably produces an unacceptable product. (Or: it simply isn't the case that it is necessary, or even useful, to invest as much time in every single question one writes as one would have to invest in order to write a top-quality ACF nationals or ICT question.)

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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Yeah, lazy was an unfortunate word-choice, because it has negative connotations that don't necessarily apply in this situation.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Sure, I think we'll all agree that it's not necessary or desirable to go blabbering on at length with all sorts of high-level clues in a bonus for very low-level high school sets, especially when the format involves a clock.

But, in higher-quality college sets, nobody should be whining because a bonus contains a handful of other clues before it gets to easier stuff. Having longer, more clue-dense, well-researched bonuses is preferred by a lot of experienced players, because many of them enjoy being introduced to new facts (and contrary to what Matt Bruce and probably Tom likely thinks, those facts aren't just filler for good players - because they take the time and effort to actually learn stuff - they really do acquire knowledge from writing/researching/playing/and talking about the game, you should try it sometime).

And Tom, stop using terms like "nerd" in a thinly-veiled derogatory manner, as if you're just too cool for our school.
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Re: An NAQTer revisits the ACF question submission guidelines

Post by BuzzerZen »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:And Tom, stop using terms like "nerd" in a thinly-veiled derogatory manner, as if you're just too cool for our school.
Especially since it's against board rules! So if you do it again, you will be tempbanned!
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