ACF Nationals discussion

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Cheynem »

everyday847 wrote:after I was asleep
:monocle:
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

The Zanj Revolt is important, in that it played a critical role in wrecking the economy of southern Iraq, and thus the economic base of the Abbasid Caliphate. The insecurity of trade to Baghdad also led to a shift from Persian Gulf to Red Sea routes, helping set things up for the Fatimids. That said, I would be shocked if it is well-known enough in quiz bowl circles to merit a toss-up, even at ACF Nationals.

Kingdom of Kongo is also important, but my sense is that lots of important stuff from African history doesn't get asked in quiz bowl.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

The Zanj Revolt
Damn, that was one of my favorite tossups. I will echo the opinion that it's important and that it's shown up multiple times as a clue or a bonus answer before, so I don't think it's unreasonable here.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

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cvdwightw wrote:Okay, Hannah, if you or anyone else can provide me with a better description of what the kinetic isotope effect is used for, I'd (non-sarcastically) love to hear it. I'll admit it may have been non-unique, but I don't think it was "space-wasting." Also, Eric (Mukherjee) pointed out a non-unique clue I added to the CD antigens question, so I want to apologize to anyone who may have negged with "lectins" off the "mannose-6-phosphate receptor" clue.

If anyone had any other issues with the bio and chem, please let me know. I did my best to ensure that the tossups were neither too long (when the packets are released, you will notice that the science questions are almost all 8 +/- 1 lines, whereas many others spill into 10+ lines) nor too hard, though that ultimately may not have been the case. Personally, I will disregard Dees' difficulty concerns as not applying to my categories since I believe he is equally likely to miss science tossups and zero science bonuses at both the nationals difficulty and "regular difficulty" levels; I will certainly take difficulty concerns about science more seriously from people who don't consistently complain all the way through science bonuses.

Not to beat the dead horse, but I agree that there should have been an "ACF Nationals Logistics Director" who was completely unaffiliated in any way with the editing of the tournament.
I admit it was frustrating at times when I buzzed with science answers only to find that you were asking about a more specific instance ie. a more specific form of the Ising model and a more specific form of gravitational lensing, but this is definitely a result of a lack of knowledge on my part so that's okay. I continue to be annoyed by tossups on chromatography however. It's a pain trying to divine what specific type of chromatography the question is asking for and this has twice result in my negging the question. Overall I enjoyed the science Dwight. Some really exciting stuff came up and the bio and chem for the most part seemed to be on topics that were important and meaningful. I was a little confused by the protein degradation question though.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by dtaylor4 »

DumbJaques wrote:
The Zanj Revolt
Damn, that was one of my favorite tossups. I will echo the opinion that it's important and that it's shown up multiple times as a clue or a bonus answer before, so I don't think it's unreasonable here.
Since ample resources are available, I figured someone would have posted database search results, but I didn't see any.

A search of QBDB and ACFDB gets two hits: 08 Fall (Brown), and T-Party, and was a lead-in both times for tossups on the Abbasid caliphate. A google search also gets a hit for 08 Sun 'n' Fun (not sure of question) and 08 FICHTE (bonus in R8.) Four times, all in the past year. I'm not sure if the recency is coloring people's opinions, but I hold that if these are the only places it's been, it shouldn't be tossed up yet. I put forth that you could write a tossup on the Abbasid caliphate at this level using very difficult clues, and it would be converted by more people.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

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cvdwightw wrote:Okay, Hannah, if you or anyone else can provide me with a better description of what the kinetic isotope effect is used for, I'd (non-sarcastically) love to hear it. I'll admit it may have been non-unique, but I don't think it was "space-wasting." Also, Eric (Mukherjee) pointed out a non-unique clue I added to the CD antigens question, so I want to apologize to anyone who may have negged with "lectins" off the "mannose-6-phosphate receptor" clue.
Man, particularly after there had already been some content that seemed to have been influenced by HI's crazy, I was so excited to get a tossup on lectins because of my tossup on lectins. Oh, well. It's all good.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Auroni »

Brian Ulrich wrote:Kingdom of Kongo
I was so seriously elated to see this come up. I learned about it in middle school world history, but have never seen it anywhere.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

JelloBiafra wrote:
Brian Ulrich wrote:Kingdom of Kongo
I was so seriously elated to see this come up. I learned about it in middle school world history, but have never seen it anywhere.
This might have broader applicability for discussions of world history and literature in quiz bowl more generally. From the mid-1990's on, there was a push away from "Western Civ" and into "World X." (At least that's when it happened in college, but secondary school curriculums are probably similar since this was based off societal trends.) The quiz bowl canon, however, was produced by people who were deciding it was important at the same time, but without the academic background for what I suspect would become a fairly comparable curriculum across textbooks. For this reason, in many areas, the two simply don't match. I'd guess Prince Shotoku, Sejong the Great, and 'Ezana would fall into a similar netherworld.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by SnookerUSF »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:But does scratching the edges of the canon really do this more effectively than, say, Regionals level difficulty with longer tossups to encompass more clues?
I am often of two minds on this; I think it certainly can, if that edge-scratching is done in a consistent and measured way. Specifically, those whose expertise are in specific subject areas guide that kind of activity based on their own non-quizbowl knowledge. Also, from a pragmatic standpoint; it arguably becomes easier (especially in the waning and frantic days before any tournament) to write a pyramidal, consistent tossup as the answer's distance from the center of the canon increases. It is a lot of work to write a Nationals-level tossup on Charles Dickens than say, "The Mudfog Papers."
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:I guess the overall point of my post is that I think there might be room for some sort of national championship on questions of an easier difficulty level. The majority of tournaments held throughout the year are at this level, and I think they do a pretty fine job of assessing who the best team in the tournament is.
While such tournaments might exist; there is certainly a romantic notion of a difficult ACF Nationals that appeals to me and others. I think the real problem is not the existence of a pernicious and dismissive exculpation for Nationals that "questions got hard, people should know more," but the subsequent trickle-down effect that inevitably results wherein some of these questions start to appear in "regular" difficulty tournaments. For some answers/clues, their presence, regardless of the context, i.e. the 3rd bonus part in Editor's Final #2, is apparently all the license some need (I have been a member of that "some") to convert them to tossups. Instead, there tends to be a kind of sanguine Westbrookian "that has come up" reaction associated with this. I am not saying this is pervasive, or something that perhaps a Nationals' author should be necessarily concerned with, but it does exist as a phenomenon that is worth noting, and maybe doing something about. But, I don't know if it is worth sacrificing the unique challenges and opportunities that a "hard" ACF Nationals brings. Conversely, this trickle-down effect is not exclusively to be avoided, in fact, it provides a valuable "canon-bridging" role between the novice, regular, national levels.

There is a big difference between 16-20 ppb over the length of a tournament, but I do not think that such a difference is so significant, that there needs to be a total reevaluation of what is going to count as Nationals level difficulty, rather the kind of suggestions Matt W. made in the other thread about keeping better communication about the vision and direction of a tournament, I think can solve a lot of these problems.

EDITED: words
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Xfact115 »

I wrote the Zanj revolt tossup. As far as I can tell most of the hate directed at it comes from being frustrated over not knowing about it. If your argument is that it's hard then I agree. It's really hard. Really really hard. And that's why it was asked at Nationals and not Fall. However, anyone who has ever studied the Abbasid Caliphate in any depth at the collegiate level should have at least heard of it, and it was certainly in my tenth grade world history textbook. I may also point out that the estimates of the number of people who revolted are usually at around half a million, not to mention all of the people who fought against it and the non-militants who were affected by its sieges, etc. putting the total into the millions. In contrast, the number of Doukhobors that exist currently is estimated, after a quick Google search, at around twenty thousand. Obviously the number of people involved in something does not determine its importance, but there's certainly a correlation.

I also find the assertion that a tossup on the Abbasids with the Zanj revolt as a clue at this level to be nothing less than offensive. That's what happened at Fall this year and that's where tossups on things like the Abbasid Caliphate belong. The Abbasid Caliphate, which only ruled over the golden age of Arabic civilization for 500 years, is far too easy to be asked about at Nationals. I understand that Quiz Bowl takes place in North America but this kind of cultural bias is inexcusable.

Perhaps a case could be made that it should have been a bonus part but I think previous posts have pointed out that it is both historically important and not new to the canon.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by SnookerUSF »

dtaylor4 wrote:A search of QBDB and ACFDB gets two hits: 08 Fall (Brown), and T-Party, and was a lead-in both times for tossups on the Abbasid caliphate. A google search also gets a hit for 08 Sun 'n' Fun (not sure of question) and 08 FICHTE (bonus in R8.)
Sun 'n' Fun wrote: [AR]Answer the following about bloodshed in Iraq…in the 9th century, for 10 points each:
[10]This set of rebellions lasting from 868-883 AD led by Ali Mohammed who led the eponymous group of East African slaves that were set to work in the salt pans of the Shatt Al-Arab.
ANSWER: Zanj Rebellions
[10]The Zanj Rebellions occurred during the rule of this Islamic Dynasty, with capital at Harran and Baghdad, they overthrew the Umayyad and ruled until Hugalu Khan sacked Baghdad in 1258.
ANSWER: Abbasid Dynasty
[10]According The Golden Meadow, a text by the historian Masudi, Ali Mohammed and his Zanjian ex-slaves killed 300,000 people in this city, it is currently Iraq's third largest city and was the cite of a major US offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr forces that occurred in here in March 2008.
ANSWER: Basra
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Xfact115 wrote: In contrast, the number of Doukhobors that exist currently is estimated, after a quick Google search, at around twenty thousand.
Take THAT, Dukhobors!!!
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Xfact115 »

Whig's Boson wrote:
Xfact115 wrote: In contrast, the number of Doukhobors that exist currently is estimated, after a quick Google search, at around twenty thousand.
Take THAT, Dukhobors!!!
What?
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

Xfact115 wrote:
Whig's Boson wrote:
Xfact115 wrote: In contrast, the number of Doukhobors that exist currently is estimated, after a quick Google search, at around twenty thousand.
Take THAT, Dukhobors!!!
What?
What Bruce means, Robert, is that you just told the Doukhobors who their daddy is and what their daddy does.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

The Zanj Revolt is notably covered in Robert Gonick's "Cartoon History of the Universe, Volume 3."

I can't play in ACF Nats, and thus have no stake in any of this, but I hope that the idea of a toss-up on the Abbassid Caliphate (or other answers that could feasibly be written about at easier tournaments), written with challenging, pyramidal clues, is not crazy talk.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by philmsu »

I'd like to state that I enjoyed not only this tournament, but my entire first-year ACF/NAQT experience. It's a great feeling to discover exactly how much I don't know, and I've met and played against a lot of awesome people. I think, also, that it's important for me to mention that this was my first Nationals, so I don't have a lot of prior experience against which to judge either the question set or the logistics. As far I could tell, the questions were mostly sound; Tintin was a great idea for a tossup, as was the tossup on the film versions of Hamlet, although the latter felt oversaturated to me. I had some issue with the one on Qdoba, since there are so many parallels to Chipotle (same kind of food, both based in Denver, both had important events in 2006) but I'll reserve full judgment until I can see the question again. It was a bit frustrating to be relegated mostly to trash, but that fault lies with me and not the packet; I simply have to get better, and I plan to.

I guess the thrust of this post is going to be logistics. I don't know much about how this tournament was planned and executed, but it seems (on the surface anyway) amazing that a tournament run by one of the best TDs in quizbowl in Matt Weiner, supported by a patient and professional WashU staff and one of the best statkeepers in quizbowl in Donald Taylor, could still have the issues with time and the buzzers. My observation is that everyone involved in staffing really seemed bogged down by pressure, which I have to imagine played a critical role in the decisions made, and I think future considerations should involve ways of alleviating pressure on individuals so they can do their jobs better.

I have a question about the erroneous schedule that was put together, though. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't see any problems with that schedule that warranted tossing it. The only issue seems to be that 6v9 and 4v9 discrepancy in round 8, which should be resolvable just by checking to see which other team plays 7 again (which is 4, in round 9) and which team now doesn't play 7 (which is 6) and making changes accordingly. Is there any reason changing "6v9" to "6v7" with pen and making a 12-team schedule to accomodate McMaster's drop would not have worked? I'm just wondering because I want to get a better handle on the logistics myself. Also, how difficult is it to construct a schedule on the fly versus relying on this College Quizbowl Schedule Database?

I wholeheartedly agree with Jason and Christian upthread that there should be someone involved in just the tournament planning who can audit the logistic side of the tournament and address possible issues before they come up. If I've learned just one thing from life, it's that there are always new and interesting ways for something to go terribly wrong, so having someone on-hand just to take care of these matters could really pay dividends for the execution of future tournaments. I'm optimistic that future tournaments will be executed better and feature the same standards of good quizbowl we've all aspired to; based just on the discussion I've seen here, people are still invested enough in ACF to want things to improve.

Thanks again to everyone who made this tournament happen. I appreciate the effort and I hope to make next year's iteration.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Okay, let me give some quick responses to stuff here.

First off, let me go on record in saying that I think (and thought as I was reading through lots of the packets before the tourney) that this Nats was pretty darned hard. Coming from me, that should mean something. Whether it was "too hard" or not, I don't know, people can decide that amongst themselves. Also, I'm amenable to the argument that this tournament is not optimal for determining DII champions in the most absolutely fair way possible - but, that doesn't mean that a lot of DII players can't come to an event like this and have a good time (listen to well-written quesitons, meet people, get better through experience, etc. - or that they shouldn't be lauded for doing so). I don't see the harm in declaring a DII champion at an event like ACF Nats, even if we admit that the tournament is probably not primarily aimed at doing that. And, on that note, noone (not even me in my craziest hour) argues that you can't have very good and fair questions at Nats that are on easy answers (like Abbasid caliphate). But, some people (like me, even in my sanest hour - minute? - an hour exceeds my usual sanity window, probably) believe that having a certain level of difficulty at an event like this provides a unique and valuable quality, a unique test of skill and ability for a lot of the better teams and players in the nation.

And, sorry if I'm sounding sanguine, but the Zanj Rebellion has indeed come up before - so I'm going to say you should read some recent packets if you thought that was too crazy. It doesn't really surprise me at all to see it as a tossup (compared to things in this tourney like Concierto de Aranjuez or Godfrey Kneller, it sure doesn't surprise me). Also, Brian, African history comes up plenty in ACF and mACF, even if Kongo has been underrepresented. Sorry if I seem like I'm just telling people "go read packets and you'll have more well-formed opinions about these things!" but...yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying, again and always.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Also, Brian, African history comes up plenty in ACF and mACF, even if Kongo has been underrepresented. Sorry if I seem like I'm just telling people "go read packets and you'll have more well-formed opinions about these things!" but...yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying, again and always.
I don't dispute that African history comes up. I was speculating on gaps between canon knowledge of certain fields of history and the types of history people learn in the course of their education.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

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everyday847 wrote:(My perception is probably heightened because while we were told to start at 10:30 like everyone else, we were delayed further since our room had no working buzzers. The set was replaced, the new set did not work. Then we concluded that the room DID NOT HAVE WORKING ELECTRICITY and played slapbowl. Slapbowl! At a reputable tournament!)
One round after you played slapbowl in that room, we figured out (following a suggestion from Selene) that the room did have working electricity, but only in a set of outlets in the desk with the computer the moderator was reading from--none of the wall outlets seemed to be working. Setting up buzzers and checking that they actually have power (and then searching for a good outlet if the first one doesn't work) seems like the sort of thing that tournament staff can (and should) be asked to do before the start of the tournament. Heck, with the delays of Saturday morning, random players could have been drafted to help with this if staffers were unavailable.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

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Bentley Like Beckham wrote:I agree with Charlie that the difficulty of the question is something that should be considered in the scope of the non-top bracket teams at the tournament. Clearly the primary goal of the tournament should be to award the best team in the nation the national title. But does scratching the edges of the canon really do this more effectively than, say, Regionals level difficulty with longer tossups to encompass more clues? As the tournament naturally gets harder in absolute terms as the canon and circuit advances (for instance, lots of people on the chat have agreed that this tournament was harder in absolute terms than the notorious ACF Nationals 2005), I fear the tournament is perhaps leaving a large number of players behind. Certainly there are examples of individuals and teams who have adapted successfully to this--look at Ike Jose's incredible performance, for instance. However, I look at something like the circuit in the Northwest and wonder "how long will it take for these teams to get to a level where they would enjoy and get meaningful games* out of playing ACF Nationals or DI ICT?" Compared to the prospects of "how long will it take for these teams to get to a level where they would enjoy and get meaninful games out of playing ACF Regionals or DI SCT", I feel the answer is much greater.

I guess the overall point of my post is that I think there might be room for some sort of national championship on questions of an easier difficulty level. The majority of tournaments held throughout the year are at this level, and I think they do a pretty fine job of assessing who the best team in the tournament is. I don't necessarily buy the argument that in every case harder questions result in the "best" team winning. Is someone's in-depth knowledge of the most famous work of an author less legitimate than someone elses' shallow knowledge of the second most famous work of an author?

Also, to be clear, this isn't just an ACF problem. The DI ICT also is at a comparatively high difficulty level, somewhat offset by the availability of the DII ICT (which itself may not be at the ideal difficulty for the field). I also don't really want to advocate the abolition of this type of national tournament. I think there's room (although maybe not on the current schedule and budgets) for something like a "hard nationals" and a "less-hard nationals". The goal of the "less-hard nationals" would be to still crown a national champion who is the best on these levels of questions, while still placing the tournament at a difficulty level less intimidating for the bottom 2/3 of the field. While I guess I can see the argument that these teams don't belong at nationals, I also, for quizbowl's sake, would like to see the size of the ACF Nationals field expand from the mid-20's range it's been stuck at for the past few years.

*Meaningful games I would define based on factors like "what percentage of the questions do teams have a chance to answer"? The middle bracket, consisting of teams that are almost all top bracket teams in their regions, averaged missing more than 5 tossups per round and a bonus conversion of around 10 PPB. When you filter that down some more to account for teams that are more along the lines of middle of the pack in their respective regions, those games become even more dismal and prone to the luck of the draw factors that Charlies described.
Mike, in your first paragraph, when you refer to "Regionals level difficulty" do you mean the recent (2008 and 2009) "regular difficulty" installations of Regionals, or the older (and harder) sets? I think Nationals should have some questions that go to (or beyond) the edges of the canon, and I would say that the recent Regionals are not consistent with that. The older Regionals sets were wackier and had some crazy stuff thrown together with more canonical stuff; I think that's a fine model for Nationals, with the proviso that the integration of the harder and the easier stuff would need to be smoother/more consistent than it was in some of those old Regionals sets. I think Nationals isn't about ranking top teams/players by their mastery of the canon: at Nationals level, I think there's room for some questions that give a chance for people to show what they know outside of what's come up a lot in recent quizbowl tournaments. There's certainly a balance to be struck, but I don't think this Nationals set went too far in the direction of harder, rarer (or completely new) answers. I think the set also would have been fine if it had shifted a bit towards more canonical answers, but I wouldn't want to see as big a shift as I think it would take to provide meaningful games all the way down to the bottom bracket.

I played both this set and the 2005 ACF Nationals, and I think the 2005 tournament was a good bit harder than this one--for the field that played it. Four years down the road it's entirely possible that a decent number of hard topics from the 2005 event have trickled down into the canon, but a comparison of the stats from the two events (for instance, the bonus conversion in the top brackets) suggests to me that the 2005 field had a harder time with the 2005 set than the 2009 field did with the 2009 set, and I don't think it's because the 2005 field was weaker.

I think your description of "meaningful games" is a very useful one, and I think it is fair to say that the games at ACF Nationals in the middle and lower brackets didn't always do the best job of distinguishing/ranking teams. Having said that, I think the goal of providing high-quality rankings of teams in middle and lower brackets at ACF Nationals should be discarded if it conflicts with the goal of providing high-quality rankings of the top teams based on "canonical + super-canonical knowledge." If teams in the middle and lower brackets can enjoy ACF Nationals as a chance to meet/play against top teams and teams at their own level from around the country and as an opportunity to learn first-hand what the current level of of the national game is (in terms of question difficulty and opponent level), that's wonderful. If they can't, that's a shame, but I would rather see ACF Nationals stick with the primary goal I mentioned above and wind up with smaller fields. If enough people are interested in adding a "less-hard nationals" to warrant adding such a thing to the current slate of ICT and ACF Nationals, I have no problem with that.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by dtaylor4 »

Kenshiro wrote:the tossup on the film versions of Hamlet, although the latter felt oversaturated to me.
Could someone post this? I've seen four different versions 1948 Olivier, 1991 Gibson, 1996 Branagh, and 2000 Hawke), and would have loved to play on this tossup.

Phil: as a statkeeper and a quasi-assistant TD (I was effectively in charge of the part of the tournament in Seigle), I feel that I did my job as well as I could. Stats were up before I left the building Saturday night, and only nine games are not entered period: the tiebreakers, and the finals games, and this will be rectified.

During the buzzer fiasco, Matt asked me to hold everyone up and to get working buzzers to the top games. After sending three buzzers over there, I tried to call Matt to ask whether he wanted me to start Round 2 or not. After being unable to reach him by phone, I made the call to hold everyone up until all the Round 1 games were completed. I felt that this was the right call, and do not regret it. What I do regret is not getting the word to the teams sooner, and for that I apologize.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by setht »

SnookerUSF wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:But does scratching the edges of the canon really do this more effectively than, say, Regionals level difficulty with longer tossups to encompass more clues?
I am often of two minds on this; I think it certainly can, if that edge-scratching is done in a consistent and measured way. Specifically, those whose expertise are in specific subject areas guide that kind of activity based on their own non-quizbowl knowledge. Also, from a pragmatic standpoint; it arguably becomes easier (especially in the waning and frantic days before any tournament) to write a pyramidal, consistent tossup as the answer's distance from the center of the canon increases. It is a lot of work to write a Nationals-level tossup on Charles Dickens than say, "The Mudfog Papers."
I just wanted to note that while it might be easier to write a Nationals-level tossup on "The Mudfog Papers" than it is to write one on Charles Dickens looking only at criteria like "don't give away the answer too early" or "don't write a tossup on something hackneyed," I really think it is actually much, much harder (perhaps even impossible) to write a good (or at least serviceable) Nationals-level tossup on "The Mudfog Papers" than it is to write one on Charles Dickens, for the simple reason that "The Mudfog Papers" doesn't seem like it fits the bill for a tossup that will provide for good competition. In fact it seems like a really bad idea for a tossup.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by QuizBowlRonin »

setht wrote:One round after you played slapbowl in that room, we figured out (following a suggestion from Selene) that the room did have working electricity, but only in a set of outlets in the desk with the computer the moderator was reading from--none of the wall outlets seemed to be working. Setting up buzzers and checking that they actually have power (and then searching for a good outlet if the first one doesn't work) seems like the sort of thing that tournament staff can (and should) be asked to do before the start of the tournament. Heck, with the delays of Saturday morning, random players could have been drafted to help with this if staffers were unavailable.
It is customary to assign buzzers to rooms and set up and test them as soon as buzzers are given to the tournament staff, as has been done at WashU since when I was still at school. This was not done, and buzzers were distributed to moderators at the moderator meeting after teams had been sent to their rooms for round one. I do not know the reason why this was done.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by QuizBowlRonin »

dtaylor4 wrote:During the buzzer fiasco, Matt asked me to hold everyone up and to get working buzzers to the top games. After sending three buzzers over there, I tried to call Matt to ask whether he wanted me to start Round 2 or not. After being unable to reach him by phone, I made the call to hold everyone up until all the Round 1 games were completed. I felt that this was the right call, and do not regret it. What I do regret is not getting the word to the teams sooner, and for that I apologize.
Just to clear up any possible confusion - this was refers to the situation on Sunday.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by setht »

Xfact115 wrote:I also find the assertion that a tossup on the Abbasids with the Zanj revolt as a clue at this level to be nothing less than offensive. That's what happened at Fall this year and that's where tossups on things like the Abbasid Caliphate belong. The Abbasid Caliphate, which only ruled over the golden age of Arabic civilization for 500 years, is far too easy to be asked about at Nationals. I understand that Quiz Bowl takes place in North America but this kind of cultural bias is inexcusable.
I disagree with everything you've said here. There's nothing wrong with writing a tossup on the Abbasids at Nationals, just as there was nothing wrong with people's decisions to write tossups on Porfirio Diaz or George Washington. I can't really speak to whether the Zanj revolt was a good idea for a tossup at ACF Nationals; my impression is that it was fine. Anyway, I really don't see how saying that an easier, related answer choice would have been fine (and perhaps even better) indicates any sort of cultural basis.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Kyle »

I didn't attend ACF nationals, but it is difficult for me to resist a discussion of Middle Eastern history in quizbowl, so here are my two cents:

One time, I was in a taxi in Amman late at night with a friend and the driver started talking about how he had driven Americans just the week before and they were Muslims and "zunuj." I didn't know the word "zunuj" (the usual word for black people is "sud"), but I knew my Abbasid history and was correctly able to deduce that the people he had driven the week before were African-American Muslims. Knowing about the Zanj revolt, therefore, is potentially practical.

In all seriousness, I posted in the NAQT discussion thread that I wanted to see more tossups on non-Western history and used the example of the fact that there was only one tossup on Middle Eastern history in the entire ICT set as part of the evidence to support the assertion that non-Western history was underrepresented. There is a difference, however, between suggesting that something is underrepresented and suggesting that differences between parts of the world with respect to what it is acceptable to ask is the result of some form of "cultural bias." Things that happened in American history are less obscure to Americans than things that happened in European history, which are in turn less obscure than things that happened in southern Iraq. That's just how it is. I would love for there to be more tossups on Middle Eastern and Chinese history that require a deep understanding of those regions, but the fact is that it is good to ask about things that will get answered. And there is nothing wrong with a well-written tossup on the Abbasids or any other dynasty (Seth said this above; I'm merely reiterating it to show my agreement). Had I intended it to be used in a tournament with nationals-level difficulty, I would have added several harder clues before mentioning the Zanj to the Abbasid tossup from T-Party that I edited — but I don't think that the revised tossup would have been unfair in any way.

Regarding the Zanj revolt itself, I am trying to imagine a tossup on it. In my mind, there are six lines of obscure things that nobody could possibly be expected to buzz on followed by an allusion to the fact that they are black and then a mention of the Abbasid caliphate. No?

In general, however, I don't think that the Zanj are any harder than other tossup answers that I have seen from high-level tournaments. Bruce's history tournament, for example, had a tossup on the Battle of Talas. Despite my interest in Sino-Arab relations of all periods, I told Bruce at the time that I thought it was too hard and he explained that it would be answered. I assume that it was. The 2006 (?) edition of ACF regionals had a tossup on the Battle of Ayn Jalut, which is also pretty hard. From the perspective of somebody who learned about all three of these things (the Battle of Talas, the Zanj revolt, and the Battle of Ayn Jalut) in the same class, I'm not convinced that they are of distinctly different difficulty. I guess Ayn Jalut is probably slightly more famous because of its role in establishing Mamluk authority in Egypt and the Levant, but in general it isn't a new thing for hard events from medieval Middle Eastern history to come up as tossup answers.

The problem, I guess, is in coming up with meaningful clues. You want people who know the answers to be able to buzz in fairly early in the tossup. You're differentiating between people who know different amounts about the event, not between people who know the event and people who don't. So if I shied away from writing about the Zanj revolt (or anything of similar obscurity), it wouldn't be because of its difficulty on an absolute scale, but because I think it would be hard to find a lot of useful clues. That doesn't mean that it can't be done, only that you would have to be careful when writing it.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Kyle wrote:Regarding the Zanj revolt itself, I am trying to imagine a tossup on it. In my mind, there are six lines of obscure things that nobody could possibly be expected to buzz on followed by an allusion to the fact that they are black and then a mention of the Abbasid caliphate. No?
Kyle (I'm assuming questions are cleared for discussion, since they're being discussed):
UCLA/South Carolina Packet wrote: This event was centered in the city of al-Mukhtare, and many of the people involved in this event had been imported for the back-breaking work of clearing out the marshes in the Tigris River basin. The leader of this movement adopted the position of the Kharajites in saying that leadership should be based on abilities and not on heredity, but only after his own claims of descent had been disproved. It allowed the existence of an independent Egypt for its length and originated around the salt mines in the city of Basra, which was besieged for fifteen years by this movement. Its leader claimed descent from Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib; that leader, Ali ibn Muhammed, had befriended some of the slaves under Caliph al-Muntasir and incited an earlier, short-lived rebellion in Bahrain. For 10 points, name this massive ninth-century revolt of some 500,000 African slaves against the Abbasid Empire.

ANSWER: Zanj Revolt
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Jeaton1 »

Logistics aside, the excellent question quality and interesting and difficult answer selections made my first ACF Nationals experience an enjoyable one.

Some of my favorite tossup answers included: Malleus Maleficarum, stromatolites, Chebyshev, Emperor Jimmu, Holst, Dreamtime, Borodin and the first example I've seen of a nice, non-transparent tossup on Voodoo.

Things I didn't care for:

The "Professional Starcraft" tossup. It seemed a bit out there to me to talk about professional players and practices rather than the game itself -- and while a somewhat interesting idea, just didn't turn out too well as talking about the player who "crotch slaps and thrusts or whatever" seems like it could apply to almost any semi-professional game or sport.

The tossup on "attention" didn't favor very well with me. I know about things like the Stroop Effect and the gorilla suit thing but had a difficult time figuring out exactly this question wanted (split tasking, cocktail party effect, etc).

The tossup on fermionic condensates suffered from a lack of truly purely identifying clues -- especially when a tossup on BECs appeared earlier in the tournament.

Other than those few complaints, I had an excellent time competing over in WUSTL and hope next year's Nats is just as good. I thank all of the writers for producing an awesome set.

P.S. -- Special thanks goes out to Jonathan Magin whose ramblings and musings about "The Country Wife" allowed me to buzz on the question in the second clue.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Kyle »

The first line says that they are slaves from southern Iraq.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

cvdwightw wrote:
Kyle wrote:Regarding the Zanj revolt itself, I am trying to imagine a tossup on it. In my mind, there are six lines of obscure things that nobody could possibly be expected to buzz on followed by an allusion to the fact that they are black and then a mention of the Abbasid caliphate. No?
Kyle (I'm assuming questions are cleared for discussion, since they're being discussed):
UCLA/South Carolina Packet wrote: This event was centered in the city of al-Mukhtare, and many of the people involved in this event had been imported for the back-breaking work of clearing out the marshes in the Tigris River basin. The leader of this movement adopted the position of the Kharajites in saying that leadership should be based on abilities and not on heredity, but only after his own claims of descent had been disproved. It allowed the existence of an independent Egypt for its length and originated around the salt mines in the city of Basra, which was besieged for fifteen years by this movement. Its leader claimed descent from Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib; that leader, Ali ibn Muhammed, had befriended some of the slaves under Caliph al-Muntasir and incited an earlier, short-lived rebellion in Bahrain. For 10 points, name this massive ninth-century revolt of some 500,000 African slaves against the Abbasid Empire.

ANSWER: Zanj Revolt

Granted that I'm a little out of the loop on what clues are currently most well-known on the circuit, but are the details of Ali b. Muhammad's theology really better known than "Name these slaves in souther Iraq associated with an event?"

On the two battles Kyle mentioned, Ayn Jalut is famous because of the Mongol connection more than the Mamluk, as well as potentially clearing the field for the eventual elimination of the Crusader states. As far as Talas goes, historians of China seem more excited about it than historians of the Middle East. You might be able to write a tossup - or more likely a bonus - about it with the probably false anecdote about captured papermakers.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by setht »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Meaningful games I would define based on factors like "what percentage of the questions do teams have a chance to answer"? The middle bracket, consisting of teams that are almost all top bracket teams in their regions, averaged missing more than 5 tossups per round and a bonus conversion of around 10 PPB. When you filter that down some more to account for teams that are more along the lines of middle of the pack in their respective regions, those games become even more dismal and prone to the luck of the draw factors that Charlies described.
I wanted to expand on this a bit further--I think it might be useful to make a clear distinction between "tournaments that are about learning" and "tournaments that are about competition/ranking teams/meaningful games." I think those two goals are not completely mutually exclusive, but I think it's certainly the case that a tournament can't feature meaningful games if a large fraction of the questions are written with the intent of "teaching the field," even if the question writers believe those questions will be answered by the end. In order for a game to be meaningful, the teams involved don't just have to answer 17+ tossups and play on a consistent set of bonuses (so the match isn't decided by one team getting lucky in having 3 easy bonuses vs. the other team only having 1); I think the questions also have to be written in such a way that there are a few early buzzes and a large number of middle buzzes. If most of the questions are still live at the end, the chances of having games being decided on buzzer races shoots up.

I should say that I like playing some tournaments of both sorts, but I prefer playing mostly in tournaments that are about competition and meaningful games. My impression is that almost all tournaments are announced as competition-centered events, but I'm not convinced people have kept that goal in mind while working on the associated sets this year (for instance, I would argue that the HI science set was terrible for competitive/ranking purposes; I'm not sure it was good for learning purposes either, but I'll leave that for the HI discussion thread, whenever I finally get to it).

This is getting a bit far afield from ACF Nationals discussion, so I'll reiterate that I think the set was good in terms of providing meaningful games for the top teams. I think the way it was written should have made it a fine "learning set" for middle- and lower-tier teams. I don't know if those teams agree with that assessment or feel satisfied with that situation.

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

Kyle wrote: Regarding the Zanj revolt itself, I am trying to imagine a tossup on it. In my mind, there are six lines of obscure things that nobody could possibly be expected to buzz on followed by an allusion to the fact that they are black and then a mention of the Abbasid caliphate. No?
Chris Ray got it well before that point in my room if I remember correctly, but I'm sure Chris himself remembers better. Anyway, I read for some of the top teams at the event (Minn, Brown, etc.) and noticed several tossups go past "for 10 points" or go unanswered. Say what you want about the Zanj question, but it was far from the hardest question at the tournament and contained clues that would allow someone who knows their stuff to get the question well before "for 10 points."
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by philmsu »

dtaylor4 wrote:
Phil: as a statkeeper and a quasi-assistant TD (I was effectively in charge of the part of the tournament in Seigle), I feel that I did my job as well as I could.
I agree, especially on the stats part. Being able to check stats on my teammate's iPhone on the drive back was awesome.
dtaylor4 wrote:During the buzzer fiasco, Matt asked me to hold everyone up and to get working buzzers to the top games. After sending three buzzers over there, I tried to call Matt to ask whether he wanted me to start Round 2 or not. After being unable to reach him by phone, I made the call to hold everyone up until all the Round 1 games were completed. I felt that this was the right call, and do not regret it. What I do regret is not getting the word to the teams sooner, and for that I apologize.
Thanks for the insight. Honestly, I don't think you should regret the former either. Forcing top-level teams to play slap bowl would have been nothing short of travesty, and even as we waited on our game, we were all in agreement on that point. I can't remember when we got the word, but it didn't seem like we were in the dark too long.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Well, I finally made it to San Diego.
Matt Weiner wrote:1) When all was said and done, the tournament, which I had announced last August would target an end time of 1:00 PM, actually completed the last question of the finals at 2:15 PM. That's not ideal, but it's not anything near tournaments like Minnesota Open's Saturday lineup this year (which had to be cut short because the building closed at 2 AM), ACF Nationals last year (which ended at 11 PM), or sundry other events who missed the mark by well more than an hour. I frankly think it's incredibly unwise to book a flight for 3:30 for a tournament that aspires to end around 1:00, and then be surprised or angry when you miss that flight.
I didn't go to Minnesota Open, so I couldn't care less about what happened at a non-national tournament that I didn't attend and whose TDs were not involved in ACF Nationals in any way. I also don't care about what happened last year; I didn't have much of a problem with the one day tournament because I accepted the fact that 16 or 17 rounds in one day would result in a late ending. That was totally acceptable to me before and would have been acceptable again if it had happened.

Furthermore, it is entirely false to claim that the only thing wrong with this tournament was the late Sunday finish. There was also the fact that we waited for more than an hour and a half for the actual tournament to actually start on Saturday. This is especially galling to me, since two of my teammates had to skip an orchestra performance on Sunday to even make the event, and flew in really early Saturday morning (waking up at 4:30) so they could make the morning rounds. When I expressed my concern that they could miss the morning rounds because of this, I was told that that was too bad; we could have the first-round bye, but that was all. Well, they got here and then waited around for almost an hour before the tournament started! If you're telling us that we'd better be there at 8:45 to avoid missing any playing time, then I think you owe it to every team that showed up to be there on time and ready to start yourself.

Finally, the ticket was purchased for me by my mother with frequent flyer miles, and that was the one flight she was able to get. I figured that with Sunday only having a maximum of 6 rounds, there would be no problem getting out at 1. I had no idea that tiebreakers were planned for Sunday morning (more on that later) and in fact, several times I communicated to you personally that I had an afternoon flight out of STL and would like to start early on Sunday so I could make that flight. To every one of those communiques I received an entirely noncommittal reply. I have no idea what I was supposed to do in this situation. To be quite honest, I didn't even think we'd make the finals after Eric couldn't make it and we found ourselves with two losses heading out on Friday night; I'm sure that a betting man would have bet heavily against us sweeping our playoff rounds to claw our way into the finals as a top seed.
2) We had prepared and copied the following schedule in advance for Saturday morning: http://web.archive.org/web/200502101941 ... ps/13.html. As you can see, it's nonsense; teams are playing in two places in the same round and so on. Someone noticed this as the schedule was first being handed out, luckily.
Why didn't anyone notice this before? Again, I've run a 24 team tournament before. No one who attended EFT will let me lie about this, but I'm fairly positive that the schedules we handed out on the morning of the tournament did not have any of these problems. As Eric, Dennis, and Aaron are my witnesses, I will also state that prior to the tournament we had repeatedly discussed contingency schedules in case some teams didn't show, and we were ready to accommodate that situation. Fortunately, we didn't have to do that, but we certainly had a plan. None of this planning took more than an hour all told between us.
For a tournament as important as ACF Nationals, it was a major error on my part to trust the schedule without rechecking it by hand. However, I hope you understand why I thought that "The College Quizbowl Schedule Database" might have schedules that could actually be used for college quizbowl. This assumption turned out to be erroneous, leading to all of the other problems. In addition to the confusion over McMaster, we then had to recreate the whole schedule so it actually made sense, and then (for reasons never really explained to me, which for all I know were perfectly good ones) it took far more than 30 minutes for someone to go print 40 copies of the schedule. That is why there was a delay on Saturday morning. This idea that we were all just standing around not starting because it was fun to make people wait, or whatever you think happened, is not realistic.
I mean, I realize that you're not just sitting in the staff room cackling about making the peons wait. However, the fact that this was even an issue is prima facie evidence of massive incompetence. No one thought to check the schedules? No one thought there should be a contingency plan? I can't believe that for a national tournament these simple steps could not be taken.
I was also given to understand that half of Brown's team was planning to arrive at the tournament during what would have been Round 2 had we started on time; the delay must have proved immensely helpful to Brown's competitive chances, and thus for Jerry, specifically, to get angry over it seems weird.
I'm getting angry over it because we went to a lot of trouble to get our team there on time, including but not limited to blowing $30 on a cab ride when I could have just picked them up myself if we weren't going to start on time anyway. Dan and I could probably have played the first few rounds by ourselves if we had to, but our teammates had to board ass-early flights to get there. To demand that we arrive on time but to not fulfill your own promise of a timely start is a slap in the face of our efforts.
3) The volume-of-buzzers situation was almost entirely my fault. While I am a little irked that many people either left their buzzers at home or brought broken buzzers to this tournament and claimed discounts for them, it is also true that Sean offered last week to procure buzzers from local high schools. I have never had a problem getting sufficient buzzers to show up to a tournament before so I assumed this would still be the case and told him not to bother. This was, in retrospect, a very stupid decision on my part, and had I not made it we would not have had the buzzer problem even considering the other issues that contributed to it.
If we hadn't more or less on a whim decided to bring a set of buzzers with us, this tournament would have been even more screwed. I can't imagine why you would possibly turn down an offer of buzzer sets; at least my experience tells me that there are never enough buzzers. At the very least, extra buzzers would have just sat around, and at best they could have been used to replace the non-functional buzzers.
4) With that said, the buzzer situation was aggravated by some poor coordination from the local staffers. I did in fact see Charlie's buzzers, and I asked the people who were handing out buzzers "hey, are those Charlie's buzzers?" to which I was told "no, that's just somebody's backpack." Between Saturday night and Sunday morning I reminded the buzzer controllers five distinct times to put the working systems in the playoff rooms, and exactly the opposite was done. Unless you expect me to personally set up every system and read every game, I don't know what more I could have contributed to trying to salvage the buzzer situation for Sunday.
Hey, looks like more than one person dropped the ball here! Yeah, I don't know why communication between you and the rest of the staffers is such a problem, but I don't see how I'm supposed to divine any of this or care about it if I do. If you can't trust the people staffing your tournament to do basic things like put working buzzers in the playoff rooms then it sounds to me like you made a horrendous call on where to hold the tournament. If you had any suspicion that there could be problems, then yes, I would expect you to check the system placement yourself. After all, you had the entire Saturday evening to take care of this; surely it doesn't take more than 15 minutes of your time to check the rooms in a single building. I can't imagine anything else that was going on at the oh-so-late hour of 7 PM when the games ended. Anyway, this was brought to your attention as soon as we discovered what had happened, and instead of having anything done about it, we had to wait until another game finished reading before we could even start the first one.
5) In the week before the tournament I was also told, repeatedly, that all the rooms had unpassworded wireless, so it would be easy to e-mail packets out before each round. As it turned out, 1 of the 2 buildings we used had no wireless coverage at all, and in the other, passwords (which nobody seemed to have) were required. This forced us to go to plan B, encrypted packets, which led to the same problems it always does.
It is simply unbelievable to me that someone who has, in the chat and other contexts, repeatedly labeled network-based attempts at a scorekeeping system as examples of magical thinking (paraphrasing loosely here) and pointed out the problems of such a system by referencing the problem of spotty or encrypted campus wifi coverage, would now turn to the absence of unprotected wireless as an excuse! The moment you got whiff of protected wireless, you should have gathered up a few flash drives and sent a runner to each building with the questions. This is a tried and true system of question distribution that has seemed to work just fine for past tournaments.
6) I have directed 30 tournaments, most of which (such as the February and April high school tournaments at VCU, see the threads on this board) were met with comments such as "the best tournament I have ever attended" and completed 11 or more rounds by 4:30 PM. The idea that I am an incompetent tournament director is objectively false. I apologize for my role in your missed flight and any frustrating aspects of your tournament experience, but I believe you are flailing about due to your anger over the real issues and hitting some of the wrong targets along with the legitimate ones here. We all have done things to both hurt and help the image of ACF, and the idea that this weekend's delays, which in the end amounted to finishing 75 minutes after the posted target end time, were a bigger problem than any of various question-related incidents or public meltdowns that people have been responsible for in the past, does not hold water to me.
I don't know anything about the high school tournaments you may or may not have directed, and I don't care either. I attended VCU Open where we sat around for two hours waiting for you to finish the set (and then had to come back the next day to play the finals!). I flew to Illinois, at non-inconsiderable expense, to play FICHTE only to be utterly disappointed by the quality of a tournament for which I also had to wait two hours in the morning (edited for confusion with ACF Regionals) (and the portions were so small!). Then I flew to ACF Nationals, where again I had to wait for near two hours for the tournament to get started on the first day and another hour to get started on the second day because simple things that should be obviously taken care of beforehand were not taken care of. These are objective facts which I have personally experienced; whatever might happen at VCU tournaments is beyond my interest. I'm also not interested in comparing this particular disaster to other mishaps, except perhaps to note that there are two incidences listed above of you completely failing to deliver on promised questions without previous notification.

To add insult to the injury inflicted upon me, what offends me the most about this is your attitude both during the tournament and in this exchange. I think I can honestly say that I did whatever I could to expedite the process of the tournament, albeit for selfish reasons. When there were delays getting the questions distributed, I offered to put them on a flash key so we could start the round. I was rebuffed. I agitated for the tiebreakers to be held on Friday Saturday so the tournament could start earlier and was given some bullshit about not wanting tiredness affecting playoffs, as though no one has ever played a meaningful match at that hour before. I repeatedly informed you before the tournament that I thought the playoffs on Sunday should start earlier; I don't expect the tournament to be shuffled around for my sake, but there's no reason why we couldn't have started right at 9, and if the tiebreakers had been held the night before, we might have gotten people there by 8:30 and started at 9. Every time I approached you (and it wasn't just me, for the record) I was told that things were being taken care of. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't, but in every situation your reply was to brush off legitimate complaints. Now you are doing your best to pretend that this is some minor issue that only affected one person, even though my conversation with other people leads me quite conclusively to the belief that pretty much everyone was pissed about the various delays and buzzer shortages and so forth. Maybe you're used to dealing with cranky high school coaches that get all upset because their team has to listed to a question longer than one line or something, but people like myself, Andrew Yaphe, and Mike Sorice, for example, are not idiots that can be waved away because you think that your shortcomings are not serious (note: this is not to imply that either Mike or Andrew endorse what I'm saying, but it seemed to me that they were not happy with the delays as well). This isn't some fringe issue that I'm bringing up because I like being cantankerous on the Internet, it's a problem that quite drastically affected the experiences of many people at this tournament. For you to try to treat it as crazy Jerry's obsession is insulting and unfair. It may be my thing but that's just because I got hit the hardest by the combined incompetence of the tournament direction and the tournament staff.

You fucked shit up directing this tournament and you need to accept that. The reason you're getting flack from it is because you have a tendency to act in an autocratic manner; well, that means you get the credit and you take the blame. The consequences for fucking up a regional tournament is that people get home an hour later, and we frequently have people get criticized for that (sometimes by you) but the consequences of fucking up a national tournament is that some people might end up having their travel plans destroyed and stranded in another city for a night. This tournament's logistics sucked an unacceptable amount of ass and as someone who spent a bunch of time and money to attend this event, I'm going to be adamant in calling bullshit when I see it.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Oh yeah, and a tossup on the Zanj doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I knew what was being discussed but couldn't pull the name and I'm far from a Middle Eastern history expert.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

It has come to my attention that the tossup on Empress Wu used the noted male term "emperor" to refer to her. I know that this is technically correct (and many female rulers take male titles), but for quizbowl purposes I think this was egregiously confusing.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Hey, I just got home from St. Louis and so am a bit late to the discussion. I was going to post a somewhat lengthy excoration, but Jerry has anticipated my critique of the tournament logistics. I won't say much more about that here, but it really is unfathomable to me that an experienced TD in charge of a national tournament wouldn't bother to ascertain whether he was going to have enough buzzer sets to run the tournament because he "assumed" that teams would bring plenty of buzzers. That makes no sense, especially given how much more difficult it has become to transport buzzer sets on planes nowadays (over-zealous TSA employees, extra fees for checked luggage, etc.).

My bigger beef with the tournament, however, is over question quality. Now, I agree that there were a lot of great questions in this set. In particular, large swathes of it had a distinctive Berdichevskian gleam, which was much appreciated. But there were also glaring problems, especially with wildly fluctuating bonus difficulty. In the playoffs in particular, bonuses veered between what I think of as ACF regionals level difficulty (where at least two of the answers are standard and well-known clues are provided for them) to what I think of as ACF nationals level difficulty (where teams can have 10 points if they don't really know the area, but have to work for anything above that) to "Chicago Open or beyond difficulty" (where teams don't get any points at all unless they really know some narrow area). These different kinds of bonuses were haphazardly thrown together in the playoff rounds, and given the closeness of the playoff games (on Sunday, I believe, all the games we played were winnable by both teams going into the final five tossups), the happenstance of which team drew the easier bonuses proved decisive.

This leads me to a point which is difficult to make. I'll preface it by saying that Chicago was a great team who played very well; I'm happy to see them win, and particularly happy that Marnold has finally entered the pantheon of ACF greats. They outplayed us in the round robin to create the circle of death with which the playoffs ended. That said, the play-in game which we lost to them (allowing them to advance to a one-game final against Brown) was the most disappointing experience I can remember having at an ACF nationals. They didn't outplay us on the tossups; nor did they obviously evince superior knowledge on the bonuses, though they may well have known more than we did. But we zeroed a string of "Chicago Open or beyond" bonuses (on, e.g., Burmese history and obscure geoscience), while they 20'd and 30'd a string of much easier bonuses (on, e.g., the poetry of Robert Browning, where "My Last Duchess" from obvious clues would have gotten most high school teams an easy 10). If we could have just gotten 10 points on each of the bonuses we zeroed -- and we zeroed an awfully large number, considering that we were in the top three at ACF nationals and arguably know a lot of shit -- the game would have been up for grabs on tossup 20.

I don't like casting a shadow on Chicago's triumph. But I feel that this needs to be said, because the fundamental unfairness of such fluctuating bonuses undermines the whole point of ACF nationals. That "point," as I've always understood it, is to establish who is the best team in the country, without having extrinsic factors play a substantial role in determining the result. That's why, back in the day, the founders of ACF abolished such quaint and stupid practices as the variable-value bonus. They (rightly!) thought that the result of a game shouldn't be determined by whether one team happened to get more shots to earn 30 points per bonus. It saddened me to see the same kind of unfairness, in effect, return to the game at this year's nationals. The only different is that the question in this year's playoffs was "will you happen to get screwed by bonuses on which it's impossible to score any points at all if you're not all over the category, or will you get more of the reasonable bonuses on which you can always expect to get 10 points if you're competent, and have a real shot at the full 30 if you know the area."
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

grapesmoker wrote:Yeah, I don't know why communication between you and the rest of the staffers is such a problem, but I don't see how I'm supposed to divine any of this or care about it if I do.
I don't know anything about the high school tournaments you may or may not have directed, and I don't care either.
This post doesn't seem like an honest attempt to find out what went wrong and why if it contains such statements. You can't just make assertions and then dismiss the evidence that those assertions are wrong with "I don't care."
The moment you got whiff of protected wireless, you should have gathered up a few flash drives and sent a runner to each building with the questions.
This is exactly what I did.
I flew to Illinois, at non-inconsiderable expense, to play FICHTE only to be utterly disappointed by the quality of a tournament for which I also had to wait two hours in the morning
You did absolutely no such thing. Question quality issues aside, the Illinois tournament (notably not directed by me, in any case) started on time, as I have just confirmed with various people who staffed and played it. Quit making things up.
When there were delays getting the questions distributed, I offered to put them on a flash key so we could start the round. I was rebuffed.
I don't recall this, and in any case they were already being put on other drives, so I don't see how it would have helped anything.
I agitated for the tiebreakers to be held on Friday Saturday so the tournament could start earlier and was given some bullshit about not wanting tiredness affecting playoffs, as though no one has ever played a meaningful match at that hour before.
The tiebreaker schedule was announced several days earlier and in the morning on Saturday. Teams were told they could leave after Round 13. It was completely impossible to go back on that decision halfway through Saturday games and it's unreasonable that you really think I could have done so.
I repeatedly informed you before the tournament that I thought the playoffs on Sunday should start earlier; I don't expect the tournament to be shuffled around for my sake, but there's no reason why we couldn't have started right at 9
The reason was that WUSTL set up the buzzers in the wrong rooms despite myself and Zeke specifically telling them which rooms to set them up in five times.
Every time I approached you (and it wasn't just me, for the record) I was told that things were being taken care of. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't, but in every situation your reply was to brush off legitimate complaints. Now you are doing your best to pretend that this is some minor issue that only affected one person, even though my conversation with other people leads me quite conclusively to the belief that pretty much everyone was pissed about the various delays and buzzer shortages and so forth. Maybe you're used to dealing with cranky high school coaches that get all upset because their team has to listed to a question longer than one line or something, but people like myself, Andrew Yaphe, and Mike Sorice, for example, are not idiots that can be waved away because you think that your shortcomings are not serious (note: this is not to imply that either Mike or Andrew endorse what I'm saying, but it seemed to me that they were not happy with the delays as well).
Nobody should have been happy. I agree that the delays were awful and that the major cause was my bad decision regarding the extra buzzers. However, the delay on Saturday morning had nothing to do with you missing your plane, which is what you are actually making crazy phone calls to me about and posting on the Internet. I said that "gameplay" for this tournament would end at 1 PM; I didn't even say whether that meant general playoffs or the finals, and the finals ended at 2:15. If you have never heard of a tournament running one hour late before, or if you think the example of every other event you have attended is something you "don't care" about, that is your problem. You shouldn't have booked a flight with no room for error.
The reason you're getting flack from it is because you have a tendency to act in an autocratic manner; well, that means you get the credit and you take the blame.
I'm dumb for relying too much on the local staff, but I'm also dumb for acting "in an autocratic manner"? This is nonsense.

There were huge problems with this tournament. Many of them were my fault. Others were not. Jerry missing his plane was no one's fault but his own for scheduling a flight on razor-thin time margins. I am interested in helping analyze the real problems and developing suggestions for next year's Nationals TD on how to avoid repeating them. I am not interested in exchanging a volley of namecalling with Jerry over the air travel thing. I will stand by everything in this paragraph as long as needed.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

What is consistently disturbing to me is when people express the idea that the timescale for tournament writing is satisfactory if the packets are completed before the tournament begins (or even, in some radical cases, before the round is played). I know I'm not exactly a luminary in the tournament-writing and -directing world, but it seems to me like the field has a right to expect tournaments to be completed by, say, Wednesday or Thursday before the tournament, for the following reasons:

1. Having a few days of buffer time between set completion and playing the set gives the editors room to playtest and read through their own work more extensively. This would help with the whole spectrum of common tournament complaints: the bonus variability problems that Andrew Yaphe cited, repeats, the occasional factual error, packets that might be better randomized, etc.

2. Similarly, in the days between finishing the questions and running the tournament, TDs and hosts could devote more time to organization. This includes making absolutely sure that the assumed number of buzzer systems coming to the tournament is the actual number of buzzer systems coming to the tournament; checking over schedules and preparing an alternate schedule or two; and ensuring that printers and flash drives and the like are in abundance. Obviously, people lie and people fuck up, but if the stress of finishing the set was not hanging over everyone, communication would be calmer and more easily facilitated. Again, I'm not saying this will completely eliminate delays and problems like we saw this past weekend, but it will most certainly assuage them.

3. Emergencies happen. The two most recent HSAPQ sets have suffered because real emergencies happened to some writers such that they could not make their submission deadlines; while these sets also suffered because people slacked on their responsibilities, the point remains that were collegiate editors to demand adherence to deadlines such that the tournament could be completed mid-week, were emergencies to occur, there would be room for flexibility.

I know as well as anyone how busy we all are with schoolwork, jobs, and the like, and I understand that there is a certain amount of idealism in asking that editors complete their tournaments before the eleventh hour. But at the same time, the repetition of the same problems at tournament after tournament indicates to me that even we overworked, contentedly procrastinating college students need to change the way we do things, especially with important events like NSC and CO coming up. I spoke to a couple people tonight who told me that for them, tournaments they wrote and/or edited, either in-house or packet-submission, were made better for their completion earlier in the week, and that is an opinion I do not doubt. If people actually want to strive for better-managed tournaments of more consistent difficulty, this seems like the best, if not the easiest, way to do it.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Strongside »

Questions: I thought the questions for this tournament were pretty good. The editors obviously put a lot of work into them, and the fact that this was a 21 round tournament that was finished on time, with a lot of cool and interesting stuff was awesome. This tournament was kind of annoying to play at times, but it was very well-written, and for the most part I enjoyed it.

As for the difficulty, I thought it was great. Tossups on things like Zanj, Kappel Wars, Kingdom of Kongo, Star Route, Vijayangar, Concierto de Aranjuez are great things to ask about for a tournament like this. This is because they are all things that are difficult that have come up before, which is what I think ACF Nationals should aim to do.

I am all for hard questions, and even more for hard stuff that has come up a few times, because it gives people who have practiced and played a lot of old, difficult tournaments more of a chance, which is what I think tossups like that should do.

Distribution: ACF requires 24/24 and 1/1 Trash, current events, or your choice. I haven't looked through the questions yet, but Matt said there was 1/1 Trash in each packet. 1/1 Trash seems to be the default for ACF, which I think is okay.

If that is the case, I was thinking ACF should consider updating the question writing guidelines. For example, ACF currently doesn't require people to submit Trash, but it has a 1/1 Trash Distribution. I don't know the exact Trash distribution for other ACF tournaments, but it seems they had at least 1/0 or 0/1 per packet. I would actually like to see Trash reduced to 1/0 or 0/1, and instead ask more RMP and Social Science questions (at least at higher level ACF like Regionals and Nationals).

I know people on the IRC are talking about this, but there seems to be some disagreement over how much geography there should be. Personally, I don't really care. I am fine with 1/1, or alternating between 1/0 and 0/1. I do not think geography should be eliminated from ACF, but I wouldn't really matter to me if it did. If geography were to be decreased, it should be replaced with something else academic. RMP and Social Science would seem the most logical replacement.

Also, I don't know if it matters to anyone, but I am a urban studies major, and a geography minor. I have taken 4 geography classes, and five urban studies classes. Urban Studies can be best described as a subdivision of the geography department at Minnesota. One thing I have noticed is that not much of my geography knowledge comes from the classes I have taken.

The classes I have taken have given me some history and social science knowledge. (Baron Haussmann, Jane Jacobs, Saul Alinsky, William Julius Wilson, Robert Putnam, 7th century Islamic history, Jane Byrne). I am also planning on taking at least two more geography classes, (Biogeography, and Geographic Information Systems), and I doubt these will help me much with quiz bowl geography.

I don't mean to make it sound like bragging about what I have learned in school, but I thought I would point this out.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Cheynem »

Urban Studies is awesome. If you can somehow get Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk into the canon, that would be great.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

Strongside wrote:Also, I don't know if it matters to anyone, but I am a urban studies major, and a geography minor. I have taken 4 geography classes, and five urban studies classes. Urban Studies can be best described as a subdivision of the geography department at Minnesota. One thing I have noticed is that not much of my geography knowledge comes from the classes I have taken.

The classes I have taken have given me some history and social science knowledge. (Baron Haussmann, Jane Jacobs, Saul Alinsky, William Julius Wilson, Robert Putnam, 7th century Islamic history, Jane Byrne). I am also planning on taking at least two more geography classes, (Biogeography, and Geographic Information Systems), and I doubt these will help me much with quiz bowl geography.

I don't mean to make it sound like bragging about what I have learned in school, but I thought I would point this out.
Yeah, urban planning really sits at the odd nexus of geography, social science, and architecture, and could go really into any of those baskets. (I'd actually put Hausmann in history, fwiw.) I'm a fan of using that material to write geography questions that are more relevant and interesting than your standard atlas fare, especially since SS is so underrepresented as it is- I know I've mentioned this before, but take a look at the "Oregon" tossup I wrote for TIT for an example of what I think is a really good way to get this material in the canon (and improve geography questions to boot).
Cheynem wrote:Urban Studies is awesome. If you can somehow get Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk into the canon, that would be great.
I'll do my best!

Also: Jane Jacobs is super-important and should be the go-to urban planner/theorist in quizbowl instead of Lewis Mumford, who is also important I guess but nowhere near as well known or influential in the real world. I was heartened to see her come up at ICT.

edit: words
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:
Cheynem wrote:Urban Studies is awesome. If you can somehow get Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk into the canon, that would be great.
I'll do my best!

Also: Jane Jacobs is super-important and should be the go-to urban planner in quizbowl instead of Lewis Mumford, who is also important I guess but nowhere near as well known or influential in the real world. I was heartened to see her come up at ICT.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Strongside »

Some more things about logistics.

After reading the thread and seeing what was said on the IRC, I have better idea what happened.

I don't think anyone has mentioned this, but two of the rooms with buzzer problems were in Eliot 102 and Eliot 103. Those buzzers both belonged to Maryland, and I remember Chris Ray said that they were backup buzzers in their car or something like that that they brought only because they were short on buzzers, and they weren't deliberately using broken buzzers, but just bringing what they had.

As for the refusing to play thing on Sunday Morning, Chicago was okay playing us without working buzzers, but me and Hart didn't want to play on malfunctioning buzzers, and I know at least one person from Illinois didn't. I didn't want ACF Nationals to be decided on whether I buzzed in before someone on the other team yelled buzz. The delays were really unfortunate, although I do agree a few unexpected things came up.

The main problem I see with this is that it hurts ACF's reputation and image. I am not a member of ACF, and I haven't edited any ACF Tournaments, but if I were hypothetically trying to convince someone to come to ACF Nationals next year, I couldn't avoid the fact that.

1. The tournament started over an hour late both days.

2. There were not enough working buzzers.

3. The top four teams (according to the January poll), had to wait over half an hour to play round one of the playoffs on Sunday due to a lack of working buzzers.

I know that Matt admitted his mistakes, and I am willing to let him off the hook for this one. Even though he has messed up in the past, he has done a lot of great things for quiz bowl.

As for what could have been done better, two things that haven't been talked about.

I know that the bracket that played their games in Siegel had all four of the one person teams, and a two person team. It might have been better to switch the buzzer systems that only had 5 or 6 working buzzers there. If that building had buzzers that didn't work, this might not have worked. Also, did anyone have a contact number for McMaster? If not ACF should make sure to do this in the future.

The logistic problems with this year's ICT, combined with the ACF Regionals packets being done on time are a serious problem if ACF wants to take itself seriously. The last three days I played ACF, I had to wait around 4 hours between when the tournament was supposed to start, and when it started. Like I said after Regionals, this stuff doesn't bother me much, but it is not good. I don't know what should be done, but since ACF's success is important to good quiz bowl, something should be changed.
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Matt Weiner wrote: There were huge problems with this tournament. Many of them were my fault. Others were not. Jerry missing his plane was no one's fault but his own for scheduling a flight on razor-thin time margins. I am interested in helping analyze the real problems and developing suggestions for next year's Nationals TD on how to avoid repeating them. I am not interested in exchanging a volley of namecalling with Jerry over the air travel thing. I will stand by everything in this paragraph as long as needed.
I'm not sure how much of Jerry's rage is fueled by his missing his flight. I took for granted that the tournament wouldn't possibly finish by 1, and insisted that my teammates get flights which left in the evening, so this wasn't an issue for us. In any event, I think it would be helpful if we could focus on what Matt correctly describes as the "huge problems" with this tournament, and not allow the usual distractions of "I liked/disliked [this one question]" or "I am really delighted/incensed about [this one thing that happened]" get in the way of a substantive breakdown of the tournament.

Here are two of the "huge problems" which particularly upset me:

1. Question difficulty which was so variable that it significantly influenced the outcome of games. This is a fundamental problem of packet quality, and is inexcusable in an event of the caliber of ACF nationals. I've discussed this already, but I'll add here that I suspect that it was related to another problem, which I'll sum up as:

2. Insouciant tournament direction. Matt has been involved with a lot of tournaments, and he's known that he was going to be editing this year's nationals for quite some time. Given those facts, I don't really understand how it can be the case that the tournament was apparently substantially unwritten as recently as a couple of weeks ago; that the first day's packets were only finished a few hours before the tournament was scheduled to get underway, and the second day's packets had to be finished Saturday night; and that so many people had to be exhorted at the last minute to pitch in just so the set could be finished. I don't know whether Matt was overconfident, or delusional, or what, but this is absurd. Similarly, it boggles my imagination that someone with as much experience as Matt would just presume that teams would spontaneously provide all the buzzer systems the tournament would need, which resulted in ACF nationals games being played as "slap bowl." (And if Mike Sorice hadn't saved the day by showing up at the last minute with a bunch of buzzers, there would have been no choice but to have half the games be played without buzzers.)
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Matt Weiner wrote:This post doesn't seem like an honest attempt to find out what went wrong and why if it contains such statements. You can't just make assertions and then dismiss the evidence that those assertions are wrong with "I don't care."
What is there in that post that I need to care about? Your high school tournaments mean nothing to me, and the communication breakdown between you and WUSTL is a problem I can't be expected to diagnose.
This is exactly what I did.
That's not what happened in our room at all. We had a moderator run out and come back several times and then a bunch of dudes come in and check emails before we finally got started. It was close to 10 when I called you and specifically asked you if I could come down and get the packet on a flash disk and you said no. This happened.
You did absolutely no such thing. Question quality issues aside, the Illinois tournament (notably not directed by me, in any case) started on time, as I have just confirmed with various people who staffed and played it. Quit making things up.
Yeah, I totally confused that with Regionals. Edited and retracted above.
The tiebreaker schedule was announced several days earlier and in the morning on Saturday. Teams were told they could leave after Round 13. It was completely impossible to go back on that decision halfway through Saturday games and it's unreasonable that you really think I could have done so.
It was entirely possible to do tiebreakers that day. The notion that delaying teams by another half hour constitutes some sort of impossibility is absurd.
The reason was that WUSTL set up the buzzers in the wrong rooms despite myself and Zeke specifically telling them which rooms to set them up in five times.
Did everyone at WUSTL get retarded between Saturday and Sunday or what? Saturday there were working buzzers and Sunday there weren't? Maybe trusting idiots isn't the best plan then.
I said that "gameplay" for this tournament would end at 1 PM; I didn't even say whether that meant general playoffs or the finals, and the finals ended at 2:15. If you have never heard of a tournament running one hour late before, or if you think the example of every other event you have attended is something you "don't care" about, that is your problem. You shouldn't have booked a flight with no room for error.
This is the single most disingenuous statement I've read concerning tournament direction ever. If you tell me that gameplay is projected to end at 1, that means ALL gameplay, not whatever you define as gameplay after the fact because you got called on inexcusable delays. You are literally redefining words to suit your argument.

There was no excuse for things not to happen on time either on Saturday or on Sunday. There is no excuse not to start in a timely manner or not to have teams show up a little earlier for the second day if you think there might be delays. The Saturday delays did not explicitly cause my missed flight, but they are a direct symptom of the rampant incompetence that was involved in the running of this event.
I'm dumb for relying too much on the local staff, but I'm also dumb for acting "in an autocratic manner"? This is nonsense.
These can both be true and you damn well know it. You basically acted like you had everything under control when in fact the tournament was falling apart underneath you.
There were huge problems with this tournament. Many of them were my fault. Others were not. Jerry missing his plane was no one's fault but his own for scheduling a flight on razor-thin time margins. I am interested in helping analyze the real problems and developing suggestions for next year's Nationals TD on how to avoid repeating them. I am not interested in exchanging a volley of namecalling with Jerry over the air travel thing. I will stand by everything in this paragraph as long as needed.
You had 6 rounds to run, with all the teams already being in place, and no possible source of delay other than the ineptitude of the staff. Your tournament was a logistical failure and your inability to coordinate things properly directly caused the delays that led to my subsequent problems. I haven't seen any evidence that contradicts this assertion and a lot of evidence for it, as well as plenty of instances of you all of a sudden eager to take the high road of civil discourse when the tide of the evidence is clearly against you.

I stand by my statement that ACF needs serious internal reform; in particular, I intend to push for serious transparency measures in both the editing, bidding, and writing process to make sure that we never see this kind of thing happen again.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

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Habitat_Against_Humanity
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity »

To echo Andrew's sentiment about bonus difficulty, I'd like to know what the hell a Schrodinger's Cat bonus part was doing in a non-ACF Fall tournament. Given, I was on a team that had gaps in its knowledge one could drive a truck through whose conversion was around 10PPB, but it seems to me that if you use both Schrodinger's Cat and say, Clebsch-Gordan coefficients as the "easy" parts of a physics bonus, something is not quite right in what is understood to be appropriate difficulty.
On the whole though, I thought the questions were quite decent. The questions in general certainly exceeded my expectations. No matter how much editing goes into a tournament, there will always be a few questions that just seem plain wacky (cf. climate, etc.). However, Andrew is certainly correct in asserting that there were wild swings in difficulty from packet to packet which easily could have affected the outcomes of matches.
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UChicago 09
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Cheynem
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Cheynem »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: that the first day's packets were only finished a few hours before the tournament was scheduled to get underway, and the second day's packets had to be finished Saturday night; and that so many people had to be exhorted at the last minute to pitch in just so the set could be finished. I don't know whether Matt was overconfident, or delusional, or what, but this is absurd.
Can I ask where this idea is coming from? I have heard of some people chipping in some freelance questions down the stretch, but I was unaware that the packets were finished right on Saturday and Saturday night (at least to the extent this is suggesting--Matt has admitted a handful of tossups were written on Saturday night for the finals on Sunday). I mean, this idea has been repeated by a few people, but I hadn't even heard of it until these posts.

Also, yes, logistics were not the strongest part of this tournament. But the idea that it "was falling apart" around Matt seems somewhat exaggerated. I deeply sympathize with Jerry for the travel disaster and delays, but there was a lot of good about ACF Nationals that I hope doesn't get hidden.
Last edited by Cheynem on Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: But we zeroed a string of "Chicago Open or beyond" bonuses (on, e.g., Burmese history and obscure geoscience), while they 20'd and 30'd a string of much easier bonuses (on, e.g., the poetry of Robert Browning, where "My Last Duchess" from obvious clues would have gotten most high school teams an easy 10).
The Burmese history question had a part about SLORC, which seemed well below "Chicago or beyond" difficulty. SLORC has been a tossup answer at past tournaments, I believe.
Eric D.
University of South Carolina Alum

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OctagonJoe
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Re: ACF Nationals discussion

Post by OctagonJoe »

Cheynem wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote: that the first day's packets were only finished a few hours before the tournament was scheduled to get underway, and the second day's packets had to be finished Saturday night; and that so many people had to be exhorted at the last minute to pitch in just so the set could be finished. I don't know whether Matt was overconfident, or delusional, or what, but this is absurd.
Can I ask where this idea is coming from? I have heard of some people chipping in some freelance questions down the stretch, but I was unaware that the packets were finished right on Saturday and Saturday night (at least to the extent this is suggesting--Matt has admitted a handful of tossups were written on Saturday night for the finals on Sunday). I mean, this idea has been repeated by a few people, but I hadn't even heard of it until these posts.
Having worked on the tournament in a non-editing/non-writing role, I can still say that, by late Friday night/Saturday morning, almost every packet was done. I think 4 packets (all of them intended for play on Sunday) had around 1-5 or so questions not finished, and these were all finished by sometime early Saturday evening, with randomizing taking place later in the night. Perhaps it's not ideal to finish this last minute (although secondhand knowledge leads me to believe that this is not uncommon), but the tournament was finished well in time for play.
Carsten Gehring
Wayzata HS '08 | Carleton College '12 | Denver Publishing Institute '12
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