ACF distribution

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ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Now that the last ACF tournament of the year is over, I wanted to bring up something that's been bugging me a bit: the new
ACF distribution. I believe the distribution changed just this past year, and I think the only change was that social science was reduced from 2/2 to 1/1 in favor of adding 1/1 geography (which used to be rolled in with the 1/1 trash/current events/your choice). In addition, there's this qbwiki page that specifies a distribution with 1/1 geography in the first 20/20 of every ACF packet. I'm not really sure how official this 20/20 distribution is (I'm pretty sure there were packets at ACF Nats that didn't follow that distribution, for instance), but if that's really meant to be the guideline for assembling packets I'd like to see it change.

The main argument I remember in favor of the change was that it's very hard to get a good set full of 2/2 social science at lower levels (say, regular and below), and it's relatively easy to get good (or at least acceptable) geography. I sympathize with that, but a) it seems to me that the distribution could go back to 2/2 and this would make it easier for editors to fill out at least 1/1 good social science per packet at lower levels, and b) I think higher-level tournaments shouldn't have much of a problem including more than 1/1 good social science per packet. If people are worried that lower-level teams will struggle to write 2/2 social science, I'd be fine with going to 1/1 social science, 1/1 trash/geography/current events/your choice, and 1/1 your choice (but not trash/geography/current events). I'd also be fine with having slightly different distributions for lower-level and higher-level events.

I'm not too concerned about the distribution of the first 20/20 of each packet--there was some variation between packets at ACF Nationals and no one seems to be complaining about that, so I suspect no one else really cares about this either. If people do care and want to see a very rigid distribution for the first 20/20, speak up.

I'll admit up front that I don't like geography questions. I find them boring (even the ones in the HI set failed to change my opinion); I'm almost never convinced after listening to a geography question that I just heard about something particularly important or memorable. In the post-ICT discussion thread people complained about the amount of geography in NAQT sets. At this point NAQT has 5.3% geography; ACF has either 5% (if the 1/1 in the first 20/20 is the official guideline) or just over 4% (if it's 1/1 in a packet of 24/24 and every question has an equal chance of making it into the first 20/20--which doesn't seem to be the case). I think ACF Nationals did have 1/1 geography in the first 20/20 of each packet, but I could be wrong about that. Anyway, my impression is that a large number of people would prefer to see geography deferred in favor of more social science/RMP/fine arts, especially at higher-level events. I'd actually be fine with deferring geography in favor of an occasional 13th question on history/literature/science in the first 20/20--I'm not particular about what would replace the 1/1 geography.

I'll give a concrete proposal in case people want something to react to: I propose a 24/24 packet distribution of 5/5 each history, literature, and science; 3/3 each fine arts and RMP; 1/1 each social science, your choice academic (no geography, trash, or current events), and your choice (anything). Of those, the first 20/20 gets 4/4 each history, literature, and science; 2/2 each fine arts and RMP; 1/1 social science; and 3/3 whatever the editor likes best of the remaining questions. There should be some restrictions so people don't wind up writing social science for your choice academic and your choice, or writing 7/7 science or whatever, and so editors don't wind up putting 6/6 history in the first 20/20.

What do other people think?

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Each ACF Nationals packet certainly had 1/1 geography in the 20. Very rarely (perhaps twice?) we substituted an additional RMP or art question for one of the trash questions; more often (four times?) I put in a current events question there.

My opinion in general is that it is time to cut geography as a required category in ACF. I agree with the gist of Seth's criticism, and I'll further state that I went into two things this past month with an open mind: the allegedly new and exciting way of writing geography for HI, which I experienced as a player, and the editing of geography for ACF Nationals, which was done by me. In both cases I came out convinced that even well-meaning, competent people simply cannot produce geography questions that are interesting and important. Intriguingly, I asked Jeff Hoppes of all people whether he would support eliminating geography as its own category, provided that 1 history question per packet heavily involved the role of geography in some historical event, and unless I am severely misunderstanding his response, he said that yes, he would support that.

After vacillating on this for a while, I think I would prefer to leave social science and trash at 1/1 each and use the extra questions reclaimed by cutting the 1/1 geo to make both arts and RMP 3/3 every round. I still think the relative paucity of accessible religion and philosophy answers means that category needs to be shrunk a bit at, say, the high school level, and it may be a little challenging to fill out the 3/3 for ACF Fall, but at any difficulty level past that it should work.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

I was going to post something, but I think that Matt has pretty much summed everything up. 3/3 RMP should be standard for all ACF packets, unless something goes horribly wrong with answer choice.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

I don't know if we want to factor distributional justice into this decision, but if you eliminate 1/1 geography, then I argue that the player who would have gotten points off that 1/1 geography is more likely to get those same points on SS or RMP than on Fine Arts. So if you take that 10 points from Geo to FA, you are redistributing that 10 PPG to a completely different specialist on many teams (e.g., if a full Geo -> FA transformation goes through, Dallas Simon's PPG will decrease by 10, and Ted Gioia's will increase by 10, whereas with Geo -> SS/RMP Dallas will hold on to a far larger portion of that 10 PPG, though he may lose a smaller amount to me or Andy).

I know nothing about Fine Arts (so there is some self-interest here on my part, I'll fully admit -- as there likely is on Seth's part because he is not a particularly good geo player), but I do think that both RMP and SS could withstand a fair bit of expansion. There are important things that don't get asked about in both categories that could be worked into the canon.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker »

I'm on board with Seth's proposal. I want to see a reduction in geography for the same reasons as he does and a corresponding increase in the social science distribution. I also think that, at least for playoff rounds of ACF Nationals, trash should be eliminated altogether. Those games are typically so close that they are often decided by a single tossup or bonus and I don't think the premiere academic quizbowl tournament of the year should be succeptible to having games decided on trash questions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I think geography is an important and interesting category and I actually enjoy most geo tossups (even though I don't do well on them). That said, they are difficult to write, they tend to either turn into buzzer races or lateral fests, and a lot of people, including those with far more credibility than me, hate them.

One possibility I have heard before, which Matt basically is getting at, is to sort of cannibalize geography into the other parts of the distribution--i.e., encourage or require substantial geographical answers/clues in at least one of the history, earth science, or social science (in terms of "human geography") categories. For that matter, current events and trash could utilize geography clues/answers as well. In this case, the amorphous "Your Choice" of Current Events, Trash, Whatever would require a geo-focused answer. To sum up, this would basically entail that a packet must have a question with geography-flavored content, but it does not necessarily have to be "straight" geography (i.e., a tossup on a mountain using clues about battles fought there, a tossup on a geological feature using geographical examples, a tossup on a city landmark based on its appearances in films). Perhaps this is somewhat ludicrous (especially the last part), but I think this would resolve a great deal of the "what to write for in terms of geography...better dig out those almanac and Wikipedia clues").

I also would argue not for a complete elimination of trash in Nats playoffs, but perhaps a little more care taken in answer selection. For instance, due to its critical importance, I think the "Sullivan's Travels" bonus in the finals round was okay, while the Vh1 TV shows bonus was on shakier ground. I suppose this is rather elitist though.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Frater Taciturnus »

grapesmoker wrote:I also think that, at least for playoff rounds of ACF Nationals, trash should be eliminated altogether. Those games are typically so close that they are often decided by a single tossup or bonus and I don't think the premiere academic quizbowl tournament of the year should be succeptible to having games decided on trash questions.
Jerry, I see where you are coming from on this, but I think that would require the removal of pop culture from ACF nationals on the whole (which I'm sure a bunch of people probably wouldn't mind anyway), as I don't think a distribution should change mid-tournament. On the whole I agree with this idea.
Last edited by Frater Taciturnus on Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Sullivan's Travels was counted as arts; anything with legitimate importance will be so, and not trash. I never really understood the notion of some trash being trashier than other trash in academic tournaments; ultimately, there isn't actually any difference between Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga besides quality, and if that's the standard we'd better not ask about Sutton Griggs anymore either.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

If we end up collapsing out geography and trash both, then we'd have 20/20 to work with for big three, RMP, fine arts, and social science. it's hard to say how this ought to be divided, but I'd support (for higher level tournaments, which could sustain it)

12/12 big three
3/3 RMP
3/3 FA
1/1 SS (slight bias towards ec/psych/ling for these)
1/1 more SS (strong bias towards socio/anthro/law for these) or phil

So at high level tournaments that could actually sustain 1/1 phil out of RMP, there would probably be three phil and three SS per packet, four RM, six FA, and big three untouched.

At lower level tournaments you might want to make each of the big three nine questions instead of eight, then add the extra tu or bonus to either RMP or FA, depending on which seems more "empty" (subdistributionally imbalanced, say), so you might have

27 big three
5 or 6 RMP
6 or 5 FA
2 SS
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Strongside »

Here is a distribution that I think would be good at Future ACF Nats

4/4 Literature
4/4 Science
4/4 History
3/3 Arts
3/2 or 2/3 RMP
2/1 or 1/2 SS
1/0 or 0/1 Geography
1/0 or 0/1 Trash
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat »

I've been thinking about this since the last geography thread, and I would support changing geography questions into geography-related answers in something like the history distribution as Matt suggested.
I am relatively good at atlas-type geo, but the important part of geography is not just knowing the physical features of some location. Knowing the nearby mountains/rivers/etc. is helpful for understanding the history of a region, but that history is the relevant part. A mountain that was the site of numerous battles is far more important than one that happens to be tall.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker »

Frater Taciturnus wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I also think that, at least for playoff rounds of ACF Nationals, trash should be eliminated altogether. Those games are typically so close that they are often decided by a single tossup or bonus and I don't think the premiere academic quizbowl tournament of the year should be succeptible to having games decided on trash questions.
Jerry, I see where you are coming from on this, but I think that would require the removal of pop culture from ACF nationals on the whole (which I'm sure a bunch of people probably wouldn't mind anyway), as I don't think a distribution should change mid-tournament. On the whole I agree with this idea.
I certainly would shed no tears at the demise of trash in Nationals packets.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I do not entirely agree with the confusion over "trashier" trash. On a purely elitist, academic level, there is a difference between Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga, quality aside. If I go to the academic database JSTOR, for example (as I just did), and type in "Lady Gaga," I get about 50 hits, none of them really having to do with the singer Lady Gaga. If I type in "Bob Dylan," i get over 2,000 hits. The first page of stuff (80 or so articles) is all academic articles about Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is studied and written about in academia more than Lady Gaga. I don't know if that's a valid way of assessing "trashier trash," but that would be one way of looking at it.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by cvdwightw »

I would like geography to stay in the sets; though I can't find a good reason why, it seems that entirely eliminating geography would be a not-good idea, and I highly suspect that lumping it in with trash will result in zero geography questions as people would vastly prefer to write trash (see what's happened with current events in recent years). I would like to see 2/2 "social science and geography" (at least one question on psychology or economics, at least one question on sociology/anthropology/linguistics/law/etc., at least one question on geography, the fourth question can be additional social science or geography).

18/18 or 18/18 of the first 20/20 should be 4/4 hist, 4/4 lit, 4/4 sci, 3/2 or 2/3 arts, 3/2 or 2/3 RMP, 1/1 SS. If there is no "geography-related history," then add 1/0 or 0/1 geo. The remaining 1/2, 2/1, or 2/2 should be zero to one question trash and two to three questions from CE, geo, SS, RMP, and arts (no more than one extra per category). I believe this will allow flexibility such that ACF editors aren't completely rewriting, say, poor SS when perfectly serviceable arts and CE are in the packet. I believe it will also allow people to write and play on good academic current events, a topic that (though I rarely answer questions in that category) I find criminally underrepresented at ACF events.

I would be hesitant to eliminate trash in Fall sets, though it may be a good idea to do so at Nationals.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Important Bird Area »

Matt Weiner wrote:Intriguingly, I asked Jeff Hoppes of all people whether he would support eliminating geography as its own category, provided that 1 history question per packet heavily involved the role of geography in some historical event, and unless I am severely misunderstanding his response, he said that yes, he would support that.
Exactly right, Matt. I think geography clues have a place in quizbowl, and should have a minimum of 1/1 or so per packet. But given the recent trend toward including historical and cultural clues in geography questions, I'm not sure I see an argument for defending geography's existence as a top-level category. (That is, geographic clues can and should find a home in history or social science or your choice/academic or wherever. And since many players dislike "cross-distribution" giveaways, the logical tendency is for a fixed geography distribution to be dominated by questions with exclusively "atlas clues," which are often uninteresting and therefore unpopular.)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Magister Ludi »

I find it unconvincing that we should change the geography distribution based solely on a few players' personal reactions to the category.
In this thread Seth's only real argument against geography is: "I find them boring . . . [and] I'm almost never convinced after listening to a geography question that I just heard about something particularly important or memorable." This argument says little about geography as a category, but rather tells us what Seth finds personally interesting. Matt later comments, "people simply cannot produce geography questions that are interesting and important." Once again this argument does not invalidate geography questions, but simply shows that Matt doesn't find geography questions important.

Many have asserted that they personally find geography is boring and unimportant. However, by using this criterion, if a even a few people find geography questions interesting or important then geography should be kept. This thread seems to be an attempt to hurriedly force geography out of the distribution by appealing to the many people who personally geography questions. Before we can make this move I think we need to establish a few criterion. First we need to define what dictates the ACF distribution.
1- Is it decided by what the majority of people find personally interesting? If this criterion is valid, and we decide to usher out geography because several people find it uninteresting then in the spirit of fairness every category in the ACF distribution needs to opened up for a popularity vote to decide the distribution. If such a vote came about you better believe I'd be voting for 0/0 science a packet because I find science incredibly uninteresting.
2- If the ACF distribution is decided by what subjects are inherently "important" then we need to agree as a community on a definition of what important means. While Seth, Matt, or Jerry find geography important, Dallas finds geography to be an incredibly important subject and field of study in his life. Do the opinions of a few community elders on what subjects are "important" outweigh the opinions of other players? I want someone who opposes geography to explain why geography questions are inherently unimportant. Many people seem to take objection to the type of list clues that appear in geography questions, but these same clues appear in all questions. Maybe no one buzzes on the substance clues in Kyle's geography questions for HI, but those important and interesting clues are in the question. For example very few people might buzz on the substance clues of the Jerome K. Jerome tossup at ACF Nats and answer the tossup from a title, but the fact most people get the question from a title does not invalidate the question as unimportant. Also, if we decide that importance is the primary criterion for deciding the distribution I hope we can finally abolish trash questions, which seem to be a remnant of crappy formats that only remains because people find them funn.

There are many people who enjoy geography questions and find them important. While the majority may want to usher geography from the distribution, I think it sets a bad precedent to kick out geography without first establishing the key criterion for deciding all aspects of the ACF distribution and accordingly applying these criterion to re-evaluate the distributions in all categories (especially trash).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by at your pleasure »

I will reply by asking the following question. Is "atlas knowledge" interesting in and of itself, or is it principally interesting for its relevance to other subjects? If the former is the case, atlas geography should be retained; if the latter is the case, it should not be retained.
EDIT: retained as an independent category, that is.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Distribution again! We just keep returning to it, like a dog to our vomit.

Anyway, Jerry makes a more novel point about trash in Nats - I agree with him; I think we should limit trash in Nats but not completely get rid of it. I think having 1/1 trash is fine for Chi Open or any other open academic event, but at the flagship academic tourney of the year, we should rein it in. And, yeah, on distro - you know where I stand, more social science and other arts, less forced geography and religion.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Yeah, I like Ted's argument. My notional post-geography distribution shouldn't actually be taken as a vote in favor of excising geography. Instead, I think it's very important that we understand why we put things in packets in the first place. (Which is why I created that distribution thread a while ago.)

To follow Ted's model, I'll try to enumerate as many criteria as I can to justify a subject's inclusion in a distribution.

1) x is "academically important." This requires a definition and a justification of a definition of academic importance. Moreover, to justify excluding a category via the negative of this criterion, you'd think we'd have to boot trash as well.

2) x is "important to know about" in some weaker sense, like an appeal to cultural literacy. This (sort of) justifies the inclusion of trash, and it necessarily justifies geography.

3) x is something players can answer questions on while being written in a good, pyramidal style. This is the most pragmatic reason for including a subject, i.e. that it'll be converted and result in people hearing bonuses. If the fact that geography questions include atlas clues you can reflex buzz on makes you say that geography cannot be written in a good style, then you must also boot all lit questions with titles or character names or place names. I claim that geography does not inherently have more reflex buzz clues. Kyle's human geography would give you points either on current events or geography knowledge and touched on very important issues; I'm sure they bore some people, but that doesn't make them worthy of excision.

3) x is easy to write a good question on. A seductive argument against geography is that it so frequently is screwed up by so many writers that, even though it's entirely possible to write a great geography question, there's no reason to keep it in just for pragmatic reasons. (This echoes arguments made in the IHSA States thread about how it's reasonable to excise some categories not because they're dumb, but because we can't trust the IHSA to do them well.) I wouldn't be surprised if 80% of writers can't write a science tossup that doesn't irritate me in some small way, and perhaps 90% can't write one that doesn't irritate someone with deep knowledge, like Sorice. If the argument that science is hard to write isn't enough to oust it, it isn't enough to oust geography, either.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:And, yeah, on distro - you know where I stand, more social science and other arts, less forced geography and religion.
I would like more social science and other arts too, and I am not wedded to geography, but "less forced religion"--you mean, like that gaping 1/1 which frequently just turns into an additional myth or philosophy question? I can't agree with that at all. But therein lies the nub of the problem--you're not going to find topics in the distro that everyone would like to see less of.

Also, while I see nothing wrong with having trash remain, if you're going to yank something out to give to RMP, Fine Arts, etc., you should yank trash before geography.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by magin »

Honestly, I think the people calling for eliminating geography are being a little disingenuous. It's not really surprising to me that, say, Seth and Jerry don't want to hear geography questions, because their teams aren't good at them. Similarly, it's also not surprising to me that Ted and Andy are defending geography, because they play on a team with Dallas, who is very good at geography.

I think it would be more productive to use this thread to explore how to write better geography questions (certainly, it's very easy to write a bad geography question right out of an almanac, but it's also very easy to write a bad science question, or a bad literature question, or a bad arts question, for that matter).

I believe that clues like minor tributaries of a river, ascents of a mountain, and so forth aren't very interesting clues and rely on memorization. What kind of geography clues do I enjoy, personally? I like clues about important/interesting places in a city/country (that rewards people who have actually been there). I also like clues about ethnic groups in a country/near a river, or clues about the effects of a sea/lake/river on nearby inhabitants. For mountains, I think writing tossups on mountain chains are much preferable to tossups on individual mountains, which usually just mention ways to climb them, historical ascents of it, and so on, which I find quite boring. However, I'm sure that there are enough clues about mountain ranges that would tell something interesting about how they affected people living near them. I also believe that if people make an effort to use these clues in geography questions, players would enjoy geography more. From personal experience, finding clues about the interactions between people and their environment has been very informative and much more interesting than simply knowing where a thing is (which is a very boring way to ask about geography).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by cchiego »

I get where a lot of the concern over geography's coming from, but I think that's largely a function of boring answer selection and the lack of interesting clues that people use when writing geography. I don't think it's necessarily hard to write a good tossup on Geography, but it does take a different kind of interdisciplinary mindset.

Answer selection: We shouldn't be writing tossups on things like the Colorado River of Texas or most of the random rivers of Russia; that's really unimportant. Some rivers are more important than others: for instance, I would not oppose an ACF Nats TU on the Mississippi River as there's actually a lot of interesting fluvial and geographic info out there about it, as well as some cultural references too. I liked the ICT TU on South Pass, since it was a geographical location that featured a good bit of history (I bet it was classified as a history TU, which is fine, but you probably could also write about other important passes using a good number of history or cultural clues).

Interesting Clues: Even when you have a pretty decent choice for a TU answer, it's important to include interesting and relevant clues. For instance, you could write a TU on Mauritania stating its highest and lowest points, some random towns, some random ethnic groups, and concluding with FTP name this West African Country with capital Nouakchoatt. That's probably the stereotypical geography question, and I'll agree it's boring although somewhat important.

If you do a bit more research, you can stock the question full of interesting clues like the world's longest train travels back and forth from a significant mine at Zourade. There's also the geologically interesting Richat structure as well as some ecologically significant plateaus that hold some of the last populations of desert crocodiles. Mauritanian culture also has a trend of force-feeding obesity which would be culturally significant and has gotten some press coverage lately, plus there was a recent coup and problems with water.

I count one semi-economic clue (the mine), one geology clue (Richat structure), one ecology clue (desert crocodiles), one anthropological clue (force-feeding), and one political clue (recent coup). Now that plus some regular geography clues would equal a pretty awesome tossup, in my opinion. It's geographically based, but expands into other areas.

The thing is, this kind of question can't be classified elsewhere under things like "historical geography" or even the earth science subdistribution. I'm probably the circuit's biggest fan of dramatically increasing the number of geography TUs that include solid geology clues since it's much easier to do that than try to clutter the science distribution with too much geology.

Geography should stay, but it should definitely be expanded outside the realm of almanac clues and into a much more interdisciplinary category. I'd prefer cutting something like trash out of ACF entirely first before you moved against geography. I like the idea of more R and M or SS, but I'd rather get rid of the entirely unacademic things before moving onto the "Quasi" academic stuff. I'd be fine with a 1/1 "quasi-academic" distribution of Current Events, Politics, and Geography and expanding SS by 1/1 instead while getting rid of trash entirely.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Cheynem wrote:Also, while I see nothing wrong with having trash remain, if you're going to yank something out to give to RMP, Fine Arts, etc., you should yank trash before geography.
Particularly because, like, there are trash tournaments--increasingly many of them. There aren't geography tournaments. If you find the study of trash enjoyable or important, there is a venue for that. Not so for geography.

Also, there have been some arguments with respect to the "easy to write" argument that this is a reason to support trash over geography. While the question of whether geography is hard to write isn't enough to force it out of the distribution, I don't think, if you are going to (unfortunately) make a decision on those grounds, trash ought to be moved out sooner. It's certainly not harder to write a pyramidal trash tossup--that is certain. But difficulty control, particularly when you're writing trash for an academic tournament where everyone's interest in trash is more variable than people at a trash tournament, is a pain in the ass.

EDIT: I'll openly admit to supporting geography in part because it supports Dallas and therefore Harvard, but also because I genuinely believe that geography has a place in the game and can be studied and written about academically: conversations with Kyle have convinced me of that. And I very firmly believe that trash ought to be eliminated long before geography, unless we start writing trash questions with academic pop culture criticism clues.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Chris, those clues are all interesting but the reality is that nobody is going to be buzzing off of those, so in order to write a good, fair question you would probably have to pick 1 or 2 of those clues and then get into the other stuff that people are complaining about (although I love love love those geography questions, keep 'em coming).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by OctagonJoe »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:I believe that clues like minor tributaries of a river, ascents of a mountain, and so forth aren't very interesting clues and rely on memorization. What kind of geography clues do I enjoy, personally? I like clues about important/interesting places in a city/country (that rewards people who have actually been there).
Going off this point, one of my teammates has lived in India and South Africa and has travelled to many places in Africa and South Asia, so he often will remark after getting a geography tossup that he's been to the clue on a family vacation or that his house isn't far away from the answerline. While I'm no fan of geography, I do think it can be important to certain people in an academically valuable way, much like science can be to scientists and history to others. However, I probably wouldn't shed a tear if geography (and/or trash) lost part or all of their place in the distribution.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:Honestly, I think the people calling for eliminating geography are being a little disingenuous. It's not really surprising to me that, say, Seth and Jerry don't want to hear geography questions, because their teams aren't good at them. Similarly, it's also not surprising to me that Ted and Andy are defending geography, because they play on a team with Dallas, who is very good at geography.
What is this, an invocation of Hill's Sour Grapes-Filled Tiger Carcass? Surely your implication that everyone is just making up positions to support their own competitive ends is both a logical fallacy and demonstrably untrue (see: noted best geography player ever Jeff Hoppes agreeing to severely modify the way geography is asked). It reminds me of that terrible argument about people who don't like math calculation tossups being "bad at math."
I like clues about important/interesting places in a city/country (that rewards people who have actually been there). I also like clues about ethnic groups in a country/near a river, or clues about the effects of a sea/lake/river on nearby inhabitants.... From personal experience, finding clues about the interactions between people and their environment has been very informative and much more interesting than simply knowing where a thing is (which is a very boring way to ask about geography).
I for one find the Charles Meigs style geography questions that devolve into rambling stories about taking illegal taxis to meet hookers in Dashkovuz to be tremendously entertaining to play on, but the reaction to Regionals and so on indicates that the vast majority of quizbowl does not share my opinion. My empirical point remains: people have tried to write "interesting geography" before without resorting to the Meigs tactic and failed (see: NAQT, Harvard International). Wishing for this to somehow change in the future without providing a reasonable guide on how it may do so seems overly quixotic.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by magin »

Matt Weiner wrote:
Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:Honestly, I think the people calling for eliminating geography are being a little disingenuous. It's not really surprising to me that, say, Seth and Jerry don't want to hear geography questions, because their teams aren't good at them. Similarly, it's also not surprising to me that Ted and Andy are defending geography, because they play on a team with Dallas, who is very good at geography.
What is this, an invocation of Hill's Sour Grapes-Filled Tiger Carcass? Surely your implications that everyone is just making up positions to support their own competitive ends is both a logical fallacy and demonstrably untrue (see: noted best geography player ever Jeff Hoppes agreeing to severely modify the way geography is asked). It reminds me of that terrible argument about people who don't like math calculation tossups being "bad at math."
This paragraph seems to betray a poor understanding of psychology. I do not believe that "everyone is just making up positions to support their own competitive ends"; I believe that Seth and Jerry's wish to eliminate geography is caused by their not enjoying geography questions, and that this position would be different if they played with teammates who were good at geography. Furthermore, it's my belief that self-interest plays a big part in these distribution debates, and will continue to do so. It's great that Jeff is willing to change his ideas about geography, considering his geography prowess, but I'm not convinced that he would agree if he were still playing regular-season tournaments. As Mark Twain quotes in "Corn-Pone Opinions," "You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
Matt Weiner wrote:
I like clues about important/interesting places in a city/country (that rewards people who have actually been there). I also like clues about ethnic groups in a country/near a river, or clues about the effects of a sea/lake/river on nearby inhabitants.... From personal experience, finding clues about the interactions between people and their environment has been very informative and much more interesting than simply knowing where a thing is (which is a very boring way to ask about geography).
I for one find the Charles Meigs style geography questions that devolve into rambling stories about taking illegal taxis to meet hookers in Dashkovuz to be tremendously entertaining to play on, but the reaction to Regionals and so on indicates that the vast majority of quizbowl does not share my opinion. My empirical point remains: people have tried to write "interesting geography" before without resorting to the Meigs tactic and failed (see: NAQT, Harvard International). Wishing for this to somehow change in the future without providing a reasonable guide on how it may do so seems overly quixotic.
Conflating the kinds of geography clues I would like to see with "Charles Meigs geography" is disingenuous. The geography questions at regionals had other problems, such as being too obscure or using clues that no one besides Charles would possibly know. I think Chris Chiego, in this thread, has provided a starting point to a "reasonable guide" by discussing non-almanac clues that would be interesting. I have too high of an opinion of the writers in quizbowl to just give up on geography instead of making a good-faith effort to write better geography questions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

I am currently studying for the AP Human Geography exam. There is a whole ton of cool, more social science-y geography related stuff that isn't just "FTP name this mountain" available, just from the syllabus of this course. Also, at least some of this stuff would be askable on the Fall level, because people learn this in high school. I think Bruce may have articulated a point somewhat like this in the past. How do people feel about geography like this?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

Much to the ire of my teammates, I enjoy human geography and would welcome questions on this. While the HI questions in this vein were of a mixed result, I actually felt there was a lot of potential there and as Lee Corso would say, "not so fast, my friend," in terms of declaring the experiment a failure.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Okay, I'm not for removing geography entirely from the canon, just reducing it in most tourneys primarily in favor of social science.

So, here are my views on how geography should be written: I understand the opposition to "almanac clues" - if you're just stating high/low points or heaven forbid listing altitudes or populations, you're writing a bad question. That said, I hate it when geography turns into Charles Meigs-style anecdotal rambling about minute facets of a particular city or country - I don't think geography should turn into "how much world travel have you done?" Unlike reading a book, most people can't pick up and go to Estonia, and I don't think geography tossups should be primarily concerned with rewarding them if they do (sure, having been in Estonia will undoubtedly help you with a tu on it - but I don't think it should be the goal to reward you for that trip).

Also, I think "atlas" clues are being discarded too quickly - if you know minor tributaries and small cities and mountains and natural formations and things like that, that's real knowledge. It's very questionable to call it boring or uninteresting, or express concern that it rewards "memorization" - for one thing, there ain't anything in qb which doesn't reward memorization - this is primarily a memorization game, if you intend to be any good at it. So, in summary, yes I'm against someone mindlessly learning to recite trivia like it's a list in an almanac, but I'm not against anyone possessing detailed information on things like physical geography.

And, let's just be realistic with new and exciting ways to write geography. Sure, sometimes there are: clues about historic monuments, places where historical events took place, earth science-ish clues on important formations, anthropological clues on tribes and customs, ecological clues on flora and fauna, and so on. Those are all great, but let's not bend over backwards to find a way to get them into questions - that will only create bad results - sure, use them when they're there, but don't invent them out of the ether just to avoid standard geography.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by SnookerUSF »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Distribution again! We just keep returning to it, like a dog to our vomit.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Magister Ludi wrote:I find it unconvincing that we should change the geography distribution based solely on a few players' personal reactions to the category.
In this thread Seth's only real argument against geography is: "I find them boring . . . [and] I'm almost never convinced after listening to a geography question that I just heard about something particularly important or memorable." This argument says little about geography as a category, but rather tells us what Seth finds personally interesting. Matt later comments, "people simply cannot produce geography questions that are interesting and important." Once again this argument does not invalidate geography questions, but simply shows that Matt doesn't find geography questions important.

Many have asserted that they personally find geography is boring and unimportant. However, by using this criterion, if a even a few people find geography questions interesting or important then geography should be kept. This thread seems to be an attempt to hurriedly force geography out of the distribution by appealing to the many people who personally geography questions. Before we can make this move I think we need to establish a few criterion. First we need to define what dictates the ACF distribution.
1- Is it decided by what the majority of people find personally interesting? If this criterion is valid, and we decide to usher out geography because several people find it uninteresting then in the spirit of fairness every category in the ACF distribution needs to opened up for a popularity vote to decide the distribution. If such a vote came about you better believe I'd be voting for 0/0 science a packet because I find science incredibly uninteresting.
2- If the ACF distribution is decided by what subjects are inherently "important" then we need to agree as a community on a definition of what important means. While Seth, Matt, or Jerry find geography important, Dallas finds geography to be an incredibly important subject and field of study in his life. Do the opinions of a few community elders on what subjects are "important" outweigh the opinions of other players? I want someone who opposes geography to explain why geography questions are inherently unimportant. Many people seem to take objection to the type of list clues that appear in geography questions, but these same clues appear in all questions. Maybe no one buzzes on the substance clues in Kyle's geography questions for HI, but those important and interesting clues are in the question. For example very few people might buzz on the substance clues of the Jerome K. Jerome tossup at ACF Nats and answer the tossup from a title, but the fact most people get the question from a title does not invalidate the question as unimportant. Also, if we decide that importance is the primary criterion for deciding the distribution I hope we can finally abolish trash questions, which seem to be a remnant of crappy formats that only remains because people find them funn.

There are many people who enjoy geography questions and find them important. While the majority may want to usher geography from the distribution, I think it sets a bad precedent to kick out geography without first establishing the key criterion for deciding all aspects of the ACF distribution and accordingly applying these criterion to re-evaluate the distributions in all categories (especially trash).
Going through in order:
If I really am one of a small handful of people with a strong negative reaction to geography, then I agree that it should stay at the lower levels; I think there would still be some arguments for cutting back on geography at higher levels. As I said before, my impression from playing lots of tournaments, observing teammates and other teams at those tournaments, and reading through lots of post-tournament commentaries (in particular, commentaries on NAQT tournaments) is that the "anti-geography crowd" is not a small handful of people lost in a sea of pro-geography players.

I'll try to advance some more arguments (beyond the "I find geography questions boring" stuff) below. In the meantime, I'll note that my intent in illustrating my own reaction to geography questions was not so much just to tell everyone what I think of them, but what I imagine my fellow anti-geographists feel. If there are very few of us, this part of my argument doesn't matter much. Moving on to what Matt said, Ted is obviously right that it tells us something about what Matt thinks of geography questions, but I think Ted is ignoring what it tells us about Matt's experiences with editing a large ACF Nationals set with 1/1 geography per packet. That is, if Matt dealt with that and is now calling for a reduction of geography, I think that's an important data point.

I'm not actually calling for geography to be completely eliminated--I'm only calling for it to be eliminated as a required category. If I'm right and a large proportion of quizbowlers don't find it particularly interesting or important, I don't see any reason for it to get a mandatory 1/1 per packet (much less 1/1 per first 20/20). If there's a small group of people that do find it particularly interesting and important, that's fine--those people can write some geography for "your choice," some of that will make it into the first 20/20 of those people's packets, and then other members of that group can enjoy those questions. If there's a larger group of people that start writing history questions with substantial geography content, that's also fine.

I don't think there's any single criterion that should decide how a distribution is constructed. I think there should be some compromise between things like "topics that are important in academic study," "topics that lend themselves well to questions that in turn make for good competition," "topics that people enjoy writing and competing on," etc. I think geography falls more with topics like current events and earth science--it's a topic of some academic interest, but not of sufficiently widespread interest to warrant a reserved spot in the distribution. Teams with people that take an interest in current events or earth science can write questions on that topic within the current distribution even though there's no reserved spot for it; the relative amount of interest in these topics among all writing teams then determines how much of it gets submitted. That's pretty much what I think should happen for geography (especially at high levels).

I'd say that Ted is right that kicking out geography without establishing some criteria for the ACF distribution would set a dangerous precedent, but I think the precedent has already been set--social science was cut in half and geography was inserted just this past year without laying out a full set of criteria for the distribution. I actually don't think that action established a dangerous precedent and I don't think bumping geography back down to a non-reserved spot in the distribution would set a dangerous precedent. One of the strengths of ACF is that it is very closely tied to what the current pool of quizbowl teams wants.

I'm going to move on from responding to Ted to advancing more arguments.

First off, as far as I can tell no one is particularly interested in defending, playing or writing atlas-style geography questions*. Everyone defending geography seems to be calling for more interdisciplinary questions--geography in history, in social science, in current events, etc. This seems fine to me; I would then ask, why do we need a separate geography category? Geography-based clues used in other disciplines seems to me to be analogous to the use of lit crit in literature questions--lit crit gets maybe a question or two to itself per tournament when people with an interest in the subject decide to write it; geography can similarly get some questions to itself if interested people want to write it. Most of the lit crit content comes in as clues in literature questions on authors, works or characters; it sounds to me like most people are arguing for geography content showing up as clues in history/social science/current events questions. Why bother with a separate geography category? We don't demand that every team write some lit crit content into their literature questions; why make all teams write 1/1 geography? If we move from 1/1 geography to 1/1 interdisciplinary, is there any reason to require that those interdisciplinary questions always have some significant geography component?

Second, I think there's more of a place for geography as a separated category (whether it shows up as boring old atlas geography or as a focus for certain kinds of interdisciplinary questions) at lower levels than at higher levels. In essence, I think geography should be elbowed out more and more by the greatly increased answer space for social science, RMP, fine arts, and even history/literature/science, as we approach nationals level. When we get to nationals level tournaments, there are lots of really interesting things that could come up in those categories that can't reasonably be asked at lower levels. I don't think there's a similar expansion in geography (if there is any expansion, I think it's much less dramatic). I'm not even sure what would be an example of something really cool in geography that could finally show up at nationals but can't be asked about at a lower level. If people are fine with having different distributions at different levels I'd be fine with having more geography at lower levels and phasing it out at higher levels; if people feel there should be a unified distribution at all levels, I would argue that it should be decided at the top, leaving enough wiggle room to allow for good sets at the bottom.

-Seth

* I see Ryan posted while I was writing this and does, in fact, seem to be defending atlas-style geography questions. I'll trust you all to rework my arguments accordingly (e.g. "Everyone [but Ryan] defending geography seems to be calling for more interdisciplinary questions...").
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:This paragraph seems to betray a poor understanding of psychology. I do not believe that "everyone is just making up positions to support their own competitive ends"; I believe that Seth and Jerry's wish to eliminate geography is caused by their not enjoying geography questions, and that this position would be different if they played with teammates who were good at geography. Furthermore, it's my belief that self-interest plays a big part in these distribution debates, and will continue to do so. It's great that Jeff is willing to change his ideas about geography, considering his geography prowess, but I'm not convinced that he would agree if he were still playing regular-season tournaments. As Mark Twain quotes in "Corn-Pone Opinions," "You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is."
I have actually played many tournaments with teammates (e.g. Jeff Hoppes and Peter Austin) who were very good at geography. So has Jerry, for that matter. At the time I derived some enjoyment from watching those teammates do their thing, but I believe I disliked the geography questions (what I heard of them) then just as much as I do. Furthermore, it's my understanding that Adam Hallowell is coming to Chicago next year and is pretty good at geography. If I'm a psychological monstrosity for arguing against my own team's interests in calling for a reduction in geography, so be it.
Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:Conflating the kinds of geography clues I would like to see with "Charles Meigs geography" is disingenuous. The geography questions at regionals had other problems, such as being too obscure or using clues that no one besides Charles would possibly know. I think Chris Chiego, in this thread, has provided a starting point to a "reasonable guide" by discussing non-almanac clues that would be interesting. I have too high of an opinion of the writers in quizbowl to just give up on geography instead of making a good-faith effort to write better geography questions.
I'm not calling for cutting the mandatory geography distribution based only on the claim that writing good geography questions is hard (let's go shopping). I'm also arguing for cutting geography as a mandatory part of the distribution because I don't see a reason to have separated geography questions: if geography is important in understanding certain aspects of history, then geography-based clues should show up naturally in history questions on those particular topics; similarly in any other area where people are saying geography can look for important connections. I also argue that even if there is some reason to have separated geography questions, the amount of those questions should go down at high levels in favor of more questions in other topics (like social science, RMP and fine arts) that have much bigger expanses to explore at high levels than I think a "separated geography" category does.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

setht wrote:Furthermore, it's my understanding that Adam Hallowell is coming to Chicago next year and is pretty good at geography. If I'm a psychological monstrosity for arguing against my own team's interests in calling for a reduction in geography, so be it.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Okay, I'm not for removing geography entirely from the canon, just reducing it in most tourneys primarily in favor of social science.
I think we're in general agreement, then. How would you recommend changing the distribution to effect this reduction? Given that there's a limit to how many new and exciting ways there are to write geography questions, how much of these new and exciting geography questions plus the old-school "detailed information on... physical geography" questions do you think there should be?

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

everyday847 wrote:
setht wrote:Furthermore, it's my understanding that Adam Hallowell is coming to Chicago next year and is pretty good at geography. If I'm a psychological monstrosity for arguing against my own team's interests in calling for a reduction in geography, so be it.
The Chicago machine's spy network has a traitor, it seems, sowing misinformation.
Well, crud. I guess this means another year of staring blankly during 5.3% of the questions at SCT/ICT.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Important Bird Area »

uga_chris wrote:I liked the ICT TU on South Pass, since it was a geographical location that featured a good bit of history (I bet it was classified as a history TU, which is fine, but you probably could also write about other important passes using a good number of history or cultural clues).
It was geography, actually, and a good example of history clues appearing within the NAQT geography distribution:
ICT round 11 wrote:This feature adjacent to the Antelope Hills is a source of water for the Big Sandy Reservoir and Sweetwater River. Located east of the Wind River Range, it features a broad open saddle at 7,550 feet that was unknown to Lewis and Clark, who made a more difficult passage over the (*) Bitterroots to the north. It is in southwestern Wyoming and forms part of the California, Mormon, and Oregon trails. For 10 points--identify this directionally named pass through the Rockies.
Also apparently way too hard for the field, since only four out of sixteen rooms were able to answer it. (This surprises me, since I would have guessed that "the Oregon Trail used what Wyoming pass over the Rockies?" would be a perfectly-reasonable giveaway.)

Note in particular the appropriate use of a number clue- after some named stuff, so not reducing to almanac memorization, and historically significant (ie, those trails crossed it precisely because it was relatively low).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley »

I'll cast my vote against geography getting its own category in the ACF Distribution for the following reasons:

-The "academic importance" of knowing atlas-style geography is extremly small.
-No one writes good geography questions that aren't either atlas-style geography (look how Harvard International failed at this attempt) or pretty much in a different category (history or social science, usually).
-The canon for geography is pretty much exclusively atlas-style facts. It's been my observation that almost all geography clues, except when played by an extremely small number of players, boil down to "name this river located here", "name this capital of X", "name this country with large cities Y and Z", which can perhaps be aided by linguistic fraud and the occassional very famous fact about a place.

I would shed no tears if geography was relegated solely to "hey I know where that place is they're talking about in this history or literature clue is, I can figure out what they're talking about".

I would also not have any problems removing trash from ACF Nationals, although I'd certainly like to see it stay at easier events.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote: -The "academic importance" of knowing atlas-style geography is extremly small.
-No one writes good geography questions that aren't either atlas-style geography (look how Harvard International failed at this attempt) or pretty much in a different category (history or social science, usually).
-The canon for geography is pretty much exclusively atlas-style facts. It's been my observation that almost all geography clues, except when played by an extremely small number of players, boil down to "name this river located here", "name this capital of X", "name this country with large cities Y and Z", which can perhaps be aided by linguistic fraud and the occassional very famous fact about a place.
Like, I guess you might have just ignored what I said, so I'll say it again. You're going to have to provide me/ the world with a good definition of academic importance that omits atlas-style geography and a good reason to take it over another definition. You're going to have to demonstrate why HI's geography experiment failed (outside of failing to please you and Matt, which is all the evidence I see here, when it succeeded in pleasing me and demonstrating potential to Mike Cheyne).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Important Bird Area »

setht wrote:I'm not even sure what would be an example of something really cool in geography that could finally show up at nationals but can't be asked about at a lower level.
I agree with the rest of your program here, Seth, but I'm not sure this should bear any more weight than "I'm not sure what would be an appropriate topic for a nationals-level physics question."
Gaddis round 8, tossup 13 wrote:This region's capital features monuments such as the tombs of Abu Muzaffar Bahdur Khan and the Mausoleum of Momine Khatun. Arakel of Tabriz wrote about the deportation of residents from one city in this region to Esfahan, where that group established the town of Julfa, named after a city in this region. (**) Samara Airlines is the only international airline which serves this region, whose main international road connections are to Igdir (uh-dur) across the Aras river in one of the three nations this region borders. The home of politicians such as Abulfaz Elchibay and Heydar Aliyev, one must fly to Ganja for onward travel since its border with (*) Armenia is closed. Surrounded by Turkey, Iran, and Armenia, FTP, name this Azerbaijani exclave.

ANSWER: Naxchivan
I thought this was awesome (if typically Meigsian), and also obviously too hard for any difficulty level below This Tournament is About Learning.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

everyday847 wrote:Like, I guess you might have just ignored what I said, so I'll say it again. You're going to have to provide me/ the world with a good definition of academic importance that omits atlas-style geography and a good reason to take it over another definition. You're going to have to demonstrate why HI's geography experiment failed (outside of failing to please you and Matt, which is all the evidence I see here, when it succeeded in pleasing me and demonstrating potential to Mike Cheyne).
Well, because it contained questions like the Vancouver one that used tenuous current events links to just change the connecting words between almanac clues ("did you know there are drugs in this city? perhaps there are also drugs in its suburbs of A, B, and C?"), tossups on things like "pirates" that were just normal to weird current events, and other things that didn't do anything to show me that the way the geography category works had changed. The number of people who are interested in playing any sort of geography question is small, so I don't think that compromising the principles of good or interesting question writing is worth it to please them. The burden is on you, not me, to prove your assertion that "this category which has proved impossible to write well over the last 40,000 attempts* will somehow be written well in the future."

*This is not a made-up number, but my Fermi estimate as to how many geography questions actually exist in my own packet archive.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Magister Ludi »

setht wrote: As I said before, my impression from playing lots of tournaments, observing teammates and other teams at those tournaments, and reading through lots of post-tournament commentaries (in particular, commentaries on NAQT tournaments) is that the "anti-geography crowd" is not a small handful of people lost in a sea of pro-geography players.

I'm not actually calling for geography to be completely eliminated--I'm only calling for it to be eliminated as a required category. If I'm right and a large proportion of quizbowlers don't find it particularly interesting or important, I don't see any reason for it to get a mandatory 1/1 per packet (much less 1/1 per first 20/20). If there's a small group of people that do find it particularly interesting and important, that's fine--those people can write some geography for "your choice," some of that will make it into the first 20/20 of those people's packets, and then other members of that group can enjoy those questions. If there's a larger group of people that start writing history questions with substantial geography content, that's also fine.
You are not answering my question. You seem to suggest that the primary criterion for deciding whether geography should be reduced is whether there is a majority of quizbowl players who do not enjoy these questions or find them interesting. You discuss in a later paragraph how the distribution should be decided by a number of factors, but you quickly revert back to discussing how geography does not have the sufficient "widespread interest to warrant a reserved spot in the distribution" leading me to believe this popularity factor is your primary argument for reducing geography. Is this majority of players lack of interest in a subject a valid criterion to reduce the geography distribution? I think making this popularity factor the primary decision leads to several problems.

1- First, how do we measure the majority of players? Can Seth or Matt please answer this critical question? Do we take a community vote? How do we decide who gets a vote and who does not? Do some people's vote count more than others? Or do we just decide that a majority of quizbowl players dont want geography based on Seth or Matt's magical sense of what most players think about geography.
2- If we decide to reduce geography based on player demands, then in the spirit of fairness we must apply this same criterion to all the other categories. We need a vote to see if we can remove trash. We need a vote to see if a majority of quizbowl players really find earth sci interesting or if we can just cut this from the science distribution and put it into the beloved "your choice" category.

Seth, do you agree that if we change the geography distribution based on this popularity factor that we must apply the same standards to the other parts of the distribution?

I believe there are some categories that are objectively important such as geography that many people might not find interesting, but still merit a spot in the distribution. Seth sets up a straw man argument when he suggests that the only clues in a geography questions are ones that refer to other categories or atlas style clues. All questions contain stale atlas style clues (for example titles and characters in literature questions). It is ok for geography questions to contain these clues as well towards the end of the question. I found Chris' ideas for a Mauritania question to be incredibly interesting and important, and could be a paradigm for writing more interesting geography questions (if that is the most important criterion for people deciding whether geography should be in the distribution).

Also, I want to cut off Seth's other two arguments against geography. First, moving geography to interdisciplinary is an underhanded way to remove geography as few people would write on it compared to other more popular categories. Secondly, as Jeff said it means little that Seth (who doesn't find any geography interesting) has a hard time thinking of interesting ways to expand the geography canon at the nationals level.

I get the strong sense that Seth and others are trying to strong-hand a reduction of the geography distribution through without thinking about the philosophical consequences of such an action.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley »

Can someone please point me to what they would consider "good" geography questions? I'm not talking about hypothetical questions here. I want to see what the high bar for geography questions are--as I'm not sure they exist in any significant quanity.

Edit: Also, a description of why you think these questions are good would be great.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite »

I've noticed a lot of complaints about Geography tossups, but is there anything inherently wrong with keeping them as bonuses?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Important Bird Area »

Magister Ludi wrote:First, moving geography to interdisciplinary is an underhanded way to remove geography as few people would write on it compared to other more popular categories.
Actually, I think that's a decent basis for an argument that the majority of quizbowlers do in fact support reducing or eliminating geography. Combining A. (many people dislike writing it, and will not do so even if it is otherwise abolished) B. (those people who do like it complain that it is often written badly) and C. (there is widespread complaint about the distribution of tournaments which have greater proportions of it, such as ICT) is likely to add up to good evidence. (Compare the situation with social science, which observationally appears to have a stronger base in terms of people who both write it well and enjoy playing it.)

Anyway, I should go start a thread talking about different kinds of geography clues, as some of this is getting away from the subject of the ACF distribution.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

This thread is getting a bit weird, but I want to stick up for (what I take to be) Ted's position. (Disclosure: I myself am a mediocre geography player who derives little pleasure from the category.)

As I understand it, Ted is making the somewhat Burkean argument that the ACF distribution has evolved over a long time to arrive at its current state, and we shouldn't casually rewrite it because a couple of people decide that they don't like some aspect of it all that much. (Note: This isn't necessarily what Seth's doing; I just want to lay out the argument as I see it.) A more abstract way of putting the point would be to say that we should have a better understanding of what it means to revise the distribution in general before we make this kind of move. I take it that Ted would like us to ask a few questions before we go about making such changes, questions like the following: Is the distribution entirely "up for grabs"? If not, why are parts of it up for grabs while others aren't? How do we decide which parts are susceptible to revision? How do we decide who gets a say in whatever changes might be made?

The suggestion, then, would be that we ought to answer these threshold questions before we start making ad hoc revisions to the distribution. If that is, in fact, the point Ted is trying to get across, then I'll register my agreement with it, and suggest that it might be more profitable to start talking about some of those questions rather than prolong what is likely to be an interminable "I think geography is cool"/"I think geography blows" debate.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

That is certainly the position I'd take, Andrew, and while I acknowledge the arguments from the other side of the room about the empirical quality of geography questions and (since I don't enjoy them) even agree with them, there's a reason that I started a thread about the origins and motivations of different distributions a while ago: I wanted everyone to talk about why our distribution is what it is, and not otherwise, and how we decide what may and may not be changed. If that discussion actually moves forward here, then I'd be very happy.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley »

So is the position we're now taking, "because we have shitty geography questions in quizbowl we should continue to have shitty geography questions at a level of 1/1 per packet in quizbowl"? I think there's a reason why every time we talk about the distribution the subject of geography comes up: they are extremely problematic compared to other areas of the distribution.

I've yet to see someone make a coherent argument that geography questions, as written (and not in some bullshit future where everyone writes new and exciting geography questions on "important" areas in the field), constitute any of the following criteria:
-The types of clues used in geography questions are important from a scholarly perspective.
-The types of clues used in geography questions make for good quizbowl. By this I mean, can someone study for geography questions in a manner as effectively as other areas of quizbowl? I think it's already been demonstrated that people don't usually study place names and other "almanac" areas on their own through classes, etc. Additionally, unlike other areas of quizbowl, I contend that geography's early clues are extremely difficult to master. Studying for history, for instance, one can relatively easily learn the context surrounding specific events to infer an answer. I may not know that the "Watermellon Army" was involved in the Whiskey Rebellion, but I do know who Albert Gallatin is, I do know the gist of why these farmers weren't happy with Whiskey taxes, etc. With a geography tossup, I either need to know the specific cities, regions, whatever mentioned in the leadin, or use linguistic fraud to figure out where we are.
-"Important" geography isn't covered by other areas of the distribution (notably history, social science, and current events).
-A good geography tossup has ever been written (I'm quite willing to believe this is true, but I haven't seen specific evidence for this presented in this thread, and the examples I've looked at have been rather poor questions).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Magister Ludi »

Andrew summarizes the crux of my argument very well. I think ACF needs to be transparent on exactly what standards are being used to change the distribution and consistent about how those standards can be applied to other portions of the distribution. Assuming that what players find "interesting" is one of the primary forces behind deciding the distribution (which is an assumption I think is problematic), I would like someone to define "interesting" because it is difficult to carry on a debate about whether geography is interesting when the term is not clearly defined. So far Ive gathered that "almanac" clues are uninteresting, but people have not addressed the other types of clues that appear in geography questions other than "highest point" type of clues other than to categorically dismiss them because they are little known or are hard to study (as Bentley argues). What exactly is an almanac clue? Does the presence of a few almanac clues invalidate a question? If so then this criterion invalidates every lit question containing a title because those are "almanac" or "list" clues. How many almanac clues need to be included in a question for it to be invalidated by the "this tossup includes unimportant clues" criterion? I want to emphasize how nebulous the detractors of geography are being in the terminology of their criticisms. The burden lies on the people who want to change the distribution to explain rationally the criterion they want to use and to explain the terms used within this criterion such as "interesting," "important," and "almanac clues."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

I think that the burden may also lie with people, who cannot credibly claim they are unaware of what "good question" means, to answer the challenge to produce any examples at all of a good geography question, or to explain what sort of wacked-out metaphysics leads you to think that the 40,000 examples of bad geography questions do not prove the practical impossibility of good geography questions.
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