ACF distribution

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Birdofredum Sawin
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Matt Weiner wrote: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.
Isn't there going to be a geography subject tournament next month? Is it a foregone conclusion that it's doomed to consist of nothing but crappy questions? If so, then one wonders why anyone is bothering with the tournament: it seems a peculiar sort of experiment in masochism. If not, then this blanket condemnation seems mistaken. (Also, while I don't care for geography myself, I find it sort of absurd to suggest that the ratio of "bad" to "good" geography questions in the history of quizbowl is 40,000:0.)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I have some similar problems with this, because there are plenty of other subjects that could be filled in instead for geography. For instance, many of the same problems described here apply to science. There are lots of players, I would hazard to guess the majority, who do not enjoy many science questions. There are even more who can not write good science questions. There are lots of people who get science by memorizing facts. Should this mean we should discuss reducing the much larger science distribution? I don't think so, because even if it is something going to be plagued by these problems, all of us who don't like it can at least accept that it should be there to give fair representation to a subject that some people do legitimately know a lot about. For the already much smaller geography distribution, I think proportionally it deserves the same treatment, and would like to see some other reasonings put in place to distinguish it from science (or music, another subject dogged by particularly bad writing and lots of people not answering it).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Yeah, Charlie's on the right track here. i still think that it's Matt's burden to demonstrate that each previous geography question has a unique (i.e. present systematically in geography, absent in other categories) failing severe enough to make all geography questions bad quizbowl. Otherwise i will demonstrate that each of 150,000 science questions have two clues in the wrong order or a heinous! example of internal apyramidality, call for the removal of science, and begin scoring 4ppg.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I don't like talking conceptually, so here are three tossups from Harvard International's geography. I found them interesting. What would be the problems, if any, with these tossups and are these problems inherent to geography in general (i.e., do these tossups fix some problems and cause others)?

4. The British-run National Development Board was forced to build public housing in this city after a 1946 general strike, and this city on the Khasa River at the western end of the Hamrin Mountains was the terminus of a notable pipeline that ran through Haditha to Haifa. Located west of Sulaymaniyah and south of Arbil, this city was once the center of the al-Anfal campaign. It was liberated by the Peshmerga rather than by American forces in 2003, and it has since been the subject of a sustained immigration campaign to alter its demographic composition. As a result, its namesake province was the only non-autonomous province not to participate in the January 2009 provincial elections. FTP, identify this disputed, oil-rich fourth-largest city of Iraq, which many Kurds believe should be part of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region.
ANSWER: Kirkuk

13. In 2006, members of the Kaingang ethnic group in this country who threatened to blow up a hydroelectric plant were finally compensated for the use of their land, while in 1988, the federal government of this country brought charges of genocide against five men who had murdered members of the Xacriaba ethnic group in an attempt to exterminate them. The Kuikuro and the Kalapalo are the most numerous ethnic groups represented in this country’s Xingu National Park, which was established on behalf of indigenous peoples by Cândido Rondon. In 1992, this country, which has more un-contacted ethnic groups than any other, opened a special reservation for the Yanomami to keep out gold prospectors who were taking their land. Indigenous groups in this country comprise a sizeable population in such states as Acre, Roraima, and Pará. FTP, identify this South American country that has indigenous or mestizo majorities in such cities as Belém and Manaus.
ANSWER: Brazil

16. This country’s city of Jihlava was the site of a genocide and forced migration, and much of this country’s energy comes from a nuclear plant at Temelin. This country’s city of Olomouc is home to a famously elaborate plague memorial as well as an astronomical clock that showed saint’s days until they were replaced with the birthdays of Marxist leaders. A famous picture taken on the balcony of the Kinsky Palace in this country was airbrushed to remove Vlado Clementis, but Klement Gottwald is still wearing his hat. During the twentieth century, consumption of brown coal helped cities such as Ostrava and Brno become centers of manufacturing in this country. FTP, identify this country took a new name after the so-called Velvet Divorce split off its southeastern neighbor in 1993.
ANSWER: Czech Republic (for good measure, accept Czechoslovakia until the words “new name”)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by marnold »

Why was the exhaustive process of careful consideration and principled evaluation not undertaken when geography was increased in the distribution last year? It's strange that people champion constancy and the status quo when that status quo has existed for a year and was seemingly established without whatever conversation is now required for any changes, even popular ones. If Seth is correct that this...
setht wrote: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.
...was the extent of the principled consideration, isn't the fact that almost no one believes this any more (or rather, now accepts that Nats can have a distribution different from Regionals and below) enough to say that that change was hasty and we should return to the pre-1/1-geography policy?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Just because that change may have been hasty doesn't mean that this change might not be the same. (Similarly, you can't assume that a hasty change to the current status quo is necessarily invalid.)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

I made this post in Jeff's geography thread, but i wanted to put it here as well so others would see.


Disclaimer: i like geography, kind of a lot, actually.

That said, why is knowing the fine details of "atlas clues" like obscure rivers, towns, valleys, etc. any LESS academic than knowing the ridiculously detailed parts of a famous painting? Hasn't the academically-inclined person presumably spent some time studying the intricacies of a particular piece of fine art, much like he or she could study the intricacies of a detailed map of a country? How is a photographic memory of all the colors and people and boats in Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte any MORE academic than a photographic memory of Azerbaijan?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Also, I want to express a strong dislike for geography becoming loaded down with current events clues; this sometimes happens when players try to write on "newsworthy" things in certain regions or what they deem "important events". It's okay here and there, but not as a common practice.

To the question Seth asked me much earlier - I'm not a big believer in formal distribution requirements...outside of usually picking 4/4 of the big three, at least 2/2 fine arts, at least 2/2 RMP, and at least 1/1 SS - outside of those general parameters, I usually just take the 20 best questions in the packet. If I like a geography tossup better than the extra soc sci or fine arts or religion or pop culture, I'll use it.

That said, I think an ideal average would be 1/0 or 0/1 per packet, though I wouldn't be concerned if a given tourney undershoots or overshoots that a bit.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: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.
This seems like a very useful (and hopefully accurate) summary of the "distributional conservative" position, and I think Andrew is right that we should start focusing on this. I am not trying to strong-arm geography out of the distribution with no opportunity for defense or discussion--if we come to a consensus a week or a month from now, my impression is that that will be plenty early in terms of setting the ACF distribution for the next year. If I'm wrong about that and the distribution has to be set in the next few days for some reason I'm sure the people who know that will tell the rest of us. In the meantime I think we can continue hashing things out calmly.

Moving on to Andrew's summary of Ted's argument: I feel that the current distribution--specifically, the place of geography in the current distribution--is not, in fact, the product of a long process of evolution. Last June the ACF editors voted to change the distribution from 2/2 social science and 1/1 trash/current events/geography/your choice (out of 24/24 in a packet) to 1/1 social science, 1/1 geography, and 1/1 trash/current events/your choice. We did not have a long discussion of how the distribution got to be the way it is, nor did we hammer out any criteria for why categories should be cut back or beefed up. From what I've been able to find by digging through old emails, the main arguments in favor of the change were a) it's much easier to produce an appropriate 1/1 geography and 1/1 social science than it is to produce an appropriate 2/2 social science at levels below Nationals; b) social science and geography don't really belong together (this was in response to a counter-proposal to have 2/2 social science + geography, with a max of 1/1 geography); and c) allowing for variations of 2-4 social science in different packets seemed like too much.

I started this thread by picking on geography and arguing that it should be scaled back to its pre-2008/2009 level largely because I feel that the geography category is in a different position than the rest of the distribution. My recollection is that Matt Weiner was one of the biggest proponents of the move to more geography last June, and he was in charge of the geography for Nationals. When he posts and says, "I don't think it worked out well and I think we should cut back geography back to its old place in the distribution," that suggests to me that this past year has been something of an experiment with suddenly bumping up geography dramatically in the ACF distribution, and that the experiment has failed in the eyes of one of the main proponents and conductors of the experiment. I guess I would argue, then, that the geography category is more "up for grabs" than other portions of the distribution because the other categories appear to have weathered several years of ACF tournaments without (as far as I can recall) major episodes of complaining about their place in the distribution, while geography is possibly getting a major episode of complaining right now, one year after it was bumped up in the distribution. If people feel that we should examine the rest of the distribution (or just trash) in addition to geography that's fine with me; again, my impression is that there isn't widespread discontent with anything else, but there's no harm in checking.

As far as determining who gets a say in all this, my feeling is that while this is ultimately going to be something for the ACF editors to vote on, we'd like plenty of community input before we take that vote.

Moving on to the issue of whether there has ever been a good geography question: I don't think this really matters for what I'm advocating. I am not saying that geography questions should go the way of the 30-20-10 bonus and the spelling tossup--I am not claiming that every geography question is inherently bad quizbowl. I am only saying that I don't think geography questions deserve a dedicated 1/1 (certainly not in the first 20/20, but I think geography also doesn't deserve a dedicated 1/1 in the 24/24 submitted). As a result, the possible existence of good geography questions doesn't concern me--if they can exist, they can make it into ACF sets by having teams with qualified writers submitting those questions in the "your choice" portion. I feel this is analogous to the position of (say) earth science: we don't require it in any set of 5/5 science for a packet, and most teams choose to write none because they don't feel themselves capable of writing it well. This has nothing to do with the fact that good earth science questions can be and have been written.

As a result, I feel that this:
everyday847 wrote:Yeah, Charlie's on the right track here. i still think that it's Matt's burden to demonstrate that each previous geography question has a unique (i.e. present systematically in geography, absent in other categories) failing severe enough to make all geography questions bad quizbowl. Otherwise i will demonstrate that each of 150,000 science questions have two clues in the wrong order or a heinous! example of internal apyramidality, call for the removal of science, and begin scoring 4ppg.
has pretty much nothing to do with what I'm arguing. If Matt is in fact arguing that all geography questions are bad quizbowl I guess he can address this.

Before I get into why I think geography does not deserve a dedicated 1/1, I want to say that I'm not sure it's possible to find a simple set of criteria that govern which categories should be cut/scaled back and which should be added/bumped up and cover all possible cases. I think different categories come in with different positions (e.g., I think the criteria that govern trash's place in the distribution may be different from the criteria that apply to, say, philosophy). Anyway, I think what I'm about to say about geography can be applied sensibly to most or all other categories, but in case I'm wrong about that I don't want people coming along and pointing out absurdities that result when applying my criteria to jazz or German drama or whatever, and claiming that that means what I'm saying about geography must also be absurd. If my criteria are absurd for all categories (including geography), that's fine; if they're okay for geography but absurd for some other stuff, that doesn't worry me.

So, why do I think geography doesn't deserve a dedicated 1/1? If the point of the new and exciting geography questions is that they incorporate history and cultural and current events-type clues along with geography clues that are significant to the understanding of the history or culture or current events in question, I think that justifies telling people that history questions (or social science or current events questions) on topics that have important associated geography clues should feel free to use those clues. I do not think that justifies reserving 1/1 in the distribution for geography. That is, I believe that there are pieces of geographical information that are academically important in various contexts; I don't believe there are enough (or that they are of enough importance) to warrant having them appear in history/social science/current events questions and also get a dedicated 1/1 per packet. I think there are plenty of similar examples in other areas: painting techniques show up occasionally as clues about specific works (and very rarely as questions in their own right), architectural elements/terms show up as clues about specific works (and very rarely as questions in their own right), foreign language-based clues appear in various questions (but pretty much never get questions in their own right), etc. These "subsidiary categories" show up in clues for questions in related categories because they are important for understanding/interpreting stuff in the related categories; they don't get dedicated places in the distribution because they aren't deemed important enough to warrant that in addition to their appearance in the related categories, plus to some extent we have little confidence in our abilities to write enough good questions entirely on those subsidiary categories to fill out multiple sets each year.

In summary, I'm arguing that geography content should appear as clues in some questions in history, social science, current events, and any other related areas, when those clues are naturally related to the topic at hand. I am further arguing that geography is not important enough to warrant an additional 1/1 to itself. Is anyone arguing that we should have 1/1 on just geography without ties to other categories? Can anyone give a good argument for keeping 1/1 on geography with ties to other categories on top of having history (and social science and current events and...) questions with geography content, or a good argument for keeping 1/1 on geography with ties to other categories on top of the current amounts of history/social science/CE/... without allowing those latter categories to use related geography content when it's appropriate? The best consistent argument I can think of at the moment would be that geography really is so important that it deserves both a dedicated 1/1 (allowing ties to history and other related categories) and some amount of appearances in questions in those related categories--in other words, more geography than there was at ACF Nationals and probably more than there was at ICT, since my impression is that those tournaments did not have much (or any) geography content in questions outside the geography category.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:To the question Seth asked me much earlier - I'm not a big believer in formal distribution requirements...outside of usually picking 4/4 of the big three, at least 2/2 fine arts, at least 2/2 RMP, and at least 1/1 SS - outside of those general parameters, I usually just take the 20 best questions in the packet. If I like a geography tossup better than the extra soc sci or fine arts or religion or pop culture, I'll use it.

That said, I think an ideal average would be 1/0 or 0/1 per packet, though I wouldn't be concerned if a given tourney undershoots or overshoots that a bit.
I've actually taken much the same approach in selecting which questions go into the first 20/20 in tournaments I've edited in the past, and I am personally fine with leaving some wiggle room for the editors to decide which subjects show up in the first 20/20 of each packet. However, if other people disagree and would like to see ACF adopt specific guidelines for the first 20/20 (or at least more specific than Ryan and I might do) perhaps that would be a good topic for discussion--probably in another thread, since I think this thread already has plenty going on just with figuring out what should be in the 24/24 submission.

Ryan, are you saying that you feel the need to represent geography content can't be handled in (say) the 4/4 history (minimum) that make it into the first 20/20? Are you arguing for history/social science/CE/other categories not using any geography clues even when they are relevant? Are you arguing for an average of 1/0 or 0/1 geography with or without clues connecting to other categories? Finally, I believe you were the one to propose making a category of 2/2 social science + geography, with a maximum of 1/1 geography (and no minimum, if I remember correctly)--have you changed your mind about that, and if so why?

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

I wanted to add that I think another possible argument for keeping mandatory geography would be that enough people enjoy it enough to warrant keeping it, even if it doesn't warrant a separate category from a purely "academic importance" standpoint. I certainly am not someone who enjoys geography enough to warrant keeping it in at 1/1 per packet, and my impression is that there really aren't enough people who really like geography to make this argument work, but perhaps I'm wrong. This argument ("it's not actually as important as its place in the distribution might indicate, but people seem to like it so we keep it") is the one that I assume has been advanced in defense of trash, and it sounds like it may not be enough to save trash (at least at the Nationals level), so it may also not be enough to save geography if this winds up being a key argument in its favor, but I thought I'd put this out there for completeness.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

setht wrote: As a result, I feel that this:
everyday847 wrote:Yeah, Charlie's on the right track here. i still think that it's Matt's burden to demonstrate that each previous geography question has a unique (i.e. present systematically in geography, absent in other categories) failing severe enough to make all geography questions bad quizbowl. Otherwise i will demonstrate that each of 150,000 science questions have two clues in the wrong order or a heinous! example of internal apyramidality, call for the removal of science, and begin scoring 4ppg.
has pretty much nothing to do with what I'm arguing. If Matt is in fact arguing that all geography questions are bad quizbowl I guess he can address this.
Yeah, Seth. If we're going to make this change, we ought to do it according to the sorts of arguments you're making (particularly where you stipulate that mandatory geography doesn't occupy the same sort of place in the distribution as other categories). Making that sort of argument towards changing the canon is fine and good and I can get behind it. I just don't want this debate to look like it was decided on arguments that consist of Matt saying "empirically, each of 40,000 past geography tossups has been bad [proof left to the reader]; competent writers haven't written it in a way I enjoy that is also good quizbowl yet; therefore, it needs to go." That sort of an argument doesn't have the right context to it and isn't presented in the right way.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Okay, so, I'm fine with history or CE or any other clues being put in geography questions, when they're good clues. But I dont think people should bend over backwards to get them in there. I'm arguing for roughly 1/0 or 0/1 geography, no matter whether those questions have or don't have other clues.

But, I'm against subsuming the geography distibution into history - I think it's completely valid to write a straight physical geography tossup, containing primarily information you might see in an atlas. In fact, I relatively often write such questions, and I think I can do them pretty well.

Here's the distro I'd ask for in any tourney above regionals level:

5/5 big three
3/3 fine arts
3/3 RMP
2/2 Social Science
2/2 Geography, Trash, or Your Choice (no more than 1/1 on any of those things)

Note: This proposed distro gives you an "out" if you don't want to write geography, or think you can write other stuff in a better more interesting way.

Below regionals level, I'd likely soften that 2/2 social science and make it 1/1, then still have 2/2 Geog/Trash/Your Choice



And then, from there, I'd choose the first 20/20 according to the general parameters I discussed in my previous post.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by ClemsonQB »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Isn't there going to be a geography subject tournament next month? Is it a foregone conclusion that it's doomed to consist of nothing but crappy questions? If so, then one wonders why anyone is bothering with the tournament: it seems a peculiar sort of experiment in masochism. If not, then this blanket condemnation seems mistaken. (Also, while I don't care for geography myself, I find it sort of absurd to suggest that the ratio of "bad" to "good" geography questions in the history of quizbowl is 40,000:0.)
The editor of said tournament just so happened to write a paper on masochism and martyrdom in The Metamorphosis and Venus in Furs less than a month ago. However, I do not plan to become a martyr for the cause of geography, or whatever, but do fully intend to show that geography can be interesting (and well written too!).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by theMoMA »

I suppose I'll throw my hat into the ring in support of reducing the amount of geography required in each packet.

1/1 just feels like too much. I will admit to liking geography enough to think that playing a subject tournament of it would be fun, even if it is full of tributary and suburb clues. One of my more memorable qb moments was beating Charles Meigs to a tossup on the Thousand Islands (in your face!) But I think from pretty much any standpoint, geography is not deserving of 1/1 status.

If we consider other things that comprise 1/1 of the distribution, almost all of them are either much more studied in academia, or much more important to the traditional concept of a "liberal arts education" than geography, especially the "name the river from tributaries" form of geography that dominates the distribution.

If we consider how many people actually like geography, Ted's own argument that no one would write it if they had a "your choice" category seems to speak to that.

Even if we consider things like abstract "importantness" or "ability to write good questions on it," geography almost uniformly falls below the level of other categories.

Anyway, I think it would be appropriate to allow 1/0 or 0/1 geography per packet, and I don't think that including this with either 1/2 or 2/1 social science is a problem. It would encourage more "human geography" clues, which can actually be helpful (though I didn't find HI's geography particularly good or exciting, it was mostly listening to three lines of unbuzzable clues about Mexican gangs in Vancouver, or deciding if a tossup on Somali pirates or opium poppies could really be this transparent). It would also allow editors the leeway to cut bad geography questions if necessary. I would also allow teams to submit packets with 2/2 social science and no geography, if that's what they want.

Part of the problem that I have with lumping geo with trash/other is that a lot of people like writing trash tossups. I think allowing an optional 1/0 or 0/1 geography with social science would bring out a truer representation of how many people actually want to write geo.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Well, notice that under my proposed system, you can only write 1/1 trash maximum - the other 1/1 has to be geography or Your Choice (which doesn't include trash).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by DumbJaques »

5/5 big three
3/3 fine arts
3/3 RMP
2/2 Social Science
2/2 Geography, Trash, or Your Choice (no more than 1/1 on any of those things)
I think Ryan is on the right track with striking some compromise between absolute 1/1 requirement for geography and effective elimination from the canon (which, let's face it, making geography part of the 1/1 choice amounts to). However, unless I'm even worse at math than I thought, these numbers add up to 25/25 to me, and I'm utterly against increasing the total packet distribution.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

theMoMA wrote:Part of the problem that I have with lumping geo with trash/other is that a lot of people like writing trash tossups. I think allowing an optional 1/0 or 0/1 geography with social science would bring out a truer representation of how many people actually want to write geo.
For what it's worth, I don't know how good this argument is. We impose a distribution on high school students and say "this is good because it's inherently good to study these topics," not "this is good because it's the stuff that all you kids like;" otherwise, the distribution would be 2/2 sports and 2/2 porn or something. Now, we're imposing a distribution on people who are already quizbowlers: why is this a situation where it's safe to ask us what we like? Just as the masses have their own silly biases towards pop culture and away from fine arts, it's possible that we have equally silly biases towards Habermas. Arguments like "people like writing trash, so they shouldn't have to write geography" could be equally applied to other categories that have a more vocal defense.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

2/2 porn
I think we're dismissing this idea a little too quickly...
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Auroni »

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:
2/2 porn
I think we're dismissing this idea a little too quickly...
This idea is much more horrific than you think it is.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by theMoMA »

everyday847 wrote:
theMoMA wrote:Part of the problem that I have with lumping geo with trash/other is that a lot of people like writing trash tossups. I think allowing an optional 1/0 or 0/1 geography with social science would bring out a truer representation of how many people actually want to write geo.
For what it's worth, I don't know how good this argument is. We impose a distribution on high school students and say "this is good because it's inherently good to study these topics," not "this is good because it's the stuff that all you kids like;" otherwise, the distribution would be 2/2 sports and 2/2 porn or something. Now, we're imposing a distribution on people who are already quizbowlers: why is this a situation where it's safe to ask us what we like? Just as the masses have their own silly biases towards pop culture and away from fine arts, it's possible that we have equally silly biases towards Habermas. Arguments like "people like writing trash, so they shouldn't have to write geography" could be equally applied to other categories that have a more vocal defense.
I don't think you understood what I said. My argument is that people like writing trash, so saying that trash overshadows geography in the "trash/geography" balance isn't necessarily fair. My remedy would be to put geography as an optional 0/1 or 1/0 with social science.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

theMoMA wrote:I don't think you understood what I said. My argument is that people like writing trash, so saying that trash overshadows geography in the "trash/geography" balance isn't necessarily fair. My remedy would be to put geography as an optional 0/1 or 1/0 with social science.
I see, yeah. That is a preferable solution.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

To explain my own positions, while I am currently seeking to eliminate required geography, I did indeed also push last year to change the 2/2 "social science or geography" requirement to 1/1 of each. I am a strong proponent of specific distributions for both the submitted packet and the final 20/20, and an even split between social science and geography seemed, at the time, like what most editors were using anyway.

I also dispute the characterization of anyone "strong-arming" anything through this debate. Anyone who was at last night's ACF meeting can affirm that when the question of changing the distribution came up (and I am quite sure any vote taken then would have resulted in the end of geography) I said that this thread had not been allowed to develop enough to gauge community opinion and that we needed to wait longer before making any decision. If I was trying to push this through without regard to anyone else's arguments I would not have made everyone drop the subject yesterday.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by cvdwightw »

So, I've been doing some thinking on this subject, and I've come to the following conclusion. A subject should be part of an academic tournament if it meets both of the following conditions:

1. The subject is academically and/or culturally relevant.
2. Pyramidal, knowledge-rewarding tossups can be written on a variety of topics within the subject

I think that under any definition of "culturally relevant" that is not "exceedingly strict," we can justify "pop culture" as fitting criterion number one (and it certainly fits criterion number two), so long as it is not on something that is either ephemeral or just plain stupid (or both). Nothing in the category of "pyramidal tossups" is as infuriating to me as questions on pop culture and current events that are no longer relevant as of when I hear them in practice. If you cannot justify the topic of the question possibly being relevant five years from now, don't write on that topic.

It seems to me that geography also fits the "cultural relevance" criterion that we use to justify trash's existence regardless of whether or not we can justify it as "academically relevant." So, then, we have to look at criterion number two to justify geography's continued existence in the canon. I find that people do write pyramidal, knowledge-rewarding tossups, though they are often not good and often uninteresting; however, as has been stated many times in this thread, one can make the same arguments regarding science questions and science isn't going anywhere soon unless Bible Bowl zealots and Westbrookian Luddites have their way. Note also that "interesting" doesn't actually appear in criterion number two. While we all prefer "interesting" questions, I would conjecture that the average quizbowl player (and certainly the average non-quizbowler) finds the anecdote that Marlowe died in a bar fight to be more "interesting" than the titles of plays he wrote; however, this does not mean that we should waste space on the "died in a bar fight" clue.

So, then, unless there are objections that either "Geography is not culturally relevant," "Geography questions do not reward knowledge or are otherwise unpyramidal," or "Your criteria for determining whether a subject is legitimate are flawed," we then must go to the next stage in this distributional analysis: how much of the slice of pie should every topic get?

In my mind, we consider literature, history and science to be the big three because these are core components of any well-rounded education. Very few educated people, even those who hate science, can claim that they remember absolutely nothing from high school biology or chemistry; similarly, one would be hard-pressed to find an educated person that professed to read zero works of literary merit in high school. In other words, there are lots of literature and history and science questions because they are of significant academic merit at all levels.

In the second tier are arts and RMP. Current and historical school board decisions at every level of public education indicate that arts are not considered to have as great academic merit as the big three. Similarly, religion, mythology, and philosophy are topics barely touched on in high school. It would seem that until college and postgraduate study, these topics are generally considered to have relatively low academic merit. However, I think we all agree as quizbowlers that the arts, religion, mythology, and philosophy are of significant cultural merit; therefore, they belong just below the big three in terms of distributional importance.

In the third tier is social science. On one hand, social science is often overshadowed by history at most K-12 institutions; on the other hand, there are a whole bunch of people that major in psychology, sociology, economics, or some related concept, not to mention other social sciences like linguistics and anthropology. I personally believe that it has neither the "academic merit" of the big three nor the "cultural merit" of arts/RMP, but it certainly does have some academic and cultural merit. So, here you go, 1/1 to 2/2.

In the fourth tier are trash and current events. Topics in these categories run the gamut from "legitimate academic merit (CE)"/"legitimate cultural merit (PC)" to "no cultural or academic merit." If we somehow had a mandate that these categories needed to contain questions on topics of academic or cultural importance, and could succinctly define "importance" such that there was a clear delineation between what is and what is not acceptable, then there would be a very real justification for 1/1 or more per packet. The fact is that a lot of the time these questions end up on things that the question writer likes, regardless of the actual merit of the topic. So, here you go, 1 to 2 questions per packet.

I seriously doubt that anyone will claim that geography has the "academic merit" of lit/hist/sci or the "cultural merit" of arts/RMP. However, I think there is legitimate debate over whether geography contains "some academic and/or cultural merit, about as much as SS," "some academic or cultural merit, but questions are often written on things that have neither" (like trash), or "some academic and/or cultural merit, more than trash but less than SS." In the first case, geography should be grouped with SS in the third tier; in the second case, geography should be grouped with trash in the fourth tier; in the third case, geography gets its own tier.

Personally, I believe that the third case (geography has more academic/cultural merit than trash, but less than SS) is the correct one; however, geography is rounded up to 1/1 due to the insistence on having an equal number of tossups and bonuses in a subject in each packet. Thoughts?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

Thoughts on geography: I agree with most of what's been said so far, on both sides. Pure atlas questions are boring and bad, however, I do actually enjoy hearing the occasional atlas clue as part of, say, a history, CE, or SS question where the context makes it useful and interesting. It should come as no surprise that I'm all in favor of making geography questions more interdisciplinary, and would find such questions more meaningful and fun to play on.

However, this whole geography discussion misses the rather fundamental point that geography as an academic discipline is a social science. That's what it is, and the fact we separate out "geography" as a separate category is a matter of convention more than anything else (probably stemming from the fact that it's one of the few social sciences that are taught at lower levels in primary and secondary school, so people can be counted on to know more of it). Therefore, we should go back to 2/2 social science post haste, and if the social science distro just happens to have more geography at lower levels and more other stuff at higher levels, I think that would be perfectly acceptable to most everyone here.

As for trash...
Matt Weiner wrote: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.
I am extraordinarily interested in hearing about this fascinating and novel definition of "legitimate importance" in which Sullivan's Travels is somehow more culturally and academically important than Bob Dylan. No, really, I want to hear this. :roll:
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

With all due respect to Dwight, I will once again assert that attempts to account for the distribution on the basis of factors extrinsic to the game (e.g. "relevance of a topic to a 'well-rounded' education") are doomed to be rationalizations of the status quo. For example:
cvdwightw wrote: In my mind, we consider literature, history and science to be the big three because these are core components of any well-rounded education. Very few educated people, even those who hate science, can claim that they remember absolutely nothing from high school biology or chemistry; similarly, one would be hard-pressed to find an educated person that professed to read zero works of literary merit in high school. In other words, there are lots of literature and history and science questions because they are of significant academic merit at all levels.
As a descriptive statement, this is simply false. I'm an "educated" person (who went to TJ, for God's sake) and I will claim, with accuracy, that I remember absolutely nothing from my high school bio class. On the other hand, I do remember some things from the many math classes I took -- in fact, I took more math classes than I did history classes, which I'm guessing isn't a totally unusual phenomenon among high schoolers -- though math comes up in the game a fraction as often as history. Likewise, I took more foreign language classes in high school than I did "literature" classes. I'm guessing that's also not an uncommon phenomenon, and yet we obviously don't have 4/4 foreign language per game.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The distribution is what it is because our predecessors in the game decreed that it would be such. We can stick with that distribution, or we can change it (though we should be very hesitant to change it). What we can't do is find "real-world" criteria which will explain why it is what it is. There's no X factor outside the game which you can point to and say (e.g.) "it is because of X that we have 4/4 lit questions a round, but only (at most) 1/1 religion."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I've said it before and I'll say it again: The distribution is what it is because our predecessors in the game decreed that it would be such. We can stick with that distribution, or we can change it (though we should be very hesitant to change it). What we can't do is find "real-world" criteria which will explain why it is what it is. There's no X factor outside the game which you can point to and say (e.g.) "it is because of X that we have 4/4 lit questions a round, but only (at most) 1/1 religion."
This is certainly true on its face. However, in answer to those who want to know what the framework for considering the distribution is, there are in-game factors besides completely organic evolution that determine how the distribution changes.

I have defined them in a private conversation about this topic as the following five criteria:
1) Academic status: How likely or easy it is for questions in a category to meet the well-understood quizbowl sense of what is "academic"
2) Likelihood of questions being good: How likely it is that a submitted question in this category will be close to immediately playable
3) Editing time required: How much time an editor will have to invest in making the average question in this category acceptable, and how much time he will have to invest to make it excellent
4) Availability of a year's worth of clues: Can enough questions which meet tests 1-3 be written to fill the approximately 300 packets produced for collegiate quizbowl each year? With a 1/1 geo distribution per packet, this is 300/300.
5) Popular demand: Measured, optimally, across all players rather than just those who choose to post on a message board, though weighted towards those who will play more tournaments and thus hear more questions

It seems clear that geography presents serious problems in category 2 and 3 when compared to anything that might replace it, spectacularly fails category 4, and is debatable at best in category 5. I'll grant that it passes category 1 most of the time (trivia emphasis in many geo clues aside). But that's at most 2 out of 5--I think social science, religion, misc arts, or anything else that will be considered to replace geography do far better at every point on the scale.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Magister Ludi »

theMoMA wrote:
If we consider how many people actually like geography, Ted's own argument that no one would write it if they had a "your choice" category seems to speak to that.
My comment about no one writing geography if it was put in "your choice" category was not meant to be an admission that people don't like geography. I feel like people would be more inclined to write on their favorite pet category than a geography tossup for your choice. Lets put chemistry into the your choice category and see how many people chose to write that chem tossup over a category they might feel more comfortable writing.

I'd also like to point out that by my count twelve people in this thread have expressed support for keeping the geography distribution or working to improve the geography distribution without reducing it (Mike Cheyne, Bruce Arthur, Chris Chiego, Andy Watkins, myself, Dwight Wynne, Jonathan Magin, Charlie Dees, Charlie Rosenthal, Andrew Yaphe, Caesar Rodney guy, George Stevens) as opposed to the ten people who have expressed a desire to have the geography distribution reduced (Seth Teitler, Matt Weiner, Jerry Vinokurov, Bernadette Spencer, Ahmad Ragab, Mike Bentley, MArnold, Chris White, Andrew Hart, Ryan Westbrook). (I have excluded some people from this list that had more nuanced positions such as Jeff Hoppes, who I do not believe wants to see geography excised from the distribution but wants to see the quality of geography questions improved as suggested by the fact he just started the thread about geo clues. If I've made a mistake in classifying you as in favor of one side I am sorry.)

The exact numbers on both sides is irrelevant to my point, but the fact that the number of supporters on each side is so close is important. I am not saying that this is a valid sampling of the opinions of all quizbowl; however, I want to argue that this number suggests that the discontent with geography and the burning desire to have it reduced, which Seth cited in his first post as the primary reasons for proposing these distributional changes are not as widespread as he suggests. I think it is valid to examine how many people cared about this issue enough to post in this thread as some kind of indicator that the quizbowl community's views on geography are not as unilateral as Seth asserts.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Magister Ludi »

Matt Weiner wrote:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I've said it before and I'll say it again: The distribution is what it is because our predecessors in the game decreed that it would be such. We can stick with that distribution, or we can change it (though we should be very hesitant to change it). What we can't do is find "real-world" criteria which will explain why it is what it is. There's no X factor outside the game which you can point to and say (e.g.) "it is because of X that we have 4/4 lit questions a round, but only (at most) 1/1 religion."
This is certainly true on its face. However, in answer to those who want to know what the framework for considering the distribution is, there are in-game factors besides completely organic evolution that determine how the distribution changes.

I have defined them in a private conversation about this topic as the following five criteria:
1) Academic status: How likely or easy it is for questions in a category to meet the well-understood quizbowl sense of what is "academic"
2) Likelihood of questions being good: How likely it is that a submitted question in this category will be close to immediately playable
3) Editing time required: How much time an editor will have to invest in making the average question in this category acceptable, and how much time he will have to invest to make it excellent
4) Availability of a year's worth of clues: Can enough questions which meet tests 1-3 be written to fill the approximately 300 packets produced for collegiate quizbowl each year? With a 1/1 geo distribution per packet, this is 300/300.
5) Popular demand: Measured, optimally, across all players rather than just those who choose to post on a message board, though weighted towards those who will play more tournaments and thus hear more questions

It seems clear that geography presents serious problems in category 2 and 3 when compared to anything that might replace it, spectacularly fails category 4, and is debatable at best in category 5. I'll grant that it passes category 1 most of the time (trivia emphasis in many geo clues aside). But that's at most 2 out of 5--I think social science, religion, misc arts, or anything else that will be considered to replace geography do far better at every point on the scale.
Thank you for creating these clear criterion for deciding the distribution. I agree with this criterion except for the fourth point for reasons I will outline below.

First, I would like to state what I hope is the obvious assumption that these criterion apply to all parts of the distribution and do not specifically apply to geography. I would hope consistency is important, so these criterion can be used to change the science distribution in the same way they could be used to change the geography distribution.

Second, what is the number that a category must reach to merit inclusion into the distribution? Must it fulfill 3 out of 5, 4 out of 5?

Third, I would like to challenge the fourth criterion of availability of a years worth of clues. I believe that different ACF tournaments can have different expectations for clue depth. At ACF Fall and ACF Winter I don't think we need to expect multiple lines of interesting, leadin type of clues for geography. When I edited Fall last year I would try to find one interesting leadin and then moved into more uninteresting canonical clues. I think geography could adapt a similar pattern. At the lower tournaments one can have a higher proportion of the question consist of atlas style clues arranged pyramidally with some interesting more academic leadin material. At the higher levels such as Nats we could have a few lines of academic more real geography clues followed by approximately three or four lines of atlas style clues arranged pyramidally. These questions could have several lines of important and interesting material allowing people with real deep knowledge to buzz, but have the question still have that pyramidal backbone of atlas style clues that non experts will know. This formula seems to me to produce what I would call a "good question," which Matt seems to believe is almost nonexistent in the history of all geography questions. Accordingly, these different expectations about clue lengths means we don't need the same depth of clues for every one of Matt's hypothetical 300 tossups.

In an online conversation I had with Matt, he argued that it was impossible to write a "good" question on Colorado or Tago because there were no real clues for these subjects. While I know nothing about these topics, I find it hard to believe that is impossible to find any important academic clues about these areas. Moreover, I find it a problematic attitude that instead of searching for ways to find new and important clues to include in geography, Matt has decreed that there are not enough subjects in the entire world to support "good" clue dense tossup answers for one year's worth of tournaments. I believe that this attitude derives either from overly demanding standards for real and academic geography clues or it comes from a myopic view of the possibilities for interesting clues in geography.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I'm no fan of point 4 because of both the reasons Ted gave, and the fact that in my experience, it's very possible, and very encouraged, to create many well written questions at various levels using almost the same answers in all categories. To make it sound like you need 300/300 distinct subjects to write on is rather misleading. I would posit that there are many more possible geography answers that are accessible than there are, say, social science, and the only reason we can talk about increasing the social science distribution is because we are inherently expecting more and more questions on lots of the same topics, that will sound very similar and have lots of overlapping clues but that still will be unique enough not to be plagiarized. So until I buy criteria #4 it seems to me it will need some clarifications.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote: To make it sound like you need 300/300 distinct subjects to write on is rather misleading.
This is my only caveat with Matt's argument as well. I don't feel that 300 distinct answers is necessary what needs to exist for any category to be considered broad enough to be asked about. I do understand his point, though, that perhaps geography has less askable things that would make good, accessible questions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by magin »

Well, hold on here. Just going by countries, there are probably at least 200 tossupable ones. Now, consider large/important cities, states, and important rivers (as long as they aren't just "this river is X feet deep and passes through cities Y and Z"). That should easily be 300 answers, and I'm forgetting some things, I bet.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:Well, hold on here. Just going by countries, there are probably at least 200 tossupable ones.
No, there aren't. This is precisely my argument about good/interesting clues. You can't write a tossup on Sao Tome and Principe that doesn't reduce to a last-word buzzer race, if you can write one at all. There are only about 100 countries that have more things than their capital and borders really known, and of those a substantial fraction are going to be known only for almanac stuff--rivers and mountains that are there, and so on. Those questions that lead in by talking about ethnic groups and stuff are great, but like the "pyramidal tossups on numbers" as a solution to the mathcalc problem, the idea falls apart when you need to write more than thirteen of them in a given year.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Kevin »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:Well, hold on here. Just going by countries, there are probably at least 200 tossupable ones. Now, consider large/important cities, states, and important rivers (as long as they aren't just "this river is X feet deep and passes through cities Y and Z"). That should easily be 300 answers, and I'm forgetting some things, I bet.
I completely agree with this. Saying there aren't 300 answers out there is ludicrous. Just at a novice, ACF-fall level, you could toss-up at least half of the world's countries and at least expect a player in most rooms to get it from the giveaway of a capital, a lot of players would be able to piece it together from what other countries it borders, and there would be some who could buzz earlier than that. Then there's 50 states, the Canadian provinces, and a few dozen cities, mountains, rivers, lakes, and seas/gulfs. And at the higher difficulty levels there are many more things you can ask, including more of the examples above as well as subnational areas of other countries, lesser-known regions and countries, etc. There is certainly enough geography knowledge out there that at a nationals-level tournament you could expect a significant amount of pre-giveaway buzzes on Sao Tome and Principe or any other country in the world.

Now, if you count each bonus as three separate parts, maybe there aren't 1200 distinct answers, but stuff in every category repeats throughout a given year (I know I answered at least two My Antonia toss-ups this year, for example). Nevertheless, there's certainly enough of an answer space that the argument doesn't hold water. And also, the answer space is something very accessible even at a novice level (you can easily write a novice tournament's worth of geography questions without resorting to anything your average novice player won't have heard of, even if they can't get it from a giveaway).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

There were what, three tossups on Symphonie Pathetique this year? And if there was only one tossup on apoptosis, I'd be pretty goddamn surprised. The idea that geography needs to provide three hundred distinct subjects presents geography with a burden that other subjects don't face. Maybe geography needs to have sixty or seventy distinct subjects at the novice level--that seems like a fair requirement. I hear that there are like fifty states, though, and even dumb ol' me can answer a geography tossup on a big country like France.

And in terms of geography Magin might have omitted, at higher levels there are three or four easily tossupable Mexican states, Indian provinces, etc. While I'm not advocating a tossup on Mecklenberg-Vorpommern anytime soon (I think I answered that to a bonus once, only for Dallas to tell me that America calls it "Pomerania"--how would I know?), it's silly to say that you only have one hundred tossupable subjects in geography (and even if it were true, it'd only be maybe 20% worse at any given level than biology (save Nationals, where I have discovered all KINDS of stuff comes up).

EDIT: apparently someone agrees with me and posted the same thing.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Kevin wrote: There is certainly enough geography knowledge out there that at a nationals-level tournament you could expect a significant amount of pre-giveaway buzzes on Sao Tome and Principe
Really? Please tell me what clue that would be on.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Man, I really didn't want to post in this thread again.

But, I have to join with Kevin and Magin in pointing out that Weiner's argument that there aren't 300 good topics to write about in geography is just plain crazy false. Geography has a very large reasonable answer space, even at lower levels, when you put together everything people have mentioned and more: countries, states, regions, lakes, rivers, mountains, peoples, and so on. In fact, I'd be reasonably confident in saying that something like chemistry has less reasonable answer space than geography - and I'm positive that things like Social Science or World Lit have a far more tightly constricted answer space at lower levels. Unlike many other subjects, I'm almost never hard up for a fresh geography answer - there are a lot of frigging things in the world.

I want to argue this point because #4 on Weiner's list is probably the most important criterion of what should be in the distribution for me. I wouldn't phrase it as "Availability of a year's worth of clues." I'd call it "Breadth and Depth of Possible Answer Space" - my biggest argument for exploding social science, for instance, is that I think there are lots of exciting reasonable things to write about at higher levels that never come up - same with subjects like "Other Arts". Accordingly, my biggest argument against religion being mandated 1/1 in each packet is that I think the answer space is very constricted and well-trodden, and a million Baha'i questions is enough for me. I agree that #1 and #2 on Weiner's list are important as well - likelihood of questions being good and academic status...but, when those are reasonably well satisfied, the most important thing for me when you start asking picky distribution questions, is "If this becomes 1/1 or 2/2, what am I gonna write that on? - are there many avenues for advancement, or is it going to be the same 50 tossups over and over?" - that's especially what I'd ask at higher levels. At lower levels, sure, it's all pretty much been done and there's not much reinventing the wheel on exciting answer choices - but at least it's nice to have a decent number of alternatives for things to write about.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Kevin »

Political parties in this country include the Force for Change Democratic Movement and the Independent Democratic Action. Islands near this country include Annobon and Bioko, part of a volcanic chain named for a country to the northeast. This country was a major exporter of sugar for centuries, but today cocoa is the major cash crop. Its major ethnic groups include mestiços of mixed European and native descent, forros--the descendants of slaves, and serviçais, or laborers from nearby countries. Prior to European colonization, when the colonizer mostly sent convicts and Jews, it was uninhabited, and it is the smallest Portugese-speaking country in the world, though creole languages such as Angolar are also spoken. FTP, name this island nation located off the African coast in the Gulf of Guinea, named for its two largest islands.
Answer: Sao Tome and Principe

I'm not saying this would be buzzed on fairly early in every room, but I can see people figuring out from sugar and cocoa that it's in a tropical region, from "mestiços" and "serviçais" that we're talking about a former Portugese colony, and realizing that it's an island from the "uninhabited" clue. "Angolar" tells you it's African. I'm sure there would also be people who will have heard of Annobon and Bioko--they were mentioned, along with Sao Tome and Principe, in a 2008 ACF Fall bonus lead-in. I'll admit this clue is more lateral thinking than pure memorization, but I don't see anything wrong with that.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I'm not saying this would be buzzed on fairly early in every room, but I can see people figuring out from sugar and cocoa that it's in a tropical region, from "mestiços" and "serviçais" that we're talking about a former Portugese colony, and realizing that it's an island from the "uninhabited" clue. "Angolar" tells you it's African. I'm sure there would also be people who will have heard of Annobon and Bioko--they were mentioned, along with Sao Tome and Principe, in a 2008 ACF Fall bonus lead-in. I'll admit this clue is more lateral thinking than pure memorization, but I don't see anything wrong with that.
I don't think any of these arguments really help the cause of geography. This is not how tossups play, because we don't have 5 minutes per sentence to analyze its nuances. Also, just because something came up in a bonus leadin doesn't mean shit about it's status as a well known fact. The point of many bonus leadins is as a chance to cram in clues that might not otherwise have a good place to go/introduce new things to the canon, because no matter what level you are at you don't have to worry at all about pyramidality/conversion, as long as later in the part you give something people do know. So while I agree with you that geography is something we should look into keeping, I do completely agree with Matt Weiner that there really isn't any possible good tossup on Sao Tome and Princip that doesn't rely on somebody taking very lucky guesses to get decent conversion rates.
Last edited by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) on Fri May 01, 2009 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Remember that you guys are supposed to be arguing for the inevitability of good, interesting geography questions, too. It's not enough that it is possible to write a reasonably pyramidal tossup on Wyoming--you need to show me that this tossup can have some sort of self-evidently important clue structure that is about something other than memorizing a list of which rivers and mountains are in Wyoming, yet will actually be buzzed on. That's what is allegedly being promoted here, right? The possibility of good geography questions, not the self-evident fact that you can list a bunch of random things on the map of Wyoming and then let people buzz on "unpopulated state with Cheyenne in it."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

Sure, nobody wants a tossup like that.

But a good geo tossup on Wyoming would include:

-information on national sites (Grand Teton, Devils Tower--obviously written in a way to make it pyramidal)
-information on natural resource sites (Wyoming has the world's largest reserve of the mineral trona)
-important historical incidents connected to its rivers and mountains

etcetera
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

That tu on Sao Tome and Principe sucks, not least because Annobon is also near some other countries like Equitorial Guinea. Also, clues like "this country has cocoa!" or "has teh highest percentage of mineral X to unit area!" are dumb. But, I think it may be possible to write a tu on Sao Tome/Principe and give a few middle clues - and I'm absolutely positive there are many many middle clues for something like Wyoming. In fact, if you look at just about any geography tossup I've ever written, there are a good number of middle clues where people with knowledge can buzz.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

cvdwightw wrote:Personally, I believe that the third case (geography has more academic/cultural merit than trash, but less than SS) is the correct one; however, geography is rounded up to 1/1 due to the insistence on having an equal number of tossups and bonuses in a subject in each packet. Thoughts?
If we ever reach a point where the consensus is that geography (or anything else) deserves 1/0 or 0/1 per round, I would certainly vote to put that in and throw out the notion that any category with a specific named spot in the distribution must have a multiple of 1/1 for submissions. In fact, I think the current ACF distribution has already discarded that notion: the sub-distribution calls for things like 1/0 or 0/1 world literature (plus 1/2 or 2/1 your choice literature), 1/0 or 0/1 math/CS, 1/0 or 0/1 astro/earth science, etc.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Thoughts on geography: I agree with most of what's been said so far, on both sides. Pure atlas questions are boring and bad, however, I do actually enjoy hearing the occasional atlas clue as part of, say, a history, CE, or SS question where the context makes it useful and interesting. It should come as no surprise that I'm all in favor of making geography questions more interdisciplinary, and would find such questions more meaningful and fun to play on.

However, this whole geography discussion misses the rather fundamental point that geography as an academic discipline is a social science. That's what it is, and the fact we separate out "geography" as a separate category is a matter of convention more than anything else (probably stemming from the fact that it's one of the few social sciences that are taught at lower levels in primary and secondary school, so people can be counted on to know more of it). Therefore, we should go back to 2/2 social science post haste, and if the social science distro just happens to have more geography at lower levels and more other stuff at higher levels, I think that would be perfectly acceptable to most everyone here.
I am also not opposed to geography clues, whether atlas-type or otherwise, in the context of history/CE/SS/other questions where those clues make sense. I think the most sensible thing would be to let geography content appear naturally in some of those questions and eliminate it as a separate category. If lots of people prefer Chris's suggestion of going to 2/2 social science + geography and allowing the exact balance to shift with difficulty level and the audience's preferences, that seems like an acceptable compromise to me.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Magister Ludi wrote:
theMoMA wrote:
If we consider how many people actually like geography, Ted's own argument that no one would write it if they had a "your choice" category seems to speak to that.
My comment about no one writing geography if it was put in "your choice" category was not meant to be an admission that people don't like geography. I feel like people would be more inclined to write on their favorite pet category than a geography tossup for your choice. Lets put chemistry into the your choice category and see how many people chose to write that chem tossup over a category they might feel more comfortable writing.

I'd also like to point out that by my count twelve people in this thread have expressed support for keeping the geography distribution or working to improve the geography distribution without reducing it (Mike Cheyne, Bruce Arthur, Chris Chiego, Andy Watkins, myself, Dwight Wynne, Jonathan Magin, Charlie Dees, Charlie Rosenthal, Andrew Yaphe, Caesar Rodney guy, George Stevens) as opposed to the ten people who have expressed a desire to have the geography distribution reduced (Seth Teitler, Matt Weiner, Jerry Vinokurov, Bernadette Spencer, Ahmad Ragab, Mike Bentley, MArnold, Chris White, Andrew Hart, Ryan Westbrook). (I have excluded some people from this list that had more nuanced positions such as Jeff Hoppes, who I do not believe wants to see geography excised from the distribution but wants to see the quality of geography questions improved as suggested by the fact he just started the thread about geo clues. If I've made a mistake in classifying you as in favor of one side I am sorry.)

The exact numbers on both sides is irrelevant to my point, but the fact that the number of supporters on each side is so close is important. I am not saying that this is a valid sampling of the opinions of all quizbowl; however, I want to argue that this number suggests that the discontent with geography and the burning desire to have it reduced, which Seth cited in his first post as the primary reasons for proposing these distributional changes are not as widespread as he suggests. I think it is valid to examine how many people cared about this issue enough to post in this thread as some kind of indicator that the quizbowl community's views on geography are not as unilateral as Seth asserts.
I think Jeff is pretty much in the same camp I am: the camp of "geography content should enter into packets through clues in certain questions from other topics, and geography should cease to be a mandatory, separate category." I'm also not so sure that, say, Andrew Yaphe is clearly in the camp of "we should definitely keep 1/1 geography per packet;" my reading of his posts suggests that he's more in the "let's be careful how we go about deciding to make changes to the distribution" camp. This doesn't really change the numbers, but I'm not terribly concerned about the numbers from this thread--this is a hopelessly small sample.

Anyway, can someone from the "we should definitely keep 1/1 geography per packet" camp explain why they think geography deserves a dedicated 1/1 per packet, as opposed to opening up history/CE/SS/other questions to using geography clues as appropriate?

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Important Bird Area »

I think "should cease to be a separate category" is an overstatement of my position, which approximates "I would be fine with incorporating geography into history/social science/your choice if people think that would lead to better, more interesting questions."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

bt_green_warbler wrote:I think "should cease to be a separate category" is an overstatement of my position, which approximates "I would be fine with incorporating geography into history/social science/your choice if people think that would lead to better, more interesting questions."
Perhaps I've misinterpreted your early statement regarding geography as a top-level category. In any case, I'm convinced that keeping geography as a separate/top-level category will (continue to) result in crappier, less-interesting questions, and I would therefore like to see geography incorporated into history/social science/your choice. We'll see whether my thoughts on this change after the geography subject tournament.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by intothenegs »

I think that a geography question, if done well, can reward knowledge that doesn't come straight from an almanac or atlas. Just as literature tossups have moved from name-dropping and title-dropping early to giving plot details and such earlier on, geography tossups can move atlas clues more towards the giveaway and have somewhat more substantive clues (earth science, history) prior to that.

I'll admit my question-writing is not up to par with everyone else here, but this is my take on Matt's idea of a Wyoming tossup:

The Popo Agie Wilderness of this state includes a glacial carved valley surrounded by granite peaks known as the Cirque of the Towers. A large collection of columnar basalt forms a monolith that may have originally been a volcanic plug in this state’s northeast. A notable mountain range in the northwest of this state was formed by a dipping fault in the Colter Formation and was part of the Laramide orogeny; that mountain range was photographed above the Snake River by Ansel Adams. This state is also home to the unstable Norris Basin, which is part of a national park explored by the Washburn expedition. This home of Devil’s Tower has an endorheic anticline in the Red Desert known as the Great Divide Basin. Its two national parks are centered on Jackson Hole and Old Faithful. FTP, name this Rocky Mountain state that contains Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
Answer: Wyoming

This tossup might've ended up a bit antipyramidal; but I moved most of what would be straight atlas clues (Devil's Tower, Red Desert, Great Divide Basin, Jackson Hole, Old Faithful, national park names) towards the giveaway while dedicating the first half of the question to geologyish clues. There's probably a slight difficulty cliff at Devil's Tower and again at Old Faithful; but I think this tossup should be answerable by everyone at the end, and there are multiple buzz points in this tossup for people with deep knowledge (volcanic plug of columnar basalt= Devil's Tower, dipping fault of Colter Formation= Tetons, or knowing about Adams' The Tetons and the Snake River.)

This tossup is notably uninteresting, but I don't feel that a tossup has to be written in an interesting way to fit into quizbowl. I don't find tossups on the Wittig Reaction interesting at all but I know that science is a subject that is academically important; in the same sense, although many players may feel geography tossups to be boring, I feel that having a decent knowledge of geography is as important as having a decent knowledge in any of the big three subjects. It's true that there might be buzzer races on Devil's Tower or Old Faithful by players who glean all their geography knowledge from atlases; but the same thing happens in literature, where there plenty of buzzer races on Godfrey Cass and Dorothea Brooke on George Eliot tossups by players who've never read Eliot but have read masterplots or similar.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Susan »

Seth wrote: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.
My suggestion:
Turn 1/1 geography and 1/1 CE/trash/your choice into 1/1 geography/trash/CE and 1/1 "other academic" (covering anything that isn't CE/trash/geography--more big three/social science/fine arts/RMP/cross-disciplinary stuff). This way, people who think they can write awesome geography questions can do that, and the rest of us can stop writing thinly-veiled questions on food (or was that just me?). Also, the 1/1 other academic can provide some flexibility in the distribution between different levels--at Fall, the editors can make that mostly more big three, but at Nats it'll provide some room for more exciting social science or whatever.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

intothenegs wrote:
I'll admit my question-writing is not up to par with everyone else here, but this is my take on Matt's idea of a Wyoming tossup:

The Popo Agie Wilderness of this state includes a glacial carved valley surrounded by granite peaks known as the Cirque of the Towers. A large collection of columnar basalt forms a monolith that may have originally been a volcanic plug in this state’s northeast. A notable mountain range in the northwest of this state was formed by a dipping fault in the Colter Formation and was part of the Laramide orogeny; that mountain range was photographed above the Snake River by Ansel Adams. This state is also home to the unstable Norris Basin, which is part of a national park explored by the Washburn expedition. This home of Devil’s Tower has an endorheic anticline in the Red Desert known as the Great Divide Basin. Its two national parks are centered on Jackson Hole and Old Faithful. FTP, name this Rocky Mountain state that contains Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
Answer: Wyoming

This tossup is notably uninteresting, but I don't feel that a tossup has to be written in an interesting way to fit into quizbowl. I don't find tossups on the Wittig Reaction interesting at all but I know that science is a subject that is academically important; in the same sense, although many players may feel geography tossups to be boring, I feel that having a decent knowledge of geography is as important as having a decent knowledge in any of the big three subjects. It's true that there might be buzzer races on Devil's Tower or Old Faithful by players who glean all their geography knowledge from atlases; but the same thing happens in literature, where there plenty of buzzer races on Godfrey Cass and Dorothea Brooke on George Eliot tossups by players who've never read Eliot but have read masterplots or similar.
Seth's right that my own position is more "let's be careful how we go about deciding to make changes to the distribution" than "geography rocks." However, I'll say that I don't buy a lot of the objections being made to geography in this thread. For one thing, as Ryan notes, Matt's claim that "there aren't enough geography answers for a year's worth of tossups" is patently untrue: what with non-Sao Tome and Principe countries, cities, states, provinces, rivers, mountain chains, mountain passes, ice shelfs, and the like, there's no shortage of reasonable, tossup-worthy answers. For another thing, as Chuhern notes, geography questions are not obviously more "uninteresting" than, say, tossups on organic chemistry. In fact, if I had to choose between tossups like this one on Wyoming and tossups on "some reaction which comes up ten times a year but which I don't care about and will never bother to learn the clues for," I'd take this one (which doesn't seem especially uninteresting to me, actually) in a heartbeat.
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