What should Chicago Open be?

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What should Chicago Open be?

Post by setht » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:55 pm

From reading through the Chicago Open discussion thread, it seems like there's some divergence of opinion on what kind of tournament CO is meant to be. Is it the hardest tournament of the year--harder even than experimental tournaments and subject events? Is it the tournament that sets the canon expansion agenda for the succeeding year (I'm not entirely sure what this boils down to in practice, but I thought I should include it as an option)? Is it a good, hard packet-submission tournament that doesn't have to be as polished as ACF Nationals (e.g., can have wacky subdistribution stuff if that's what people submit) because it's a summer tournament and the writers/editors can cut loose a bit? Is it ACF Nationals scaled up a bit in difficulty to account for the stronger, more concentrated field?

My personal preference is the last one--a packet-submission tournament that places first priority on providing a polished, high-quality academic set of questions meant to sort teams by breadth and depth of knowledge. If that means people's questions get tossed out or rewritten willy-nilly in order to maintain acceptable conversion numbers and avoid weird subdistribution issues, then that's what happens. It probably means the most work for the editors (except possibly the canon-expansion-setting option); it also means players don't get to write tossups on Wallace Stevens' usage of the word "rattapallax" in "Frogs Eat Butterflies. Snakes Eat Frogs. Hogs Eat Snakes. Men Eat Hogs." If the editors are cool with doing the work, I'm fine with leaving the rattapallax tossups to the multiple experimental tournaments that take place each year.

What do other people think?

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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:01 pm

Is it ACF Nationals scaled up a bit in difficulty to account for the stronger, more concentrated field?
My vote is for this one; with the addendum that it should also be a venue for future canon expansion. (That is, new-to-quizbowl things that are important, interesting, and answerable CO tossups should work their way down to nationals tossups or the hard parts of regionals bonuses.)
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Auroni » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:03 pm

I think I'd be happiest with a well-edited academic tournament anywhere in difficulty from just below ACF Nationals to what Chicago Open 2008 was. So, I'm happy seeing crazy tossups on writers' pet things fall aside in favor of very solid academic tossups, and I think that excitement can be derived from that, which can after all be used to distinguish teams in ability.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:10 pm

Mmmm, rattapallax!

As one who has gone to all but one of the COs, I'd like to see it continue to be the hardest tournament written for the toughest field, but I think that definition still fits with the idea of a scaled-up ACF Nats. However, I'm not sure there's that much true distinction between that idea and the one about a looser summer tournament that doesn't have to be as polished, at least if by "polished" we mean there are some outlier questions that really push the difficulty limits.

I'm mildly surprised at people's disgruntlement at the hard answers that came up, as that's what I expect from CO. Of course, I play far more infrequently than most who play it, so I suppose that when I read some other (non-CO) tournaments and am amazed at the expansion of what is asked, others are not; that is, people who play a lot have seen those answers that surprise me come up elsewhere and thus have (or think they have!) a better idea of what the boundary of the canon is, so they're more aggravated when something they think is outside it shows up and affects a match. For me, much of what comes up seems pretty far out there, and I expect it, so I'm not worried about it.

I don't know if any of that makes sense, but I stand by it. I look forward to continuing to make the trip, staring more and more blankly as weirder and weirder things get asked.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by millionwaves » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:32 pm

setht wrote: Is it the tournament that sets the canon expansion agenda for the succeeding year (I'm not entirely sure what this boils down to in practice, but I thought I should include it as an option)?

-Seth
The comment to which Bruce was referring to in the other thread was mine, I believe. Let me try to explain a little bit more about what I meant.

So this year I edited philosophy and social science for CO; both of those categories have, in the last year, gone in a direction that I didn't like. In philosophy, I think there's been a trend to sacrifice asking about very, very important older works in favor of asking about things that philosophers "really study;" in social science, there's been a slightly less pronounced trend to write (often poor) questions on concepts at the expense of (usually better) tossups on people and books. There was only one tossup on a concept in social science in the set (maybe two, I suppose), and I thought they were among the weaker tossups in the set. On the other hand, a large percentage of the philosophy distribution was submitted on 20th century stuff; I had to write several replacement questions. When I did that, I almost universally chose to write them on older things that are important, and studied, but have sort of been marginalized recently. For example, I wrote questions on Kant's essay on Perpetual Peace and on The Gay Science.

As a side note, I think this is very related to the idea that quizbowl should reflect what's "actually studied" as much as possible. I'm not particularly sympathetic to that view, I suppose. This is a topic for another thread, probably, but I've always thought that we should certainly use what's studied as a basis for what comes up, but privilege writing good and interesting questions over rewarding the two or three people in quizbowl who actually study a given category. It seems to me that there are a lot of parallels with the struggle to get real science questions written a few years ago, and people who are asking for questions on concepts because that's what people "really study" are sort of setting themselves up as the heirs to the people who made moves towards writing real science questions. I'd say that those people, however, are forgetting what, exactly, science players were reacting against: awful questions full of biographical details and misleading or incorrect information that privileged learning anecdotes, not concepts. I don't think there's really a parallel to that in the modern game.

So when I agreed to edit CO this year, I agreed to do it partially so that I could have a platform from which to correct what I (correctly or incorrectly, I suppose) see as negative tendencies in quizbowl. While I don't think Co is unique in providing an editor with an agenda an opportunity for this sort of corrective action, as it were, I think it's particularly well-suited because it's widely attended and doesn't have the reputation for, and expectation of, wackiness that tournaments like the Experiment and Gaddis do.

I suppose it ought to be implicit from my explanation what I think CO should be: ACF Nationals scaled up a bit in difficulty to account for the stronger, more concentrated field.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:45 pm

setht wrote:From reading through the Chicago Open discussion thread, it seems like there's some divergence of opinion on what kind of tournament CO is meant to be. Is it the hardest tournament of the year--harder even than experimental tournaments and subject events? Is it the tournament that sets the canon expansion agenda for the succeeding year (I'm not entirely sure what this boils down to in practice, but I thought I should include it as an option)? Is it a good, hard packet-submission tournament that doesn't have to be as polished as ACF Nationals (e.g., can have wacky subdistribution stuff if that's what people submit) because it's a summer tournament and the writers/editors can cut loose a bit? Is it ACF Nationals scaled up a bit in difficulty to account for the stronger, more concentrated field?
I see it as mostly the last thing, but that means that it's partly some of the other things too. It's usually going to be the hardest full academic tournament of the year, and it's usually going to set tones for canon expansion, and it's usually going to be skewed to what people write because it doesn't necessarily have the same subdistro constraints as a championship tournament. If a particular editor wanted to make an effort for it not to do one of those three things, more power to them. I don't see any of them as necessary to the Chicago Open experience, but they seem like natural outgrowths of having a very hard packet submission tournament.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by cornfused » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:47 pm

I'm all for the scaled-up-in-difficult-ACF-Nats option, though I might mention that in case of any differences between that Platonic ideal and a copy of CO 2008, I would side in favor of CO 2008.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Sir Thopas » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:42 pm

I like the idea of it being scaled up ACF nats, and would also add the (perhaps obvious) fact that experimental tournaments are becoming more and more frequent, to the extent that these satisfyingly (at least for me) replace any void a slight scaling back of Chicago Open would open.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:52 pm

Re: the relationship between experimental tournaments and CO, I liked one of Ryan's comments regarding how he wrote a bunch of short tossups for Experiment II so that the packets would be longer, making dead tossups less unfortunate. The same isn't true at CO, and moreover, dead tossups kill bonuses, too. So CO should not at all be like another experimental tournament, unless it gets thirty tossup rounds and the bonuses at the end of packets get played in a meaningful way anyway. It's just not worth it otherwise.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:40 pm

There's "a tournament harder than ACF Nationals" and then there's writing tossups on things so hard that they reduce to "have you heard of this" bowl. The latter is basically impossible speed check in a dress and is a huge waste of time for writers, editors, moderators, and players. If your tossup topic doesn't let you include multiple layers of clues that teams of different tiers will get in order to determine who knows more, then you have failed to understand the purpose of good quizbowl. There was too much of this shortcoming at CO 2009 and I'd prefer to see a return to something more like the 2005 to 2008 tournaments in the future.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:43 pm

I like what last year's CO looked like and I would be happy with something that looked a lot like that again.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:29 pm

In my mind, Chicago Open should be the most "polished" event of the year (maybe even moreso than ACF Nats, given the super-concentrated field that writes for and plays CO - it's an easier tournament to create than Nats in many ways) - but, I don't understand "polished" to mean that it can't also be very hard. Yes, easy parts of bonuses should be reasonable and most hard parts should be reasonable too...yes, there needs to be an effort to include real buzzable middle clues in questions - those things need to be accomplished in order to make any tournament, no matter how easy or hard, feel like a fair tournament.

If you wanna use labels like "experimental" or "vanity" to denote tournaments that are willing to sacrifice the above kind of fairness in return for writing on pet topics, being excessively absurd, being wild unconstrained by distributional requirements, etc - then certainly I don't think Chi Open should be that way. On the other hand, the two Experiments that I've written were not meant to be like that - they were written to be fair and legitimate, given the field that I knew would be playing on them, and I think they succeeded at being that way. If I ever write a tournament not aimed at being fair, I'll be very sure to tell people that up front...I don't want to see "super-hard difficulty" become code for "the writer is just gonna do whatever amuses him" or "it's about learning but don't expect a fair qb test of knowledge" (I'm not using "experimental difficulty" because I can understand how people would, by the natural meaning of the term experiment, think it is something different - so, to that extent, me using the name Experiment and starting this trend is unfortunate).

Given that I'm not (and never have been) concerned with titles or trophies, I think Chi Open is the premiere event of the year. It should be the one event you really can't question in terms of testing quizbowl skill, given the field that CO draws every year.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:21 pm

I think CO this year would have turned out better had we had this discussion beforehand, as the whole time I felt a little unsure as to what the tournament was really supposed to look like. I definitely think CO can "set the canon expansion agenda" without being outrageously hard, and I do agree with Matt about impossible bowl just boiling down to speedchecks at the end of 9 line tossups on hard shit.

There is a sort of canon expansion metric that can be (and in the past has been) utilized to ensure that new stuff that comes up is within reason, and that's the 3x rule. The 3x rule basically says that 1) if you want to ask about something in a bonus that's never come up as an answer before, it should have been a clue in at least three questions, and 2) if you want to write a tossup on something that's never been tossed up before, it should have come up as a bonus answer at least three times. Obviously, that metric is far from flawless, but it does at least help ensure that really crazy ass shit doesn't end up in the set. The much-maligned Henry Cowell tossup clearly would not have passed muster as a tossup under this rule, but Cowell probably could have been a bonus part.

Also, I'm not exactly sure why people are forgetting that the difficulty of the packets last year was not remotely uniform. Chicago Open 08, however enjoyable it may have been, did not represent the ideal being put forth here. Rather, it was Ryan's way of adapting to the natural variance between submissions. Standardizing the difficulty for Chicago Open this year would have been a tremendous task simply because people often wrote on whatever the hell they wanted. If we're going to move toward a uniformly difficult Chicago Open, the first step is gonna have to be an agreement among the submitting teams to keep the submissions within reason.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:33 pm

Well, I for one am uniformly against moving to a uniform difficulty.

I think letting variance happen is a very good thing for writers and editors, especially at a tourney like this - as long as the variance is within the realm of fairness outlined in my above post.

Furthermore, even if your opinion of Henry Cowell is that he's way outside the bounds (and I wouldn't disagree at all) - I have no problem having a few tossups in the tournament like that. As long as there aren't more than two "surely-dead" tossups in any one packet, and more than a certain small number in a tournament in general, I think the ideal of fairness that I keep harping on isn't really impugned.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:07 pm

For what it's worth, even I think Henry Cowell is way too "out there" to be a good tossup choice at anything other than some sort of ubervanity 20th-century-music novelty tournament of my dreams. He's a nationals-and-up hard bonus part, and (right now) that's it.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:29 pm

I think last year, while packets had varying difficulty, they were relatively uniform in terms of internal difficulty.
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Re: What should Chicago Open be?

Post by SnookerUSF » Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:08 pm

There is exactly one answer to that question: a enormous high-stakes game of Ulama on the Midway Plaisance.

But really, I am inclined to agree with Ryan that CO is the premier national open event of the year, and perhaps the editing team ought to be decided with this in mind. So the head editor and assistant editor should be chosen by the community-at-large (with some kind of semi-official voting process) as a reward or recognition for the hard work that those selected have shown throughout the year. We might construct it in such a way as to recognize the outstanding editor/writer of the year, and pair them with a younger up-and-coming editor who has shown an ability to edit consistently at this level. Moreover, once we have selected those editors then they have (more or less) free reign to provide whatever kind of high-quality "fair and balanced" tournament they want. I mean it seems ridiculous to restrict CO so essentially, when those distinctions rely so heavily upon the editor(s) chosen. Maybe I hold too strongly to a kind of tournament auteurism that arguably doesn't exist, but maybe not.
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