Matt Weiner wrote:Obviously there's going to be things in some rounds but not others; every tournament will have more then zero Latin American history questions, while no tournament will have one in every round. To reject making rounds as consistent as possible because it's not realistic to make them perfectly consistent is Westbrookian in its use of idealism discovered five minutes ago as grounds for refusal to address the actual argument.
I think there are more things we can do, including making sure that social science within a round breaks down in some sort of logical way (perhaps among laboratory vs. speculative disciplines, just to throw out an idea).
Okay, so we all agree there are some coherent categories ("Latin American history" or "earth science" seem like fine examples) that should get some questions per tournament, but generally less than one question per packet. In the case of things like Latin American history and earth science we've packaged them with some other things that should get less than one question per packet (like "Asian history" and "computer science") and with things that should consistently get more than one question per packet (like "American history" and "physics"). Most of our packaging choices make sense from an academic standpoint, but if (as I believe) the primary purpose of the packaging is to help deal with cases like Latin American history and earth science where treating these topics as top-level categories in the distribution would lead to systematic misrepresentation in tournament sets, then what's the objection to something like "2/2 social science + geography, with a maximum of 1/1 geography in that 2/2"? Yes, it means that some rounds have more geography than other rounds. Is there some reason to think that that's particularly worse than having some rounds with more earth science than other rounds?
I don't think "making rounds as consistent as possible" is the primary goal we should be setting for ourselves. For a packet submission tournament, I think it makes more sense to start by setting a fair amount of the 20/20 distribution (e.g. start with at least 4/4 each of literature, history, science, 2/2 each of fine arts and RMP, etc.), then leave some wiggle room--which we currently do by leaving space for some "your choice" in the first 20/20--which the editors can fill based on various criteria (which remaining questions in the submissions seem strongest, which questions cover topics that seem under-represented in the rest of the set, etc.). If that means that some rounds have 8 literature questions and others have 9, or that some rounds have 6 fine arts and others have 5, I think that's fine. As long as the amount of leeway doesn't creep too high and people are given fair warning on how much leeway to expect I don't see a problem. Producing stronger packet-submission sets by giving editors a little more choice on which questions to use seems more worthwhile to me than setting things up so that teams can regularly predict the topic of tossup 20 after hearing tossup 19.
To be clear: I think the ACF distribution (as it's listed here
) gives some leeway per round, but I would like to see it move towards giving a little more leeway in the first 20/20.
Magister Ludi wrote:I agree with Matt here. I understand that when you're editing a packet submission tournament it is unrealistic to try to guarantee a perfect distribution, but I think it is admirable to try to get as close to this ideal as possible... I feel like it is the responsibility of the head editor to ensure that there is a bare minimum of certain sub-categories over the course of the tournament.
I'm not sure you do agree with Matt, but perhaps I'm misreading Matt's post or your post (or both). From what you wrote, I would guess that you're fine with some leeway in the round-to-round distribution if it helps move a set closer to the hypothetical perfect distribution. My impression is that Matt finds at least some forms of leeway unacceptable--for instance, if the ideal number of geography questions per tournament averages out to 1.75 questions per packet, my impression is that Matt would rather see 1/1 geography in every round than have a set with 1/1 geography in 3/4 of the rounds and 1 geography in the other 1/4, and my impression is that you would go the other way.