EFT Discussion

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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by azngod1992 » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:21 pm

I really enjoyed playing in this tournament. I really liked the Qualia bonus, mainly because my Philosophy of the Mind class is finally translating into points. I thought the set did a great job of catering to novices; however, I still think that this tournament may be a bit too hard for people who have never had QB experience before. One true novice that I dragged along was demoralized by the relative difficulty of this event, and I doubt he will be back for more quizbowl. However, people who have had quizbowl experience really enjoyed this.
Macho Man for Expediency wrote:Only one tossup from the set stood out to me as hose-ish. The tossup on alveoli seemed like it could have been answered with lungs for a large portion of the tossup. There was a middle clue about surface area in there which made it specifically about alveoli. Long story short, someone buzzed with "lungs" in my room after the surface area clue and I had to neg him. It might have cost him the game. I'm no expert in biology, but it seemed kind of hazy to me.
I am also guilty of negging with Lungs on this question. I don't know the exact question text, but I think Lungs deserved a prompt until at least the middle of the question.

EDIT: SPELLING
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by swwFCqb » Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:44 pm

Most nearly all of the minor issues with the set have been voiced by others before me, so I'll skip to the part where I thank the Brown people (as well as non-Brown writers like Ike, Seth, et al.) for putting this tournament on once again. I enjoyed playing this tournament last year and I was happy with it once again this year. Being a teammate of a novice quizbowl player (whose only experience with quizbowl, if that's what you can call it in this case, was Cleveland's shitty TV quiz program), I can definately say that this particular player enjoyed himself and is motivated to get better after his first experiences with the toss-up/bonus format. So thanks again, and I hope to see continued incarnations of EFT in the year(s) to come.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:39 am

Also, please reprimand whoever wrote that art tossup on "children."
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by fluffy4102 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 3:05 am

While we had an interesting bonus part that described ethers as "molecules characterized by two alkyl groups bonded to a hydrogen atom," this was a good set that was pretty accessible. Did anybody else notice the pervasiveness of questions related to South Africa?
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:57 am

theMoMA wrote:Also, please reprimand whoever wrote that art tossup on "children."
I wrote that tossup and I don't see what the problem was.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by TheKingInYellow » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:30 am

fluffy4102 wrote:While we had an interesting bonus part that described ethers as "molecules characterized by two alkyl groups bonded to a hydrogen atom," this was a good set that was pretty accessible. Did anybody else notice the pervasiveness of questions related to South Africa?
Someone had just watched District 9... :roll:
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:44 am

TheKingInYellow wrote:
fluffy4102 wrote:While we had an interesting bonus part that described ethers as "molecules characterized by two alkyl groups bonded to a hydrogen atom," this was a good set that was pretty accessible. Did anybody else notice the pervasiveness of questions related to South Africa?
Someone had just watched District 9... :roll:
That ethers part was my fault; I mistakenly typed hydrogen when I meant to type oxygen. As for the South Africa content, I don't really know how that happened. I think it would have been less noticeable if it hadn't occurred in three consecutive packets and instead been spread out temporally over the entire tournament.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by fluffy4102 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:10 pm

TheKingInYellow wrote:
fluffy4102 wrote:While we had an interesting bonus part that described ethers as "molecules characterized by two alkyl groups bonded to a hydrogen atom," this was a good set that was pretty accessible. Did anybody else notice the pervasiveness of questions related to South Africa?
Someone had just watched District 9... :roll:
I watched it at least a month ago. I admit there wasn't anything on Paton or Fugard, but there were multiple Gordimer, Coetzee, and Boer War questions in consecutive rounds. I find nothing wrong with that. I just wanted to point it out.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 1:35 pm

I found this tournament acceptable, but not great. I couldn't escape the impression that many of the answers were selected without sufficient regard for their actual academic merit*; I can give some examples if necessary. Too many questions ought to have done a better job precisely delineating what they were talking about and discriminating among different answers for a knowledgeable players.
The lack of relevant alternative answers or directives regarding what sorts of variation in answer to accept was rampant and potentially presented a major issue: of course, in my case, I'm old and think I know things and will overrule the fuck out of a packet without a second thought, but I can't imagine that being the case with every reader. Incidentally, "John" should be all you need for John, not even a "the First" is necessary (or, frankly, proper; I'd say an answer of John I is borderline wrong, actually) and "Gates of Paradise" shouldn't be necessary for the Ghiberti Florence baptistery east door panels, given that that's not their actual title and they don't have an actual title, though the issue of what's necessary for a right answer is rather a subtle question, given the true claim that the other doors' panels are important works in their own right.

MaS

*On some further thought, maybe it's not entirely fair to level this criticism at any tournament in particular, since a given tournament doesn't contain the same information more than once. Really, the issue here arises only in the aggregate set of information from multiple tournaments is examined and one sees that certain things come up far too often given how important they are, whereas other things don't come up nearly enough. My impression is that this issue is caused by an emulative tendency in writing, especially where writers don't have a good command of the academic understanding underlying what they're writing. I'd make the further claim that tournaments have a duty to actively try and bring this set of information into better agreement with what academic importance weights would dictate (given the strictures of the game, of course) and I find that that this tournament largely failed in that duty.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 06, 2009 1:42 pm

How did the Gates of Paradise prompt go? We said "Baptistery at Florence," which I realize is not right anyway.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:09 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
theMoMA wrote:Also, please reprimand whoever wrote that art tossup on "children."
I wrote that tossup and I don't see what the problem was.
Enough of those paintings are of "siblings" or some other class of people that it was hard to figure out what the tossup wanted. Some common link tossups just don't play well, and this was one of those cases.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:17 pm

Yes. Quasi-wrong* answers of "peasants" and "boys" were made during a semi-final game on this question. Again, I'll stress this point: please make sure, if you're going to write a common link question like that one, that all your clues indicate the same set of explicitly acceptable or promotable answers. It seems that even noted drawer-of-my-ire-through-common-link-authorship Andrew Hart agrees with this proposition to a certain extent (hopefully not exclusively the extent to which his team is screwed by questions that don't meet that standard.)

MaS

*By quasi-wrong, I mean that the answer fit several clues, especially clues local to the buzz point.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:25 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:I found this tournament acceptable, but not great. I couldn't escape the impression that many of the answers were selected without sufficient regard for their actual academic merit*; I can give some examples if necessary.
This is a novel point and I would like to know what sorts of answers fit into this category. I can't really recall, having looked at the entire set of answers in this tournament, any particular academic answer that struck me as not of sufficient academic merit.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:33 pm

theMoMA wrote:Enough of those paintings are of "siblings" or some other class of people that it was hard to figure out what the tossup wanted. Some common link tossups just don't play well, and this was one of those cases.
The tossup directed a prompt on "boys" and "girls." I guess I should have also specified a prompt on "siblings," although it never occurred to me that someone would give that answer. The Runge painting is called "The Hulsenbeck Children," and I do not know of a source that refers to it as "The Hulsenbeck Siblings." Also, anyone who answers "peasants" is simply wrong by virtue of the first clue (it doesn't even make sense, why would a king be occupied with peasants?). What's more, the Breughel painting "Childrens' Games" simply cannot apply to anything like "siblings." I guess I'm sympathetic to people guessing incorrectly based on one or two clues, but you have to take the totality of the clues into account and not just rely on a single fact to buzz off. That question seemed to play just fine in IRC and when I read it in the finals, so I'm not convinced that your particular experience on that question necessarily condemns it.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:38 pm

The only thing I would direct to this conversation is a problem I tend to have with common links. Of course, one needs to take the totality of clues into consideration, but a lot of times I do not recognize the opening clues and thus am in effect just buzzing on a clue I recognize. I didn't play this tossup and I don't think I would have negged with "peasants," but if I'm unfamiliar with the painting of the king, I see no reason to explicitly rule out peasants just because it doesn't make sense for the king to be occupied with them. Who knows, perhaps this is some strange painting with the king hanging out with peasants? That said, I'm not sure what the solution to this is. I don't know enough art to really quibble one way or the other about this tossup, but this is a challenge with common link tossups and why I am generally in favor of very broad answer lines if you're tossing up a common link (note that in this case I don't believe peasants should have been accepted or prompted, I'm just arguing against using "the first clue ruled it out" argument).
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:04 pm

I don't mind people trying to write creative tossups, but it seems to me (through both my own mistakes and reading other questions) that the biggest problems can be averted by simply playing through the question in your head to see if people who can't see the answer line would encounter any problems coming to the right answer if they actually know each clue of the tossup. For what it's worth, I think I've made many fewer errors with common link tossups since I started applying this rule.

Just as an aside, it's kind of frustrating to have my corpus of tossups judged on the small handful of times I've made mistakes. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that the half-dozen bad common link tossups I've written are indicative of my writing style, despite the fact that I have no real proclivity to write common links over other types of tossups, and despite the fact that the common links I have written aren't faulty any more than seems typical. I've written a lot of tossups, and always tried to be inventive, and sometimes that results in questions that are bad. It's also yielded a lot more really good tossups.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:59 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:*On some further thought, maybe it's not entirely fair to level this criticism at any tournament in particular, since a given tournament doesn't contain the same information more than once. Really, the issue here arises only in the aggregate set of information from multiple tournaments is examined and one sees that certain things come up far too often given how important they are, whereas other things don't come up nearly enough. My impression is that this issue is caused by an emulative tendency in writing, especially where writers don't have a good command of the academic understanding underlying what they're writing. I'd make the further claim that tournaments have a duty to actively try and bring this set of information into better agreement with what academic importance weights would dictate (given the strictures of the game, of course) and I find that that this tournament largely failed in that duty.
I've read this about three times through now and I have to say I'm completely baffled by this argument. The more I read this last passage in particular, the less I actually understand what your criticism is. I don't know which academic weights are being discussed or what rubric I was supposed to use to figure out what information to include. This tournament was a tournament that was, if not a strictly novice event, definitely oriented towards newer teams. While one may certainly argue that there were things in this tournament which were harder than they needed to be, I can't think of anything in the traditional academic categories that I would look at and say, "this does not belong in an academic event." This exchange is particularly strange for me because as a rule I actually agree with you that academic importance should guide question-writing efforts, but I argue that we did in fact do this. Now, one possible interpretation of what I think you're saying is that this emulative tendency that you're talking about results in some less-than-desirable writing trends, and I think that's true, but I don't think EFT is particularly egregious in that regard. I took a look through some recent Illinois Novice packets, and they look a lot like what you might find in EFT. Certainly, there were topics in this tournament that I would have preferred to see less of, e.g. the now-infamous South Africa content, Japanese lit, etc. But we're talking about a reduction that amounts to something like a tossup or two; it's just not a problem that I see on a large scale with this tournament. So I would really like to understand what you're getting at because in my view, a tournament that largely fails in the duty of providing quality academic questions is essentially a complete failure, and yet that doesn't seem to be what people are saying about it (or the way I or my co-writers feel about it). I'd really like to reconcile these divergent descriptions.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:41 pm

Jerry, basically, what I'm saying is that it's my opinion that there are things that come up far more often than they ought (e.g. pretty much every Japanese author; more examples pending) and things that, for some reason, seemingly don't ever come up, or don't ever come up anymore. I feel like this is caused to large extent by a drive by writers to emulate what's come up before applied too strongly and I feel that the game would be better if writers deviated from this trend. I think this is especially important for a novice tournament, actually, which should exemplify what the game ought to be.

MaS


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theMoMA wrote:...it's kind of frustrating to have my corpus of tossups judged on the small handful of times I've made mistakes.
I mean, don't start a tavern fight over it, man, or someone might wind up face down in the mud! You sound mad enough to attempt to assassinate a Roosevelt over there.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:08 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:Jerry, basically, what I'm saying is that it's my opinion that there are things that come up far more often than they ought (e.g. pretty much every Japanese author; more examples pending) and things that, for some reason, seemingly don't ever come up, or don't ever come up anymore. I feel like this is caused to large extent by a drive by writers to emulate what's come up before applied too strongly and I feel that the game would be better if writers deviated from this trend. I think this is especially important for a novice tournament, actually, which should exemplify what the game ought to be.
Ok, I don't actually disagree with any of this. In fact, I think it's something that's worth its own thread and should be discussed at length. But I do take issue with your statement that for example every Japanese author comes up more than they should. For whatever reason, Japanese literature is popular among intellectual readers in America and fairly popular within the academy as well. This tournament had two Japanese lit tossups: one on Mishima (who I contend is a significant author by any metric) and one on Murakami, who is probably way overrepresented in quizbowl relative to his significance. I went through the list of our lit answers, and that's really the only thing that struck me as being egregious in this way; the vast majority of these questions were on topics of relevance. That they have been asked about in other tournaments is not a knock against them.

Moreover, I don't think I agree with your prescription for novice tournaments at all. In my view, the purpose of a novice tournament is to show people who are new to quizbowl what good questions on relevant topics are. And of course, gettability is a major concern, so you can't stray too far from the script and write a tossup on Masuji Ibuse or Gottfried Keller, because no one will answer that. As far as conversion statistics go, I haven't exactly done a full-blown analysis, but it seems to me that we got pretty close to what we were aiming for, so I'll claim success on that front. And we got there using what I think were for the most part well-written questions on academic topics.

I'm a big fan of invention, I really am. But I think there's a time and a place for that, and this tournament just isn't intended for that purpose. We pick from a relatively limited pool of answer options in order to err on the side of writing about something that people will know, so yes, you're going to get plenty of overlap between such tournaments. I'm not at all bothered by the fact that I wrote the 1217th tossup on the War of the Spanish Succession; that's an objectively important thing, people will know it, and I can write a good question about it.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:23 pm

Akutagawa, too, for what it's worth. But yeah, I didn't find Japan to be vastly overrepresented.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:26 pm

The only egregious Japanese lit tossup was on _A Thousand Cranes_, which was probably too difficult. I was unable to buzz as apparently for all these years I have confused the plot of this book with the plot of the children's book "Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes," so I was waiting for the tossup to mention Hiroshima and the titular crafted objects or something.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:28 pm

Based on a cursory scan, here's what I've come up with. I suppose next time I'm reading something and I plan on making these kinds of posts, I should take notes of my reactions while reading, since I don't really want to re-read the whole tournament at this point (which would be required for an in-depth critique of overused clues, which are probably an issue on the same magnitude as that of the issue of overused answers) and I can't recreate the play of the questions or my reaction thereto.

Anyway, here are some answers from EFT that I think are badly overasked and/or are asked/seemingly askable (in their role, given the tournament's level) only because they've come up (too much) already:
Thousand Cranes
manose-6 phosphate
Kula ring/Coral Gardens and Their Magic
the Goldman equation
TMS/chemical shift
PKU
Hayashi
Whorf
electrospray ionization
Vereeniging
Meiji restoration
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
thixotropy - this one was especially baffling, given that its relation to the rest of its bonus is tenuous at best.
Malevich/Unique Forms.../futurism
RNAi
Mithras
flocculation
Akutagawa
Pierrot Lunaire/Schoeberg/Berg
Huitzilopochtli
Kalevala
"Market for Lemons"
Blind Man's Bluff (Fragonard)
the Dagda's cauldron
Riemann zeta function
Un Chien Andalou
prions/Creutzfeldt-Jacob

I've bolded answers I feel strongly about and italicized ones I feel only weakly about.

What I'm saying about these, again, isn't per se an indictment of EFT. I'm saying that these come up too much in quizbowl and there are other things that we can and should ask about instead in all of these areas. Note especially that I'm not arguing about the academic importance of these answers in an absolute sense; with perhaps a few exceptions, these are valid, academic answers. My argument is rather about the relative academic importance of these answers compared to other things.
It is telling that all of these are bonus answers, mostly the hard parts of bonus answers. I think that what I'm missing in the game right now can largely be understood creativity (bounded by academic merit, etc.) in spots like that especially, and in other areas generally.

Here are some EFT answer lines that needed more research:
"X Article" - this item is most commonly called "The Long Telegram."
"the ultraviolet catastrophe" - this isn't, like, the title of a work.
Josquin des Prez - should accept Josquin (as you already mentioned.)
The Mexican-American War - Mexican war should be okay here.
mess of pottage - there should be a lot of things that are acceptable here.
Easter Rising - as already noted. Also, the whole thing is underlined with no directives in my version of the rounds.
Guide for the Perplexed - as already noted. Incidentally, to counter what was said earlier, "to" makes just as much sense as "for" as the book is directed to perplexed people as much as written for them.
Gates of Paradise - as already discussed.
quark star - I've mostly heard these called "strange stars." After all, every star is made of quarks.
phyletic gradualism - should probably take just "gradualism," which probably necessitates booting this answer (I guess.)
prejudice - synonyms are seemingly getting the shaft; if this answer is forced (by fill-in-the-blank-in-title clues, for example) this question is too hard.
children - already noted.

MaS
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:28 pm

Cheynem wrote:The only egregious Japanese lit tossup was on _A Thousand Cranes_, which was probably too difficult. I was unable to buzz as apparently for all these years I have confused the plot of this book with the plot of the children's book "Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes," so I was waiting for the tossup to mention Hiroshima and the titular crafted objects or something.
Trey said that exact same thing when i read this packet to him for practice!
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:30 pm

Norman the Lunatic wrote:Akutagawa, too, for what it's worth. But yeah, I didn't find Japan to be vastly overrepresented.
Yeah, after double-checking, I take back my earlier statement. There were a few other Japanese literature questions, amounting to what was almost certainly an over-representation.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:31 pm

To reply to Andy and Mike (and now, to a lesser extent, Jerry): I'm not saying there was "too much Japanese lit at this tournament." I am saying "there's too much Japanese lit in quizbowl and I wish this tournament would have consequently had even less." I have to agree with you that I think this tournament did a better job than most in checking the aggression of our new Japanese literary overlords.

MaS
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Jesus vs. Dragons » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:33 pm

Cheynem wrote:The only egregious Japanese lit tossup was on _A Thousand Cranes_, which was probably too difficult. I was unable to buzz as apparently for all these years I have confused the plot of this book with the plot of the children's book "Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes," so I was waiting for the tossup to mention Hiroshima and the titular crafted objects or something.
I also agree with this. Every time A Thousand Cranes comes up the story of Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes (which most people have heard in school) pops into my mind. Also, A Thousand Cranes would be Kawabata's fourth most famous book in my opinion. Kind of deep for a novice tournament.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:36 pm

To reply to Jerry's second-to-last, yes, I agree that you've got to write easier things. What I'm saying is: don't always go to the same well (full of liquid stuff-that-comes-up-a-lot) to get at what people know, since there are other, uhm, wells, I guess. Mainly, I'd like more questions on things we'd expect people to know regardless of whether they come up a lot, which means learned from outside of quizbowl, as it boils down, since we can assume that people who know the stuff that comes up a lot know it from within quizbowl as we lose nothing even if they know it by some other means, so long as they know it. Actually, saying I'd like that is too weak; I think the game needs that to be a healthy, useful, and even fun game.

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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:21 pm

Yeah, well, we all have our own heuristics on what is overasked or underasked in qb - everyone who's done a lot of playing or writing thinks certain things come up too much and others too little, but I don't think this is really the right forum for raising those concerns.

Also, Thousand Cranes is at least the second-most famous Kawabata work in qb terms. Whether that's famous enough for this event, I don't know, make your own call.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:27 pm

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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:46 pm

I agree, Mike, with your list, almost in its entirety. While electrospray ionization is an important technique, it's not the kind of important that merits its showing up as frequently as it does, and what better place to limit its showing up than EFT, where it's sort of an outlier anyway? Anyway, I'd probably downgrade your feeling weakly about prions to feeling nothing at all about them: they're important enough to come up here.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:47 pm

Norman the Lunatic wrote:...important enough to come up here.
That isn't really my argument one way or another.

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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:59 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:
Norman the Lunatic wrote:...important enough to come up here.
That isn't really my argument one way or another.
I know that you're more saying that they're coming up more frequently than they should, broadly, and this tournament could stand to try to combat that trend. I should have put that differently: I think prions are coming up at a pretty appropriate rate on the whole. We disagree.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:38 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:"X Article" - this item is most commonly called "The Long Telegram."
These are two different, related things, and the question made it clear (by reference to its date, location, and anonymity of publication) that only the X Article is correct. People who confused the two have committed the common quizbowl-losing activity of not getting points due to not knowing enough things.

I would like to hear if anyone has a particular framework in mind for debating whether things come up too much or not; I question the value of people just posting subjective lists of things they don't want to hear as much of. I think I did this once in 2004, but I've learned a lot since then about what constitutes helpful discourse, and I don't think I would repeat it today.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Auroni » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:49 am

TheLessFamousEthan wrote:
Cheynem wrote:The only egregious Japanese lit tossup was on _A Thousand Cranes_, which was probably too difficult. I was unable to buzz as apparently for all these years I have confused the plot of this book with the plot of the children's book "Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes," so I was waiting for the tossup to mention Hiroshima and the titular crafted objects or something.
Also, A Thousand Cranes would be Kawabata's fourth most famous book in my opinion
I hated to see that come up here as much as everyone else (and it wasn't a good tossup on the book anyway), but I feel that this is out and right wrong. Thousand Cranes is certainly in the top three of Kawabata books, although I'm willing to bet it is significantly harder than Snow Country is. In any case, after a lot of thought, I think that both books are too hard for sub-ACF Winter difficulty tournaments and that a tossup on Kawabata himself, who isn't as well known as Mishima or Murakami, might even be pushing it.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Oct 07, 2009 10:44 am

I'd do Kawabata here too, instead of a specific work. Comically, I confused a hairy birthmark with a single long eyebrow hair, leading me to neg with Master of Go despite the lack of any other Master of Go content. But overall, I agree with Auroni's sentiments re: difficulty.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:19 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:Anyway, here are some answers from EFT that I think are badly overasked and/or are asked/seemingly askable (in their role, given the tournament's level) only because they've come up (too much) already:
I'm going to comment on a few of your selections, because I wholeheartedly agree with some and disagree with others. Note that "perceived difficulty" implies "how difficult this would be for someone who's played several recent tournaments" and "actual difficulty" implies "how difficult this would be for someone who's never played quizbowl to answer." Also note that while I'm using what I believe to be your standard regarding academic relevance and difficulty (that is, is it taught at the university, and at what level), my experience is solely my experience and other universities may vary.
Captain Sinico wrote:the Goldman equation
This came up in the first three weeks of the first quarter of my year-long upper-division neuroscience series, which makes sense as it's really important to understanding what's going on inside and outside the neuron. I definitely agree that its perceived difficulty is much lower than its actual difficulty due to it coming up all the dang time. Given that the number of people who have taken upper-division and above neuroscience is limited to me, Ray Luo, and a few "true bio" players, I'd say it's definitely inappropriate for the novice level as anything other than a hard bonus part, but it would be at least defensible as a hard bonus part.
Captain Sinico wrote:TMS/chemical shift
I encountered these in second-quarter O-Chem and I'd imagine most people that encountered them would also do so sometime in their year of O-Chem. This doesn't strike me as particularly egregious, given the high potential for even-more-overasked-and-unimportant parts of the series "Named Things in Organic Chemistry."
Captain Sinico wrote:PKU
Disease questions are always weird. On one hand, you have the ubiquitous PKU warning labels on yogurt. On the other hand, it's unclear how many people actually know what PKU is. I seem to recall learning about this at some level as an undergrad, but I might be confusing that with maple syrup urine disease. This is probably inappropriate for a tossup answer but I could see it as the middle or hard part of a bonus at this level.
Captain Sinico wrote:electrospray ionization
As you probably recall, this answer was the 2007 equivalent of 2008's Pomeranchuk cooling: an ACF Nationals answer (in this case, tossup answer) that was met with collective eyes-bulging stares. I'd guess that I'm one of the very few people on the circuit that has actually encountered this in a class, and since that class was a graduate-level microfluidics class, I feel extremely confident in saying that this has absolutely no place as anything other than an early clue for "ionization" or "mass spectrometry."
Captain Sinico wrote:Meiji restoration
I'm not sure on this one (as, it appears, neither are you). It's an extremely important period in Japanese history and one that I hope would be covered in any survey course on modern Asian history. I'd say its perceived difficulty is less than its actual difficulty, but its actual difficulty is not actually that high.
Captain Sinico wrote:RNAi
This is another one that neither you nor I are sure about. I encountered this in lower-division molecular biology (and may have encountered it in AP Bio); furthermore, any decrease in its difficulty can equally be attributed to the recent Nobel for its discovery, and thus I'd argue that its actual difficulty is lower than one would think. Upon reflection, I'd have this at the upper-difficulty end of "stuff that should come up."
Captain Sinico wrote:prions/Creutzfeldt-Jacob
Eight or so years ago, when everyone and their mother was freaked out about mad cow disease, I'd completely disagree with you. Now that all people seem to remember about mad cow disease is that it makes cows go crazy and it's caused by feeding cows parts of other cows, I think you're right. I think this is another example of how a topic's sudden importance in academia or popular culture can quickly lower its actual difficulty while not doing anything to its perceived difficulty.
Captain Sinico wrote:What I'm saying about these, again, isn't per se an indictment of EFT. I'm saying that these come up too much in quizbowl and there are other things that we can and should ask about instead in all of these areas. Note especially that I'm not arguing about the academic importance of these answers in an absolute sense; with perhaps a few exceptions, these are valid, academic answers. My argument is rather about the relative academic importance of these answers compared to other things.
I think some of this can be attributed to the fact that people who don't have primary knowledge in an area have to use "what's come up before" as a benchmark for "what's appropriate at this level." This inevitably results in a spiral of downward difficulty as things that continue to come up move down the difficulty level irregardless of where they started or should have started in the first place. I'd like to see what "things that we can and should ask about instead" you would have selected in place of those hard bonus parts.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Auroni » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:31 pm

I can agree with most of the things you picked, Mike, but the Meiji restoration? That's covered in introductory Asian history courses, survey courses in world history, and even high school history classes.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:40 pm

Prions most certainly come up in introductory biology classes and quite frequently in decent high school biology classes. The same goes for RNAi, but my judgment on this one maybe clouded by the epigenetics take home midterm I'm doing right now.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:18 pm

I think you guys are confusing Mike's contention about things that come up too often with a contention about their difficulty. I'll have my own response to this sometime later today.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier » Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:46 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I think you guys are confusing Mike's contention about things that come up too often with a contention about their difficulty. I'll have my own response to this sometime later today.
Yes, but a lot of things on that list come up so much because they are very very important things from an academic perspective. While I agree that a lot of things are asked far too often in comparison to their worth, several of things on that list are important enough to warrant being asked about a lot. In my mind it's fine to ask about such things a lot at lower level tournaments because those are the sort of things that I would expect somebody new to quizbowl to know. So yes, electrospray ionization comes up more than it probably should, but I have a hard time imagining an argument that the Meiji restoration comes up too much vs its actual importance, particularly at lower level tournaments.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by setht » Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:12 pm

I think we've moved away from addressing the point Mike is making (if I've understood him correctly). I don't think Mike is trying to argue that the Meiji Restoration or prions are things novices don't know about, or that asking for Kawabata instead of Thousand Cranes would have made things much better. Rather, I think those items appeared on his list because he feels they are being asked at tournaments more frequently than they merit. The Meiji Restoration may well be a topic that is covered in many introductory or even high school history courses; that makes it fair game for novice tournaments and harder events, but that doesn't really tell us how often it should be showing up at novice tournaments. Perhaps it should be coming up once or twice a year, based on some rubric. The relevant questions raised by Mike's post are what kind of rubric (if any) we should be using in deciding which answers are coming up too frequently/too infrequently, which answers are currently coming up too frequently according to that rubric, and what writers and editors should be doing about that. Obviously any such rubric should only operate on the space of answers that are appropriate for a given tournament; it may well be the case that "the curve of growth" (from astronomy) should be coming up more than it currently does (i.e. it should occasionally come up as opposed to never coming up), but that is of no interest to people writing or editing a novice tournament, since it shouldn't be coming up at all at novice tournaments.

Matt already made the point that any rubric needs to be objective:
Matt Weiner wrote:I would like to hear if anyone has a particular framework in mind for debating whether things come up too much or not; I question the value of people just posting subjective lists of things they don't want to hear as much of. I think I did this once in 2004, but I've learned a lot since then about what constitutes helpful discourse, and I don't think I would repeat it today.
Dwight made the point that it's hard for people to do a good job of "shepherding the canon" in areas where they don't have primary knowledge:
cvdwightw wrote:I think some of this can be attributed to the fact that people who don't have primary knowledge in an area have to use "what's come up before" as a benchmark for "what's appropriate at this level." This inevitably results in a spiral of downward difficulty as things that continue to come up move down the difficulty level irregardless of where they started or should have started in the first place. I'd like to see what "things that we can and should ask about instead" you would have selected in place of those hard bonus parts.
First off, I agree with Matt that having various people post purely "subjective lists of things they don't want to hear as much of" is of little or no value. Second, I agree with Dwight that this sort of thing is easier in areas where the writers/editors have primary knowledge, but I think it is possible for dedicated writers and editors to do a better job on this stuff even in areas where they don't have primary knowledge. If people want to pursue this sort of thing, I think a good place to start is to try to anchor any proposed rubric in typical course material. For novice tournaments, the relevant course material for most subjects is presumably "high school courses plus undergraduate survey courses." For high-level events, that may get expanded to include upper-level undergraduate courses or even some graduate-level course material.

Figuring out how to decide which topics are coming up too frequently is a bit tricky. One option would be to look at how prominent that topic is in the pool of relevant course material--for instance, we might look at a typical intro to Asian history course and decide that the Meiji Restoration gets approximately 5% of that course's lecture time, therefore the Meiji Restoration should be showing up once or twice a year in novice events given that there are 3-4 novice events per year and 6-10 Asian history questions per novice event (note: all numbers in this sentence were chosen with little or no reference to reality). We might look through the archive and see that the Meiji Restoration has already shown up 3 times in the past year's worth of novice events and therefore decide not to write on it for the next novice tournament. A second option when considering a particular topic would be to try to find other topics that seem equally important (and quizbowl-askable) within the course material, and see if those other topics are showing up roughly as often as the topic being considered. Taking an example from earth science, we might look at an introductory course and see that the mineral properties "fracture" and "cleavage" appear to be fairly equivalent in importance. We might then look at the packet archive and notice that mineral fracture used to show up more in the 2000-2004 era, then got a passing mention in ACF Nationals 2008 and hasn't been heard from since, while mineral cleavage shows up all the damn time (especially in relation to micas). This might suggest to us that rather than writing yet another bonus part on cleavage, it might be good to shake things up a bit and write on fracture instead.

I'm not interested in writing out a list of all the things I think have been coming up more than they deserve over the past year or so. I've put forward some ideas on what a rubric for proper answer frequency should look like, and I've suggested how a dedicated writer or editor might put the results of consulting such a rubric into action: to wit, switching out bonus parts on relatively over-asked material in favor of bonus parts on relatively under-asked material. For tossups, I think the best option is trying to pick good tossup ideas (on answers that aren't over-asked, but are still difficulty-appropriate for the field) to start with--editors of packet-submission tournaments don't have time to rewrite all the tossups on over-asked answers. They may not have the time to rewrite all the bonus parts on over-asked answers either, actually. Perhaps this is something that really needs to be incumbent on writers to start with. It may well be that it currently isn't possible to write a full tournament's worth of novice/regular/hard tossups that will see decent conversion and don't have over-asked answers. In that case, making some effort to reduce the number of tossups with over-asked answers and replace over-asked bonus parts with under-asked bonus parts seems like a fine goal. If writers/editors want to reserve their efforts along these lines for the topics that they know the most about, that also seems fine to me.

Doing all this takes time, and the results won't be immediately noticeable--it's going to take a while before enough "curve of growth"-related questions have gone by that we can treat that topic the way we treat "Wolf-Rayet stars," for instance--but I think this is worth doing and I'm glad Mike brought it up.

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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:20 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I think you guys are confusing Mike's contention about things that come up too often with a contention about their difficulty.
I think to some extent Mike is conflating the two things:
Captain Sinico wrote:Anyway, here are some answers from EFT that I think are badly overasked and/or are asked/seemingly askable (in their role, given the tournament's level) only because they've come up (too much) already:
I interpreted the second part of that statement as asking "are people writing on Topic X for this level because it comes up too often?". Regarding a supposed novice-targeted tournament, that's the part that concerns me far more than "does Topic X come up too often?". Certainly there are some things that we know are going to come up too often: you can practically expect every high school tournament to have a tossup or bonus part on electronegativity because the set of chemistry answers at that level is not particularly large, and electronegativity is one of those answers that is likely to be regularly converted with a nice distribution of buzz points. In fact, yes, I'll claim that at the high school level, electronegativity comes up too much. But I think it's equally clear that people are writing on electronegativity because it's a justifiably important concept that is answerable at that level independent of the quizbowl experience of any given room playing the question.

(To illustrate the converse of my point, a search of the packet archives shows the GHK equation as having been introduced to the canon in Fall 2005, though I suspect it might have been around but extra-canonical earlier than that; it showed up as a clue at ACF Fall 2005 and the hard part of a bonus in the Illinois Open 2005 packet by me and Ray, and was a lead-in at ACF Nationals as recently as 2007. Now it's apparently a common early-middle clue at the high school level [see: Earlybird 2006, QUAC 2008, WoQ 2009, HSAPQ NSC2]. Thus, the GHK equation has been rapidly accelerated down the difficulty ladder over the past few years, and I suspect it is entirely because it comes up as a clue or bonus part in practically every Nernst equation question since its introduction to the canon. The hsquizbowl.org packet search yields less than 20 hits in college/open tournaments in the past 4 years; assuming something like 15 academic college/open tournaments a year, that means it's come up roughly once every three tournaments, and while that means it's overasked, it's debatable whether it's "badly overasked.")
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Kouign Amann » Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:31 pm

Something that may be accelerating this decrease in difficulty is the listing of the GHK equation as a stock clue here. Before stumbling upon this wiki page, I had never heard of such an equation, but now I think I've buzzed on it at least twice in my career despite having no understanding of how it works.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:32 pm

As I said before, the phenomenon of people simply pulling clues from old packets is responsible for things like the propagation of certain tropes of the sort that Dwight just pointed out. It's especially bad with literature; when quizbowl decides it likes a certain author, it mines the shit out of that canon, to the extent that some authors (notably Oe) just can't be asked at non-novice events because we're at a point where everyone knows his 15 tertiary works. Too often, instead of moving on to a different topic that's equally worthy, people just continue to write on the same thing over and over again, and I definitely agree with Mike that it's a problem.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Oct 07, 2009 7:50 pm

cvdwightw wrote:Thus, the GHK equation has been rapidly accelerated down the difficulty ladder over the past few years, and I suspect it is entirely because it comes up as a clue or bonus part in practically every Nernst equation question since its introduction to the canon.
Just to back this up: GHK appears three times through summer 2009 in NAQT's database.

You could earn 15 points for buzzing in on hearing it and saying "Nernst" at:

-2007 DI SCT
-2008 HSNCT
-IS #79 (fall 2008)

But note that low-level teams aren't actually learning this. Look at the conversion stats:

read to four rooms at SCT 07. Two people powered it and one more got it for 10.

read to four rooms at MASQUE 08 (HSNCT mirror). Answered four times (although, interestingly, no one buzzed on the GHK itself).

read to 12 rooms on IS #79. Answered once.

Lesson: there is a serious downward check on this kind of canon creep, in that averageish high school teams presently do not either A) read enough packets to realize that this is a stock clue or B) have enough people taking chemistry to answer it from extra-quizbowl knowledge.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by fleurdelivre » Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:18 pm

Returning to the points on translations: first, why I ruled out "Guide TO the Perplexed" in my room and stand by doing so...
meigs wrote:In Arabic, the book's title translates most literally to Guide of the Perplexed (or Baffled or Bewildered), since it's an idaafa (construct state) and therefore the word "Guide" is in the "nominative" (marfu') and perplexed is in the "genitive" (majrur) [there is no dative per se in Arabic, but the mejrur form has dative, genitive, instrumentative and locative aspects]. Based on general understanding of what the book seeks to do, one could translate the title as "Guide for the Perplexed," as the literal translation suggests a possessive, and thus the book is "for them", but there would be no reason to translate as "Guide to the Perplexed," since that's not what the book seeks to do; otherwise the Arabic would be "Guide of the People Who Don't Understand Those Stupid Perplexed Schmucks." I would therefore accept of and for, but not to.
Next, the flying mouse/bat or One/A Hundred Years of Solitude question: I'd be for greater flexibility. I've been the one attempting to translate on the fly because I've only heard of something in a foreign language before and don't know what the standard English usage is. So long as it's grammatically acceptable (see point above on the Guide), I think not penalizing travelers and foreign language students is a good idea.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:22 pm

To add on to Katy's point: Cursory research suggests that the book has never been published in English as "guide to the perplexed." Between that and the fact that Arabic speakers indicate it's not a legitimate translation of the title, I think the answer line in the packet was correct and we have the definitive ruling on this query for the future.

I will note, as an aside, that "Guide for the Perplexed" sure is a hard tossup answer for an even partially novice-esque tournament.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Lapego1 » Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:27 pm

Yeah, my own research into the Arabic is supported by Charles's statements. Short story: it should actually be read "Guide of the Perplexed", and things like "Guide Belonging to the Perplexed", etc. seem like they should be acceptable.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Oct 08, 2009 4:05 pm

Heh, I assumed we were talking about a bonus part on Guide For The Perplexed. It was a tossup, eh? That's really hard for this event.

Anyway, had I been the moderator, my kneejerk reaction certainly would've been to accept it - since I know it's a translation from a foreign title. I think that's a good kneejerk reaction - that is, it's what mods should do when faced with such a situation (as opposed to the "caveman moderator reaction" of "it's not on the page!"). If the other team then wants to challenge, the burden should fall on them - and if some quick research shows that it's not a viable translation, they should win, but only then.

Also, I don't know why this qb theory discussion on what's overasked or underasked has broken out here, but I think it's tilting at windmills. I think it's all too tempting for people with a lot of real knowledge in a field to start picking bones with how much Thing X or Thing Y comes up in quizbowl vis-a-vis its academic treatment. We should just settle for being the change you advocate - Mike and Seth, for instance, are great science players and it's people like them who do a lot to drive the science canon with their writing. I presume they try to write on things that are underasked as best they can, within the confines of what's feasible, and that will self-correct the problem. I know that I try to do that for subjects in which I have a decent feel, like history. I think that's as much as we can request.
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Re: EFT Discussion

Post by Charbroil » Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:31 pm

grapesmoker wrote:...[The children question] seemed to play just fine in IRC and when I read it in the finals, so I'm not convinced that your particular experience on that question necessarily condemns it.
Sorry to bring this up again, but didn't we accept an answer of midgets for this question in the IRC? That was what I thought the actual answer was until I read the question again in practice--and in my mind, midgets and children are hardly the same thing.
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