Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Cheynem »

I think you could do that by studying packets if you remembered every clue about something and not just buzzwords like names and titles. That would be really impressive. I'm not sure how feasible it is though.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

It's not at all difficult to remember general ideas from old packets; in fact I can't imagine how you wouldn't do so. The fact that those ideas may contain "buzzwords" is an inevitability, but so what? No matter how you learn about something, you're going to learn the buzzwords - and, because of the nature of qb, buzzwords are particularly important tools. That doesn't change the fact that someone who studied old packets on everything related to Camilo Jose Cela would in fact acquire a decent body of knowledge about Cela and his works.

Now, if you're gonna get huffy that people who learn this way don't "understand" what they know in a meaningful sense - well, that may or may not be true, but qb will always fail at testing understanding.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Cheynem »

I'm not denying that "buzzwords" aren't important. They are in fact really important for playing quizbowl. It just seems like when I study old packets that's primarily what I retain and not key concepts or ideas. But perhaps I am not a very good robot.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

grapesmoker wrote:
Whig's Boson wrote:One can divine what is important in a given field without having any academic exposure. Read a few books about US history, and you will figure out that this "Andrew Jackson" guy seems more important than this "Levi P. Woodbury" guy. I'm sure the same is true for composers, for artists, for anthropologists, etc. Multiple people performing the same analysis will come to similar conclusions.

People who are truly knowledgeable in a subject will be able to figure out what is important. These people will serve as editors and will guide the canon in an appropriate way.
There seems to be some notion that "academic importance" is dictated by some esoteric process only accessible to people within academia. But Bruce is correct here; we know that Andrew Jackson is more important than Levi Woodbury, and we know this because we're literate, educated people who read things and have an interest in history. Academic significance is an important metric for assessing what to write about and what kinds of clues to pick because it weeds out a lot of junk, but it's not the exclusive criterion by which it is decided what to write about.
Yeah, I'm certainly not trying to say that. I'm saying that Bruce was making a stronger claim: that since the major path of knowledge acquisition is their personal curiosity about subjects, quizbowl should reflect that path first and foremost (and, where academia and my bookshelf conflict, therefore favor the latter, which could end in tears for a lot of people). If he wasn't making that claim, then sure.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

I have to say that I find this theoretical division of knowledge into tiers and the corresponding arguments pretty pointless. We're engaged in some kind of abstruse theoretical debate which misses the truly important points that ought to be discussed. Here's what I'm trying to say:

Obviously, we all get knowledge from different sources. Many of us are avid readers. Much of that reading is from primary material, a lot of it is secondary stuff like book reviews and so on, some of it is just random essays on this or that topic, and a lot of it comes from class. None of those sources of knowledge are illegitimate; they all point to a basic intellectual curiosity which can be satisfied through various channels, none of which is necessarily better than any of the others.

The one channel which is inferior in terms of actually teaching you something is reading old packets. I'm not aware of anyone among the players generally recognized as top players who spends any serious amount of time reading older packets. Not Seth Teitler, not Mike Sorice, not Andrew Yaphe, not Matt Weiner, not myself. The point that people are making over and over again is that question writing has taken a turn for rewarding people for basically looking up older questions on the same topics instead of engaging with the material on some level of intellectual curiosity. This situation manifests itself in various ways. First of all, it is manifested through a recurrence of topics, where people write on something because it has come up before. Second, it is manifested through a recycling of clues on those topics. Third, it is manifested through a propagation of harder clues and questions straight down into the "regular difficulty" region, resulting in people doing things like claiming Crazy Thing X is so easy because look, it has come up before like 3 times. I mean, I noticed this last thing happening almost before my eyes over the course of multiple tournaments within this calendar year. It gets to the point where to figure out what's going to come up at a hard tournament, all you have to do is to look at hard bonus parts and just take that as the next logical tossup.

It's this last thing that worries me a lot, especially given Ryan's editorship of ACF Nationals this year. I know Ryan says that he tries not to repeat himself, but the way in which he does that is very predictable; he just picks the next hard thing that used to be a clue and makes that a question. I'm not trying to cast aspersions on his writing as a whole, which I do enjoy large parts of, but this is the kind of philosophy that basically encourages trend-mining old packets rather than developing an actual intellectual interest in something. The more this goes on, the weirder the game becomes to me and the less interest I have in it. I know people are sick of hearing about science, but that's a category in which I have legitimate expertise and in which this trend has been hugely problematic. I'm thankful to IO for starting the move to reverse it, but I hope people can understand why it's bad to reward reading old packets over primary expertise and yes, serious non-professional interest in science, to the extent that it exists*. Memorizing binary associations (which, in science, are usually likely to not be uniquely identifying anyway) does a disservice to both of those forms of knowledge.

This is my point, to sum it up: too much of quizbowl is driven today by considerations of what has come up in the past, with too little thought about the original context of that thing coming up. We should break away from this trend, and I'm happy that people are making moves to do so. We should reward the kind of intellectual curiosity that Andrew wrote about upthread and we should also reward primary expertise before we reward packet-mining. Of course, at some levels of the game we're still going to get lots of repeated answers from year to year, and that's fine; if multiple tournaments have a tossup on Moby Dick or Hamlet or Immanuel Kant, we can all live with that, provided those questions are not carbon copies of each other.

*: As a footnote, I offer the following example of such a non-professional but serious interest. I watched Jonathan Magin 30 a bonus on the continuum hypothesis once. I think we can all agree that Jonathan, for all his other virtues, is no mathematician, but he was interested in the topic, went out and read what I can assume was some amount of interesting stuff about it, and was able to 30 the bonus as a consequence. As someone with a math background, I would have been able to do the same thing, but for different reasons. I think these kinds of questions that reward both serious interest and expertise are good and we should have more of them.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:Yeah, I'm certainly not trying to say that. I'm saying that Bruce was making a stronger claim: that since the major path of knowledge acquisition is their personal curiosity about subjects, quizbowl should reflect that path first and foremost (and, where academia and my bookshelf conflict, therefore favor the latter, which could end in tears for a lot of people). If he wasn't making that claim, then sure.
I guess to some extent I would sympathize with that, although I would imagine much of what I'm interested in is driven in some sense by its connection to academic topics. There are lots of things that are sitting on my shelf today that I don't see coming up very much at all. I don't know if it's because quizbowl as a whole hates the things I like but I guess there's a fair amount of stuff that I either know well or am quite familiar with from secondary sources that gets very short shrift in quizbowl. I'm not sure that I can do anything about it other than to make a frowny face; I hate trying to guess the flavor of the week, so my interests are largely invariant under the considerations of what people are writing about.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

grapesmoker wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:Yeah, I'm certainly not trying to say that. I'm saying that Bruce was making a stronger claim: that since the major path of knowledge acquisition is their personal curiosity about subjects, quizbowl should reflect that path first and foremost (and, where academia and my bookshelf conflict, therefore favor the latter, which could end in tears for a lot of people). If he wasn't making that claim, then sure.
I guess to some extent I would sympathize with that, although I would imagine much of what I'm interested in is driven in some sense by its connection to academic topics. There are lots of things that are sitting on my shelf today that I don't see coming up very much at all. I don't know if it's because quizbowl as a whole hates the things I like but I guess there's a fair amount of stuff that I either know well or am quite familiar with from secondary sources that gets very short shrift in quizbowl. I'm not sure that I can do anything about it other than to make a frowny face; I hate trying to guess the flavor of the week, so my interests are largely invariant under the considerations of what people are writing about.
I think my perspective may be biased because of the enormous influence quizbowl has had in making me aware of scholarship. I knew anthropology was a thing before I did quizbowl; I could have named zero anthropologists. Now, the anthropology I have read has been guided by the canon, essentially, and subsequently by further independent curiosity. Here's the thing: if quizbowl were merely the sum of what quizbowlers are intellectually curious about, you no longer have the baseline of the academy. A version of me who starts playing ten years from now has an exposure to anthropology without connection to the academy at all; this process can perpetuate. I like having the academy as an external reference; there should be a really good reason why something that no academic considers important finds its way into quizbowl.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

I disagree with most of Jerry's long post, of course, for obvious reasons...but I won't perpetuate that tedious discussion. I'll just say that, as a practical matter, you can't escape the past - the past is too big, especially today in qb - it will swallow everything like the Ouroboros. Good luck blazing all those new trails that reward intellectual curiousity but don't reward "knowing the past" of qb - it's a nifty little thought, but it can't be done (though you might have trifling success in science).
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by setht »

grapesmoker wrote:I have to say...
Agree 300% with this post.

I have no objection to rewarding intellectual curiosity and knowledge acquired outside of classrooms; most of the myth questions I've ever written were on topics I never covered in any class I took. I do object to answers and clues that are selected (and later defended) on the grounds that they've come up in quizbowl before and that good players should have absorbed them--by this standard I'm actually a rather mediocre myth player.

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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

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No Rules Westbrook wrote:I disagree with most of Jerry's long post, of course, for obvious reasons...but I won't perpetuate that tedious discussion. I'll just say that, as a practical matter, you can't escape the past - the past is too big, especially today in qb - it will swallow everything like the Ouroboros. Good luck blazing all those new trails that reward intellectual curiousity but don't reward "knowing the past" of qb - it's a nifty little thought, but it can't be done (though you might have trifling success in science).
No, you certainly can do this thing: like, I won't be able to stop you from answering a tossup on Melville based on that other time you answered a tossup on Melville, but I can certainly make it much more likely for students of Melville to beat you. (Well, I am helpless in this regard, but some capable lit writer, then.) People can suck up their titles and dates all they want; writers can fight to reward that knowledge at an appropriate place in the question, and a team of four good specialists will grail the robot who knows every tossup's seventh clue.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Oh, a team of four good specialists! Is that all you need!? Why, those are simply falling off of trees. By which I mean, there'd be like two of them total, if you were able to choose from every qb player in the universe.

Also, all those clues that you thought were blazing new paths and rewarding intellectual curiosity? Guess what, those clues came up in the 29th Septennial Literature Tournament! Horns.wav

What's that? You didn't know that? Probably cause you don't read old packets!
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I disagree with most of Jerry's long post, of course, for obvious reasons...but I won't perpetuate that tedious discussion. I'll just say that, as a practical matter, you can't escape the past - the past is too big, especially today in qb - it will swallow everything like the Ouroboros. Good luck blazing all those new trails that reward intellectual curiousity but don't reward "knowing the past" of qb - it's a nifty little thought, but it can't be done (though you might have trifling success in science).
That's just not true and a lazy argument to boot. As I've said before, there are plenty of things on my shelf right now that are just not asked about in quizbowl at all. I don't know why that is, but many of those things make for good questions at higher levels. If I ever get to bust out my Walden III philosophy tossups, I think you'll see a fair amount of questions written about novel things that get very little exposure in quizbowl today; I won't claim that these questions are all super-awesome but I think a lot of them are pretty good and are drawn largely from a list of things that are only loosely related to stuff that comes up in old packets. I once wrote an entire singles tournament that was full of novel questions. Again, I won't say that every one of those is the great model question on those topics, but it covered a lot of fun new topics and I was pretty pleased with myself for doing so.

There are two factors that keep people from doing this. One of them is just straight-up laziness; it's much easier to write another tossup on something that's come up before because it doesn't require you to think of a new idea. When I'm trying to decide what I should write about, I peruse encyclopedias, textbooks, and other stuff on my bookshelf to see what looks interesting. To give an example, I've been looking for creative ways to write religion questions. That's led me to write on topics such as "dharma" and "cutting hair," for various tournaments. Bruce's RMPfest contained a lot of great questions that touched on notable religious doctrines. Those are all examples of thinking creatively about how to write religion questions creatively. There's no reason why the same can't happen in other fields as well.

The other factor which has been hypothesized, and which hopefully is not all that influential, is that some younger players will often write on obscure things out of a misguided attempt to impress veterans. I have no idea if this is true or not, though I have encountered the situation of various younger players claiming to me that a noted hard thing is not hard at all; I tend to discount these opinions. I personally suspect it's more likely that some younger players have no concept of difficulty and will just write on stuff that's sitting in front of them (which often ends up being old packets). This can be cured; when I was young, I wrote some stupidly hard and also just plain stupid things because I didn't know better. You grow up, you learn. Now that there's a unified forum where you can read what people who have more experience than you have to say about these topics, there's no reason why people should be making old mistakes and reinventing the wheel.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Oh, a team of four good specialists! Is that all you need!? Why, those are simply falling off of trees. By which I mean, there'd be like two of them total, if you were able to choose from every qb player in the universe.
What does this even mean?
Also, all those clues that you thought were blazing new paths and rewarding intellectual curiosity? Guess what, those clues came up in the 29th Septennial Literature Tournament! Horns.wav

What's that? You didn't know that? Probably cause you don't read old packets!
I guarantee I can generate a lit tournament that will be minimally reliant on old clues and will be fun for people to play. At some point when I'm not editing things, remind me to take up this gauntlet.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by magin »

Yeah, I completely agree with Jerry's long post above. To expand on Jerry's anecdote about me 30ing a bonus on the continuum hypothesis: I'm no serious mathematician (hell, I don't even know what a "group" is, despite it coming up seveteen billion times in packets on the archive), but I read Simon Singh's book Fermat's Engima, which contains several chapters on Cantor, Kurt Godel, and the continuum hypothesis, enabling me to have some non-specialist understanding of topics in set theory. That kind of knowledge (from outside reading and intellectual interest in a topic), along with academic study, forms the set of clues that people are likely to know "organically."

Sure, anyone can go memorize "organic" clues from an old packet, but such "artificial," decontextualized knowledge should have less primacy in quizbowl than "organic" knowledge. I contend that "organic" clues can be answered through "artificial" knowledge, but "artificial" clues (used by repeating one-to-one word associations from previous questions) are not always able to be answered by "organic" knowledge. That necessarily makes "organic" clues much superior; questions can and should be written to reward different levels of "organic" knowledge. By not reusing exact clues from old packets, especially for the first half or more of tossups and the hard parts of bonuses, and by attempting to reward such "organic" knowledge, we can write better questions than ones that begin by rewarding binary associations learned in the past.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Organic-nonorganic is an interesting divide, and one that we could probably spend awhile debating the validity of.

I'll have to look at RMPFest but "dharma" is hardly breaking new ground - maybe your tu contained lots of exciting new dharma clues, I don't know. "Cutting hair" strikes me as a fairly obvious common link religion idea in the vein of "ritual cleansing!" or "lighting candles!" - I don't remember, but I wouldn't be surprised if its not original.

I mean, that's the trouble, a lot of these supposedly new/exciting ideas and clues - I don't know, run them by me and Brendan, and see how new we think they are (well, maybe just him now, cause I don't read packets much anymore, and have lost the precise packet recollection ability I used to have). I'm not trying to be troublesome; I just think people massively underestimate how much shit has come up in the past, and how much influence it has on the game.

(p.s. I, of course, think that influence is a good thing - but we know well where the Westbrookian-Weinerian battle lines are there).
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Cheynem »

How much influence does it really have? I mean, you're effectively conceding here that Brendan is the only elite player that consciously studies old packets as a learning strategy, so in terms of people amassing robot level knowledge that just can't be stopped no matter how you write questions...I'm not buying it.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

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No Rules Westbrook wrote:I'll have to look at RMPFest but "dharma" is hardly breaking new ground - maybe your tu contained lots of exciting new dharma clues, I don't know. "Cutting hair" strikes me as a fairly obvious common link religion idea in the vein of "ritual cleansing!" or "lighting candles!" - I don't remember, but I wouldn't be surprised if its not original.
I don't understand how you have come to this conclusion. I chose my answers on the basis that they were important to their respective religious contexts, there was a wealth of clues about them, and I could arrange those clues in an order that corresponded to gradations in knowledge. I've not heard a tossup on "dharma," or "cutting hair," in a long time, maybe ever, and I thought those were interesting things that could use some exposure. You're like the guy who looks at a Pollock and goes, "I could do that too!" But you didn't do that; I don't know why you think it's so mundane or obvious to write on these things when in fact most people do not write on them. Did I break some new theoretical ground on religion tossups? No, I didn't. But I wrote good questions on underasked topics that people could answer, which I think is an accomplishment to take pride in.
I mean, that's the trouble, a lot of these supposedly new/exciting ideas and clues - I don't know, run them by me and Brendan, and see how new we think they are (well, maybe just him now, cause I don't read packets much anymore, and have lost the precise packet recollection ability I used to have). I'm not trying to be troublesome; I just think people massively underestimate how much shit has come up in the past, and how much influence it has on the game.
Honestly, who gives a shit what you and Brendan think? It sure is great that I don't bother asking myself how you would react to my questions when I write them. Anyway, I've written plenty of questions on sufficiently crazy and new things to have established my canon-expanding-cred, so it's not like I have anything left to prove about my ability to write on things no one has heard of.

The only reason I'm even engaged in this argument, about which there is no major disagreement amongst most members of ACF, is because you're editing Nationals. If Nationals is going to have large swaths of questions edited based on this model, I think that blows and you'll be hearing from me about it. If Crazy Ryan Westbrook Tournament, 5th edition has it, I don't really care; you're welcome to write that tournament that is all about packet memorization if you want, I just don't want that tournament to be ACF Nationals.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by cvdwightw »

So I had a long post ready to go, then I decided to delete most of it. Anyway, here is the relevant part of what I had typed up. It's a tossup at ACF Fall 2006 and a tossup at MUT 2008, each color-coded to match nearly-exact clues (apologies to color-blind people).
ACF Fall 2006 wrote:Some of them believed in Yara-Ma-Yha-Who, a vampire who jumped out of fig trees, ate people, and vomited them back up; reborn from the experience, they were unharmed though slightly shorter. Among these people’s creator gods was a female snake named Eingana, and a “rainbow serpent," who inhabits water holes. The Alcheringa is the period before these people’s creation, and their other deities include fairies called the Mimi, who lived in what is now Arnhem Land. The period known as Dreamtime is when they believe the world was created. FTP, name these people to whom Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock, is sacred, the indigenous people of Australia.
MUT 2008 wrote:A common belief of members of this group holds that life is “joyous” though it has a “maggoty” center. One sect of these people believe that a vampire named Yara-Ma-Yha-Who jumped out of a fig tree and gobbled up people, spitting them out slightly shorter but no worse for wear. A “Rainbow Serpent” that inhabits water holes is one creator god of this people, and is sometimes associated with the female snake Einaga. Their tradition holds that the preceding age is known as the Alcheringa. This group believes in fairies called Mimi from Arnhem land, and their tradition holds that the world was created during the Dreamtime. For 10 points, name this group that holds Uluru, or Ayers Rock, to be sacred.
And here is what I deleted the rest of the long post to say. As sad as it is to say, it's not a sports analogy, it's one step below that: a video game analogy.

There is a term in competitive video gaming called "cheesing." "Cheesing" essentially means that a player is doing something that is technically legal in the game, and winning a lot of games by doing that thing over and over again, but it is very frustrating for anyone else (from a novice just picking up the game to a top-ranked player) to play against that player, because the cheeser will almost certainly win despite not necessarily having a better understanding of the game. In other words, it's doing something with the sole intention of winning and thereby (somehow) corrupting the things that make the game enjoyable for everyone else. To that end, cheesing is typically considered "illegitimate" and "cheesers" are looked upon with disdain by more "legitimate" members of the community.

"Memorizing old packets" is the quizbowl equivalent of "cheesing." Consider that both the "legitimate" top quizbowlers and the "legitimate" top gamers are typically the people who have been around forever and have seen all sorts of "old clues"/"old strategies" just by virtue of playing forever - that's just how things work, it's an understandable side effect of being good and having seen a whole bunch of stuff before. But people don't like playing against "cheesers," just like people don't like playing quizbowl against people who memorize old packets, because they feel that these people undermine more "legitimate" ways of improving (whether that's practicing and understanding the video game or reading books/writing questions) and take all the fun out of the game.

Ryan is right that there is nothing illegal about "memorizing old packet knowledge," just like there is nothing illegal about "cheesing." He is also right that we cannot prevent people from memorizing old packets, just like gamers can't prevent people from cheesing, and that, like cheesing, memorizing old packets will win a player many games. However, I (and indeed a bunch of people much better than me, and probably a bunch of people much worse than me) think Ryan is totally misguided when he advocates that (for reasons that still make zero sense to me) we just accept that it's part of the game and give up on trying to take any measures within our control to discourage cheesing or limit its effectiveness.

In conclusion, don't be a cheeser. Vinokurov/Teitler 2010: Campaign for Cheese-Free Quizbowl.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Cheynem »

I just want to emphasize that I don't inherently view players who do read old packets as "impure" or "weaker," nor is there anything unholy about such players winning games or tournaments. That's a perfectly valid playing and studying strategy and such players are good at quizbowl.

I DO think, that contrary to Ryan's "we are preconditioned by our ancestors" mantra, we can indeed write questions which do not reward old packet studying as much as questions now may or may not do.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by cvdwightw »

Yeah, I should probably clarify that though I consider "memorizing old packet knowledge" to be "illegitimate," it's not like I think that Ryan and Brendan, the two people who most rely on memorizing old packets, are "illegitimate" players - both of them have been around long enough to have absorbed a bunch of stuff by osmosis, they both learn stuff by doing "legitimate" things like writing questions, and it's pretty clear that they both do have deep knowledge in some areas that doesn't come straight from "memorizing old packets." What I'm talking about is Ryan's Hypothetical Robot, someone whose entire knowledge base comes from reading old packets and has no interest in actually learning anything beyond what has shown up in old packets.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Jerry, I don't mention Brendan and I because I think anyone should care what we believe more than anyone should care what any other knowledgeable qb player believes. I mention us because we are the two most obvious examples of people who have extensive and fairly precise "packet knowledge" (or, at least, I used to). Thus, I think we're fairly good at judging what can and cannot be gotten off of "packet knowledge;" what is and is not "new and exciting." I don't act in bad faith and lie about something having come up before just to make my point - rather, I realistically assess just how "new" some of the ideas people have are, and most of the time the answer is "not that new at all." This is the basis of my belief that you can't outrun the past.

I really doubt dharma is underasked, and in any case, I've seen it and clues about it appear plenty in qb. "Shaving hair" - well, yeah, obviously that almost surely hasn't been an answer much - but it doesn't strike me as particularly revolutionary - no more revolutionary than my pilgrimage tossup (which wasnt my best tu, no doubt) or a bunch of other "common religious practice" tus that have been written by me and others.

I fall over laughing at the notion that it's easy to predict my tossup selection - shit like Terrence Rattigan, diglossia, and the Darien Scheme is predictable? Yeah, right, those are like super out-of-the-air answers on (arguably) underasked things. I think the properly stated objection (if you have one against my writing) is that I reward Tier 2 Knowledge (including, but not limited to, extensive packet study beyond base binary associations) to a greater degree than many players think fit - because I believe that it's more legitimate than many people apparently believe.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Strongside »

I could go on and on about my opinion on this, but I would prefer to be brief and not get into any arguments with people. My name has been mentioned several times, and I basically agree with everything that Ryan has talked about in this thread.

The one thing I want to mention, (I know Ryan has mentioned this somewhere at some point), is that people often underestimate how much knowledge they get from previous packets.

There are three main ways to utilize quiz bowl packets, to improve at quiz bowl.

1. Playing on those questions in tournaments
2. Playing on those questions in practice
3. Looking over those questions on your own.

It seems that some people in quiz bowl tend to look down on #3, while people in quiz bowl tend not to look down on #1 and #2.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Auroni »

I don't look down on any of them, but I look down on exclusively using #3 to get better at quizbowl.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I don't even look down on people who study old packets exclusively to get better. Who I think we should look down on are people who write questions to cater to the players that only study old packets. If your only strategy is to look over old packets, you should have to really bust your ass to get ahead with that method, and unless you work like a madman, you should not be able to do as well in games as players who have a healthy mix of real knowledge along with quizbowl knowledge.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Susan »

Hey, I feel entirely comfortable about looking down on people whose only strategy is studying old packets, since such people are intellectually incurious and utterly boring.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

myamphigory wrote:Hey, I feel entirely comfortable about looking down on people whose only strategy is studying old packets, since such people are intellectually incurious and utterly boring.
Yeah, people who do this have literally said "not for me!" to every creative product of humanity. And then they still play the game. Odd!

Thankfully, i know that that's not really the case with Ryan or Brendan, to pick the two most prominent examples: Ryan's genuinely curious about organic chemistry (among other things), so far as I can tell, and Brendan enjoys his urban theory. Both fine things.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

I really doubt dharma is underasked, and in any case, I've seen it and clues about it appear plenty in qb. "Shaving hair" - well, yeah, obviously that almost surely hasn't been an answer much - but it doesn't strike me as particularly revolutionary - no more revolutionary than my pilgrimage tossup (which wasnt my best tu, no doubt) or a bunch of other "common religious practice" tus that have been written by me and others.
But this is exactly the problem: your view of what constitutes "newness" is hopelessly flawed. You basically define "new" as "novel and heretofore unseen," and that's not correct because now anything that's mentioned in quizbowl ever is no longer new. I maintain that this is wrong, and does not capture the interesting and relevant aspects of the game. You claim that "dharma" is not underasked, but I tell you again that the one tossup I've written on it is the only mention of it as an answer that I recall in a long time, and certainly the only mention of it as a tossup answer that I recall at all. And yet it's a concept that's pretty central to a major world religion and doesn't come up with anything near the frequencies of those insufferable church councils that everyone loves so goddamn much. If you have the numbers to prove me wrong on some objective basis that isn't "I've heard this before therefore it's old and everyone knows everything about it," you're welcome to present them.
I fall over laughing at the notion that it's easy to predict my tossup selection - shit like Terrence Rattigan, diglossia, and the Darien Scheme is predictable? Yeah, right, those are like super out-of-the-air answers on (arguably) underasked things. I think the properly stated objection (if you have one against my writing) is that I reward Tier 2 Knowledge (including, but not limited to, extensive packet study beyond base binary associations) to a greater degree than many players think fit - because I believe that it's more legitimate than many people apparently believe.
There were a lot of things at FIST that were interesting and new. There were also plenty of things that I looked at and went, "Oh, of course this would be a logical answer choice in Ryan-land." I guess I've never really sat down to try and predict what kinds of questions you're going to write, because that's a stupid thing to do. Maybe Jordan Boyd-Graber and I can get together and build a neural network that predicts future Ryan Westbrook tossups.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

Strongside wrote:I could go on and on about my opinion on this, but I would prefer to be brief and not get into any arguments with people. My name has been mentioned several times, and I basically agree with everything that Ryan has talked about in this thread.

The one thing I want to mention, (I know Ryan has mentioned this somewhere at some point), is that people often underestimate how much knowledge they get from previous packets.

There are three main ways to utilize quiz bowl packets, to improve at quiz bowl.

1. Playing on those questions in tournaments
2. Playing on those questions in practice
3. Looking over those questions on your own.

It seems that some people in quiz bowl tend to look down on #3, while people in quiz bowl tend not to look down on #1 and #2.
Or, you know, the main way to utilize quizbowl packets as a learning tool: WRITE THEM.

At this stage in my development as a player, I only go to practices to mostly encourage other team members and to keep up the buzzing instinct. I go to tournaments because I like hearing questions and I like winning. When I desire to learn something, I'll write a question about it or read a book; the level of knowledge conveyed by most old packets is a decent starting point but it's ultimately a poor substitute for actual learning.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Strongside »

grapesmoker wrote:
Strongside wrote:I could go on and on about my opinion on this, but I would prefer to be brief and not get into any arguments with people. My name has been mentioned several times, and I basically agree with everything that Ryan has talked about in this thread.

The one thing I want to mention, (I know Ryan has mentioned this somewhere at some point), is that people often underestimate how much knowledge they get from previous packets.

There are three main ways to utilize quiz bowl packets, to improve at quiz bowl.

1. Playing on those questions in tournaments
2. Playing on those questions in practice
3. Looking over those questions on your own.

It seems that some people in quiz bowl tend to look down on #3, while people in quiz bowl tend not to look down on #1 and #2.
Or, you know, the main way to utilize quizbowl packets as a learning tool: WRITE THEM.
I should have been clearer about this. I was referring to the three ways of listening to/going over questions questions that had already been written, and was mostly referring to questions written by other people. Question writing/editing is another way to improve at quiz bowl.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

grapesmoker wrote: Obviously, we all get knowledge from different sources. Many of us are avid readers. Much of that reading is from primary material, a lot of it is secondary stuff like book reviews and so on, some of it is just random essays on this or that topic, and a lot of it comes from class. None of those sources of knowledge are illegitimate; they all point to a basic intellectual curiosity which can be satisfied through various channels, none of which is necessarily better than any of the others.

The one channel which is inferior in terms of actually teaching you something is reading old packets. I'm not aware of anyone among the players generally recognized as top players who spends any serious amount of time reading older packets. Not Seth Teitler, not Mike Sorice, not Andrew Yaphe, not Matt Weiner, not myself. The point that people are making over and over again is that question writing has taken a turn for rewarding people for basically looking up older questions on the same topics instead of engaging with the material on some level of intellectual curiosity. This situation manifests itself in various ways. First of all, it is manifested through a recurrence of topics, where people write on something because it has come up before. Second, it is manifested through a recycling of clues on those topics. Third, it is manifested through a propagation of harder clues and questions straight down into the "regular difficulty" region, resulting in people doing things like claiming Crazy Thing X is so easy because look, it has come up before like 3 times. I mean, I noticed this last thing happening almost before my eyes over the course of multiple tournaments within this calendar year. It gets to the point where to figure out what's going to come up at a hard tournament, all you have to do is to look at hard bonus parts and just take that as the next logical tossup.

It's this last thing that worries me a lot, especially given Ryan's editorship of ACF Nationals this year. I know Ryan says that he tries not to repeat himself, but the way in which he does that is very predictable; he just picks the next hard thing that used to be a clue and makes that a question. I'm not trying to cast aspersions on his writing as a whole, which I do enjoy large parts of, but this is the kind of philosophy that basically encourages trend-mining old packets rather than developing an actual intellectual interest in something. The more this goes on, the weirder the game becomes to me and the less interest I have in it.
I'm quoting this at length because (a) I completely agree with it (maybe even "300%" agree with it, à la Seth), and (b) I don't want Jerry's superb articulation of the objections to "quizbowl as essentially nothing more than recirculation of, and expansion upon, old packets" to get lost in a flurry of harangues.

Also, I want to say that I'm not entirely clear on what this debate is actually about. I feel pretty sure that the ostensible topic of discussion here is a proxy for some more fundamental (and presumably rancorous) dispute between e.g. Ryan and e.g. Jerry, but I'm not quite sure I know what that more fundamental dispute is. I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and speculate that the underlying dispute here is about the basic raison d'etre of the game.

Here are two possible conceptions of that raison d'etre (I'm not saying that anyone posting in this thread precisely embraces either of these options; I'm just laying them out):

1. Quizbowl is an integral part of an intellectually curious life. The thought here is that, regardless of the ways in which people stumble into the game, what sustains their interest in it is that it introduces them to new intellectual interests and offers an engaging way of nourishing their existing intellectual interests. Incidentally, I would wager that this is part of the appeal of the game for grad students, and what keeps them invested in it despite the awkwardness of "competing" against people who may be many years younger than them: As one's intellectual purview is severely narrowed by the constraints of grad school specialization, it feels liberating to be able to wander around in so many different intellectual fields.

2. Quizbowl is a mode of competitive activity whose content just happens to be derived from intellectual disciplines. The thought here is that this is fundamentally a game: that's why we have buzzers, and go to great expense to compete against each other, and compile detailed statistics, and do a host of other things which wouldn't be necessary if we were really just interested in expanding our intellectual horizons.

If you lean toward the first conception, you will probably find the second stultifying and jejune. You will wonder how such people could continue to hold an interest in the game beyond a few years, if that's "all" they think it is. If you lean toward the second conception, you will perhaps find the first disingenuous or even hypocritical. You will wonder why people who claim to value "intellectual curiosity" so much would continue to bother with a buzzer-based competition.

Speaking for myself, I favor the first conception, with the following caveat: For a certain kind of person, one of the things that invests an "intellectually curious life" with excitement and interest is the competitive element. In fact, I think that's as good a brief description as I could come up with of "the common denominator of people who, to this point, have been the best quizbowlers." Another way of putting this point: For me, worthwhile quizbowl starts from a basis of "wanting to indulge one's intellectual curiosity," to which is added the delightful and necessary element of "head-to-head competition against others with the same bent." My sense is that this is the vision of quizbowl which Jerry and Seth, in this thread, are defending; I suspect that someone like Ryan is opposed to it, and would prefer something like my conception (2). Regardless of where these particular individuals line up, my sense is that this discussion is really just another way of fighting a larger battle over "what quizbowl is, and why we bother to keep playing it." It might be better to engage in the latter dispute straightforwardly, if so, rather than lose ourselves in discussion of "tiers."
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Important Bird Area »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:the Darien Scheme is predictable? Yeah, right, those are like super out-of-the-air answers on (arguably) underasked things.
I actually used the Darien Scheme as a clue at the 2009 SCT, so this is in fact predictable using a "things that show up as clues for regular difficulty will become tossups at nationals difficulty" metric like what Jerry proposed. This suggests that even Ryan himself does not read enough packets to confidently assert what answers are actually "super out-of-the-air," and that the incidence of actual intellectually-incurious robot players is probably at or near zero.

I also endorse what Jerry and Seth have posted in this thread. Also, I think the model of defined "tiers" of knowledge doesn't work well for history, and probably has something to do with forms of canon expansion that may be more prevalent in some categories (like literature) than others. Literature questions, it strikes me, are an ideal battleground for arguments about tiers and robots because: 1. we can draw a bright line between "has read this major work" and "has not read this major work" and 2. literary works usually have narrowly-defined fields of buzzwords like character names, so it's a realistic strategy to memorize a bunch of characters and try to earn points accordingly. For history, this model just pretty much falls apart in favor of a spectrum of knowledge from "deep" to "cursory," because there are multiple points of access to deep knowledge (rather than a single canonical work) and there is less opportunity for robots to feast on middle clues. (You can't just memorize a list of "people associated with Oliver Cromwell," and once you start learning content like "Andrew Marvell wrote a Horatian ode upon this man's return from Ireland" you're acquiring actual knowledge.)
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

To some extent, all debates amongst the usual suspects around here are iterations of the same fundamental questions.

I'm not a big fan of Andrew's two proposed raison d'etre(s) for this game - I don't think #2 describes me at all. Everyone attached to this game, I'd posit, is attached because they are "intellectually curious" - they think there is some value to acquiring large amounts of academically important information. Let's not caricature me as someone who thinks this is "just a game" and doesn't care whether the questions concern academically important topics.


I'll probably infuriate people by quoting myself, but I think I pretty well stated the central dispute in this thread:
the properly stated objection (if you have one against my writing) is that I reward Tier 2 Knowledge (including, but not limited to, extensive packet study beyond base binary associations) to a greater degree than many players think fit - because I believe that it's more legitimate than many people apparently believe.
I believe there are very good reasons to reward "extensive packet study beyond binary base associations" - and, in any case, not to systematically discriminate against it. I believe that it is perfectly valid "Tier 2 Knowledge" (along with other activities like reading masterplots, etc.) - and it should be rewarded in questions accordingly. It should not be rewarded over what I've called "Tier 1 Knowledge," and we should ensure that Tier 1 Knowledge means something by ensuring that we write on sufficiently important academic things. But, we should not systematically discrimate against ways of acquiring knowledge because of kneejerk guttural reactions that these methods are "cheesing," or whatever.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Jeff, I pay no attention to NAQT and don't particularly view it as part of the equation.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Speaking for myself, I favor the first conception, with the following caveat: For a certain kind of person, one of the things that invests an "intellectually curious life" with excitement and interest is the competitive element. In fact, I think that's as good a brief description as I could come up with of "the common denominator of people who, to this point, have been the best quizbowlers." Another way of putting this point: For me, worthwhile quizbowl starts from a basis of "wanting to indulge one's intellectual curiosity," to which is added the delightful and necessary element of "head-to-head competition against others with the same bent."
I sign on to this vision of quizbowl wholeheartedly.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Cheynem »

How would you define "rewarding packet knowledge"?

Surely, I agree that no packet can be 100% robot proof and I have no problem with someone who reads old packets to do quite well at quizbowl because that makes sense. Reading questions will inevitably make you better at quizbowl in some manner.

I have a little trepidation if this means you actually take into account old packets and the information contained therein when you're writing or editing things. I mean, from what I gather from your definition, you're basically saying "I wrote a tossup on Clue X from ACF Nats last year." Now, I'm definitely using clues that someone who has Tier 1 Knowledge of Thing X will buzz first on, but in effect, I feel pretty confident that someone who's read and studied this ACF Nats packet will be able to buzz and answer this tossup." This in effect is INTENTIONALLY rewarding the old packet studier.

I don't like this writing philosophy, if that's what you're suggesting.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by cvdwightw »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I believe that it is perfectly valid "Tier 2 Knowledge" (along with other activities like reading masterplots, etc.) - and it should be rewarded in questions accordingly...But, we should not systematically discrimate against ways of acquiring knowledge because of kneejerk guttural reactions that these methods are "cheesing," or whatever.
Finally, I find the point at which you and I fundamentally disagree!

I do not believe in the way you have labeled your tiers, whatsoever (especially because I still don't have the faintest idea of what actually goes in Tier 2). I would prefer to label the tiers of knowledge based on two criteria: 1) Is this learning quizbowl-directed (can this be easily construed as "studying for quizbowl")? and 2) Do(es) the source(s) from which one is learning give some reference as to why this topic is important in some world outside of quizbowl?

Tier 1: Knowledge gained through learning because one is genuinely intellectually curious about something, or because one is more-or-less forced to learn about it for some non-quizbowl reason. That is, learning that is not quizbowl-directed and gives some reference as to why it's important in some non-quizbowl world.
Tier 2: Knowledge gained through learning for the sole purpose of learning for quizbowl, but derived from sources that give some reference as to why this topic is important in some world outside of quizbowl. Good "writing for quizbowl" practices fall in Tier 2.
Tier 3: Knowledge gained through passive learning associated with hanging around the game, i.e. stuff that people sort of picked up from going to practices and tournaments. It's not quizbowl-directed (you're not actively trying to learn stuff for quizbowl), but the sources don't give reference as to why it's important in some non-quizbowl world.
Tier 4: Knowledge gained through active learning for the sole purpose of learning for quizbowl, derived from sources that give no reference as to why this topic is important in some world outside of quizbowl. This is the level that "memorizing old packets" shows up at.

In other words, Tier 4 knowledge is both quizbowl-directed and quizbowl-referenced. There is no point to learning Tier 4 knowledge other than quizbowl, and there is no source for Tier 4 knowledge other than quizbowl (well, I guess there's list knowledge, which is even less legitimate). It's completely circular!

In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I have of Academic Decathlon as an intellectual competition (and, incidentally, the reason I found quizbowl a thousand times more fun in high school) is that there is no incentive to indulge one's intellectual curiosity outside of the material presented at the start of the year - outside of the Speech and Interview portions, the whole point of the competition is to see who has studied the hell out of the topics that everyone knows will come up. That is, at the level at which really good Academic Decathlon teams do Academic Decathlon, all Academic Decathlon knowledge is Academic Decathlon Tier 4 Knowledge. If Academic Decathlon gives me a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, to be successful, I will study the hell out of that painting, and I will study the hell out of Vincent Van Gogh. Maybe while studying the hell out of Vincent Van Gogh I come across this other artist named Paul Gauguin. Academic Decathlon tells me, don't go off and learn about Paul Gauguin, because he's not in the curriculum guide, and I could be spending that time studying the hell out of a different artist that is in the curriculum guide.

Similarly, let's pretend for a second that we're playing "good quizbowl" in an era during which Paul Gauguin is not a common answer choice. I'm studying Van Gogh for whatever reason (maybe I'm trying to learn about Vincent Van Gogh for the next time he shows up in quizbowl, or whatever), and I come across Paul Gauguin. Memorize-old-packets-quizbowl tells me "all I need to know about Paul Gauguin is that he is a clue for Vincent Van Gogh in this certain context," so there's no reason to learn about Paul Gauguin when I could be studying the hell out of the next tossup in the packet. Any other reasonable model of quizbowl tells me, "sure, this Paul Gauguin dude sounds cool, let me go spend a few minutes learning about him."

Andrew has elucidated what I think the purpose of quizbowl better (and in fewer words) than I ever could: the competitive element is a secondary, but nevertheless essential, part of quizbowl. "Cheesing," which is not a kneejerk guttural reaction on my part, disrupts this by placing undue emphasis on the competitive element and essentially no emphasis on the intellectual curiosity element (or, alternatively, in the whole video game analogy, on whatever has been communally agreed on as the "legitimate" purpose(s) of the game). If I want to find something based on people regurgitating knowledge that they force-feed themselves for no purpose outside of whatever that particular "something" is, I'll watch those kids on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? or go find me a Super Quiz.

I think that if we continue to tacitly condone old packets as acceptable sources and watch as old-packet memorizers get better and better relative to their peers who don't do old-packet memorization (or do but then go spend time learning about a clue that showed up), the whole idea of "quizbowl should reward intellectual curiosity" is going to slowly die out because we're competitive creatures and like to win. Maybe this is a slippery-slope argument, but it seems like it's just a rehash of the Ryan's Hypothetical Robot argument that "if you want to win the most at quizbowl you should take the most time to memorize old packets and spend the least time actually being intellectually curious about anything you encounter."
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Just to quickly respond to Mike: I'm simply recognizing, and arguing, that acquiring knowledge through past qb packets can be quite valid and legitimate, such that it shouldn't be intentionally disincentivized.

It's a crazy caricature of me to imply that I'm not "intellectually curious" or that I'm not interested in rewarding knowledge like reading books, being interested in art, or studying history (all of which I've done plenty of, btw). I'm intensely interested in rewarding those types of knowledge at the proper junctures in questions, and in creating questions that give players with that kind of knowledge ample opportunity to demonstrate it and triumph. Some of you may remember - I used to constantly argue about how much I thought this game was about learning stuff. I just disagree with the kneejerk selective reaction against some means of acquiring knowledge, as if they're just not "learning" in any good sense.

Really, some of this argument is just an extension of my belief that the guided development of the canon is crucial to good quizbowl, especially at high levels. If some have lost faith in the idea of the canon, I haven't.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Sargon »

grapesmoker wrote:
Sargon wrote:Questions rarely reward knowing about particular societies or languages, for instance, but often reward knowing about ethnography and theoretical linguistics.
Paul, I really wish you would not make categorical statements like that which just aren't true. In fact, quizbowl questions have moved quite a bit towards asking about exactly such things, and if you pay attention during tournaments you will find that this is the case. I think it's great that people are doing this, and you seem to agree (that it would be good for this to happen). Well, it actually is happening, so let's please use factual statements to talk about the game instead of something you seem to feel is true but is actually not.
It may be a function of my cantankerous old age that I am simply getting more annoyed with questions on Margret Meade and the like, rather than that their absolute number is increasing; I shall yield to you as you play a lot more tournaments than I do. I am less certain your claim is true for linguistics questions, but as that comes up at most a handful of times a tournament (I don't recall any at IO), it is difficult to speak of meaningful trends.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

Well, I think we've come to the ultimate conclusion of this thread. Ryan believes that knowledge acquired from perusing old packets should be rewarded, most other reasonable people believe that you should disincentivize that kind of quizbowl. I don't think there are any arguments left that are going to persuade someone like Ryan or Brendan, so I'm just going to say that I find this situation hugely regrettable. I think Ryan is a good writer who would be a great writer if he stopped adhering to such bankrupt ideas, but since I can't change his mind (though it seems that Seth, Mike, Matt and I have done yeoman's work in convincing others of our position) I will just note that this too shall pass and that the smart money is on the position that we and other editors who share our views will continue to produce the kinds of tournaments that counterbalance this vision of the game. Eventually, we'll just win by numbers.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

I'm going to egotistically object and say that I'm a great writer who simply doesn't adhere to your apparent view that knowledge emanating from study of past quizbowl should be automatically and intentionally punished. That's loading the dice and it's a betrayal of the idea of the canon.

Let me state my position one last time: When I choose answers, I choose "things of sufficient academic import." I don't bother wondering to myself how many qb players might have primary knowledge of said things, or how many people playing the tournament in question have primary knowledge. I write on things because they are sufficiently important topics vis-a-vis academic study, period. In the first portion of every tossup, I give clues to reward primary first-hand knowledge of the topic. After that, I give clues related to the topic in descending pyramidal order - I don't purposely take out clues because they might be buzzable with old packet knowledge, and I don't purposely put clues in because they're buzzable with old packet knowledge. If you know the fourth most important character of Book X, you know it - I don't care how - you get points by buzzing at the part of the tu where that character comes up. I'm not going to haughtily incentivize or disincentivize any type of knowledge acquisition - I'm simply going to write on topics that are workable and sufficiently academic in nature.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Mike Bentley »

grapesmoker wrote:Well, I think we've come to the ultimate conclusion of this thread. Ryan believes that knowledge acquired from perusing old packets should be rewarded, most other reasonable people believe that you should disincentivize that kind of quizbowl.
It seems to me like this goes against the notion of quizbowl practices and playing in tournaments in preparation for nationals. What is the point of doing these things if we're going against the idea that "knowledge acquired form perusing old packets should be rewarded"? Just to hone your buzzer instincts and try to get in sync with what your teammates know so that you don't have an early neg in their area of expertise? Was it only for entertainment purposes that you, Jerry, stated in a thread a few years ago that when driving to tournaments you'd sometimes make MP3 files of computers reading packets so that you could listen to them on the way?

Furthermore, it seems like a lot more legit quizbowlers than Ryan and Brendan have profited from the "learn the clues" method of playing quizbowl. Subash is hailed as one of the greatest players of all time, and yet the famous story of how he got so good was by doing the type of studying the non Ryan and Brendan people in this thread are arguing against. I've heard stories from Zeke about how Michigan built up their own private question archive so that other programs wouldn't be able to profit from the "good clues" in these packets.

My thoughts on the matter are that we shouldn't get too carried away going in either direction. Quizbowl should not just be a game of knowing stuff that's come up before. Neither should it be this thing where reading packets, practicing, playing scobowl, etc. is pointless because we're writing questions that only reward Tier 1 and Tier 2 knowledge (which I would argue is really really hard to do).
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by marnold »

Either you've heard a different version of the legend or aren't getting what the non-Ryan and Brendan people are saying: as I understand it, Subash sat down and wrote a fuck-ton of lead-ins. This is legitimate under every interpretation because it requires, like, looking in books and reading stuff and actually understanding things. Crucially, it's way different than copying a fuck-ton of old lead-ins onto a fuck-ton of notecards and learning them by rote, which is the technique they claim is disproportionately rewarded by Ryan's philosophy. Also, no one is saying stop playing packets and tournaments or feel guilty when you learn stuff from playing a packet, but rather that tournaments like ACF Nats should not encourage things like mindless memorization of old clues.

But whatever, Jerry's right that the parties have more or less argued themselves down to first principles and there's not much more to be said (especially by me). I do want to point out that some of the conclusions in this thread actually point pretty strongly to adopting the Weinerian view of the canon (or the lack thereof). If you don't like the "well, this was a clue a bunch, then a third part a bunch, so time for a tossup" method that rewards packet memorizing robots, maybe rethinking (or re-re-re-rethinking) the nature of the canon is in order.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

marnold wrote:Also, no one is saying stop playing packets and tournaments or feel guilty when you learn stuff from playing a packet, but rather that tournaments like ACF Nats should not encourage things like mindless memorization of old clues.
This is precisely NOT what they are saying. Read Jerry's most recent post. He speaks about actively discouraging "mindless memorization of old clues". I am disturbed by what that might mean. Are we going to banish old clues to the dustbin of history, never to be used again?
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by ChopinManiac »

Most assuredly not. I don't think jerry's comment was made to discourage the use of familiar clues in question writing, but rather to emphasize the manner in which questions should come about. I would hope any person writing a question has actively and somewhat thoroughly researched their "answer", and that the question would arise as an organic process from an at least elementary understanding of said subject material, the validity of any potential clue's importance to that material, and it's difficulty in the cannon. Of course some clues will repeat, even become familiar with time, but a question should never come about as a collage of past question clues on the same topic cleverly arranged. This is not only harmful to the expansion of the game as a whole, but it's a self-perpetuating affliction-those mindless memorizers of old clues are the ones piecing them back together. They are also the beneficiaries. So right, don't throw the old clues in the dustbin. Instead take them out and give'em a closer look.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

That's a really good post by Bentley.

No question writer, and certainly not me, is putting forth any vision of future questions as being "collages" of old questions - not even close to it.

What I think a lot of this thread is about, from my perspective, is combating the very (in my opinion) radical opinions (despite their apparent popularity these days) that are increasingly being proferred by people like Jerry and Sorice. That is, the radical rejection of any traditional notion of the canon and improving at the game through accumulation of good clues - ideas which, as Bentley has pointed out, have been bedrocks of the game for a long time - and for good reason.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by cvdwightw »

Hey, look at me, I'm arguing with Ryan Westbrook again!

I have divided my "knowledge set" into four distinct subgroups of knowledge based on how they are acquired.

Tiers 2 and 4 are quizbowl-directed knowledge. That is, knowledge gained for the primary purpose of getting better at quizbowl. This means that Tiers 1 and 3 are non-quizbowl-directed knowledge, since I don't believe that anyone is actively trying to gain knowledge by playing tournaments or practices (rather, it's a logical extension of a background process going on while one is trying to test oneself to see how much knowledge one has retained).

Tiers 3 and 4 are quizbowl-derived knowledge. That is, knowledge whose sole source is old packets, with no reference to a topic's importance in any non-quizbowl world. This means that Tiers 1 and 2 are non-quizbowl-derived knowledge, that is, knowledge that comes with a reference to a topic's importance outside of quizbowl.

Quizbowl is more-or-less a test of how much Tier 1 and 2 knowledge a player/team has acquired. If it isn't, it should be, at least in my view. However, Tier 1 and 2 knowledge (of what is being tested) is easily confounded with Tier 3 and 4 knowledge (of the test itself). Now, obviously, if we change quizbowl to get rid of any benefit to Tier 3 and 4 learning (as Bruce claims Jerry states), then it's not quizbowl anymore. But by the same token, we should endeavor to make it such that people with sufficiently deep Tier 1 and 2 knowledge have at least an equal chance of getting the tossup as people with equivalently deep Tier 3 and 4 knowledge (this applies even more when it comes to bonus hard parts, where it is slightly easier to tease out a certain level of "Tier 1 and 2 knowledge" from the equivalent level of "Tier 3 and 4 knowledge"). The obvious issue, which I won't get into right now, is how we define "equivalent."
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

There's no compelling reason why "quizbowl-derived knowledge" is per se inferior. And, practically speaking, there are some very persuasive reasons to commend that kind of knowledge.

I'm certainly not seeking to promote it over "quizbowl-directed knowledge," but I'm also certainly not seeking to actively subjugate it.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Sigh, at the risk of perpetuating an increasingly tiring discussion with no hope of reconciliation, let me try to recast things in a slightly different light.

On one side, you have the idea of "knowledge for the sake of itself" - acquiring information not for any larger purpose or identifiable aspiration (outside of doing well at qb), but simply for the sake of acquiring information. This mindset finds enjoyment in the process of accumulating important information (not just any info), and also specifically in the process of honing skill at the game of quizbowl by acquiring that info. On the other side, you have "knowledge for the sake of intellectual advancement." This mindset is interested in acquiring knowledge if it's intellectually rewarding according to the person's own criterion - if it serves some purpose outside of the process itself, and outside of the scope of the activity of quizbowl - that is, this mindset demands external justification for acquisition of knowledge.

I'm not convinced that there's anything wrong with either of these approaches, such that one should be purposely favored and the other purposely disfavored. I think my personal inclination falls squarely in between the two.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Let me state my position one last time: When I choose answers, I choose "things of sufficient academic import." I don't bother wondering to myself how many qb players might have primary knowledge of said things, or how many people playing the tournament in question have primary knowledge. I write on things because they are sufficiently important topics vis-a-vis academic study, period. In the first portion of every tossup, I give clues to reward primary first-hand knowledge of the topic. After that, I give clues related to the topic in descending pyramidal order - I don't purposely take out clues because they might be buzzable with old packet knowledge, and I don't purposely put clues in because they're buzzable with old packet knowledge. If you know the fourth most important character of Book X, you know it - I don't care how - you get points by buzzing at the part of the tu where that character comes up. I'm not going to haughtily incentivize or disincentivize any type of knowledge acquisition - I'm simply going to write on topics that are workable and sufficiently academic in nature.
Ok, then by this definition, you are not a great writer, at least not to me. You're a pretty good writer who often makes the mistake of recycling material from old packets.

I mean, this is something that really needs to be show more directly than just by me asserting it, but the process whereby the set of things that keep coming up has contracted in a weird and pathological way and has taken to recycling clues over and over again is for real and it's a problem.
What I think a lot of this thread is about, from my perspective, is combating the very (in my opinion) radical opinions (despite their apparent popularity these days) that are increasingly being proferred by people like Jerry and Sorice. That is, the radical rejection of any traditional notion of the canon and improving at the game through accumulation of good clues - ideas which, as Bentley has pointed out, have been bedrocks of the game for a long time - and for good reason.
What's the point of obsessing over the notion of the canon? There are some things askable at ACF Fall and things askable at ACF Nationals, and the former is presumably a strict subset of the latter. Those things are askable not because there's any kind of quizbowl canon as such but just because there are things that people read, learn in class, etc. We're saying: reward those people. Reward them by writing on topics people are likely to have some measure of primary knowledge about, using clues that they're likely to know. I don't know if this is radical or not, but it seems to make a lot of sense. You can do almost anything within that framework that you can do with whatever methodology you're using.
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Re: Rewarding Different Levels of Knowledge

Post by grapesmoker »

Whig's Boson wrote:
marnold wrote:Also, no one is saying stop playing packets and tournaments or feel guilty when you learn stuff from playing a packet, but rather that tournaments like ACF Nats should not encourage things like mindless memorization of old clues.
This is precisely NOT what they are saying. Read Jerry's most recent post. He speaks about actively discouraging "mindless memorization of old clues". I am disturbed by what that might mean. Are we going to banish old clues to the dustbin of history, never to be used again?
To read what I said as endorsing this position is either stupid or, to use your own favored term, villainous. I'll opt for the latter because I don't think you're stupid.

Here's an example, perhaps an esoteric one, of what I'm talking about. I just opened up the Minnesota A packet from ACF Nationals 2008. It's got a tossup on the Prison Notebooks in which one of the early clues is on the "fable of the beaver." I was able to buzz there at Nationals because I've read a few excerpts from the Prison Notebooks, and I've been buzzing on that goddamn beaver clue ever since; it's probably netter me a whole bunch of points at various hard tournaments via tossups on the Prison Notebooks and Gramsci. Now, in each of those instances I could have buzed anyway, having read the appropriate selection, but this is a great example of how someone whose only knowledge is going to come from reading that packet will buzz at the same place every time as well. Leave aside for the moment the question of why there are even multiply recurring tossups on Gramsci/Prison Notebooks at so many tournaments; it's just a good example of question writing that encourages and rewards reading packets over and over again.
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