Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

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Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Cheynem » Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:40 pm

Note: This is not a thread arguing for the existence of trash in academic tournaments. I am assuming, rightly or wrongly, that trash is a part of the distribution.

I'm also not trying to call anyone out here. I admit I'm somewhat inspired by some of the GSAC questions, but I don't intend this to be a slam of a specific person. I struggle with writing effective trash just as much as anyone.

I'd like to use this thread to compile general suggestions for writing effective trash questions in academic tournaments. There was like a TRASH guidelines thing a while back, but that was all over the place and also argued distribution. Some of my stuff is a repeat from my post in that thread:

1. The most overarching point is that "Trash plays by the same rules and standards as the other aspects of the distribution." It's tempting sometimes to go crazy in the trash part of the distro--God knows I've done it--and get in that tossup on a beloved TV character, humorous athlete, wacky film director, or whatnot. Stop and think for a second and see if your answer(s) are appropriate for the difficulty and audience. This will avoid too hard questions, but also too easy ones, the sort that hand out 20 or 30 points for superficial "general knowledge" (there was one GSAC sports bonus that did this).

Good Rule of Thumb: This is something I struggle with. Don't be afraid of dialing down answer lines. So instead of that tossup on a character from 24, just write on 24 or Jack Bauer.

2. Like other parts of the distribution, use real clues. I am reminded of an ACF Regionals tossup on "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" that used the classic clue of what song replaced it as #1 on the Billboard charts. Who cares? That is a trivial clue. Similarly, tossups on characters or TV shows that tend to use Wiki-type clues ("One actor on this show was...") are less than scintillating. Also, NOBODY CARES if some character was #1 on TV Guide's Number One Sitcom Characters list.

3. Watch out for vanity. I should talk, right? But, seriously. Watch out for it. It's easy to pick on the TRASH folks who write about TV shows that many quizbowlers weren't even alive when they were on ("Gimme a Break"? WTF?!), but that doesn't mean it's okay to continually mine YOUR childhood for stuff that might not resonate with a target audience. I'm not saying it's never okay to write about something you like, but use good judgment here. If you're writing for high schoolers, try to think about trash that would resonate with the young people (so if you're in college now, remember that the target audience might not like the same stuff you liked as a kid); if you're writing for an ACF tournament, you' can go a little older. That sort of thing.

4. Quotes. Hey, I like those sort of humorous quotes that can be used to describe people, songs, movies, whatever that you can get when you Google or Wiki something. They don't always make the best clues. I'm talking about the sort of clues that go "IGN.com once called this game 'a cross between Breakout and Dragon Warrior,'" or "Jay Bilas once said this player ran so slow he made Glen Davis seem like Usain Bolt." Hey, hilarious! Probably would make a decent bonus lead-in, but somewhat iffy as actual clues and tend to turn into "figure it out bowl." (Note that there are a number of quotes that probably do work as actual clues because of their noteworthy-ness--I'd be interested to hear people's feedback on this).

5. Try to use actual sources whenever possible. Hey, this is the future: you can watch a lot of movies, TV shows, and music videos on the Internets. This is pretty helpful so you don't have to rely on some vague Wiki description of just what is happening in the music video for Total Eclipse of the Heart: you can watch it.

Do others have any suggestions or comments?
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Huang » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:12 pm

For high school, should writers assume Tracy McGrady can be an easy part of a sports bonus? Or would he be a middle part with Houston Rockets being an easy part (with obvious gettable clues)?
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:16 pm

Huang wrote:For high school, should writers assume Tracy McGrady can be an easy part of a sports bonus? Or would he be a middle part with Houston Rockets being an easy part (with obvious gettable clues)?

T-mac is only the highest paid player in the NBA. As for sports, there is little distinction between high school and college goes for easy parts, minus dating younger players. Most of the top 20 players in the NFL, NBA, and MLB are fair game especially if they have been in the league for 2+ years, or have done something current event-ish. For hockey I'd say top 10 is ok.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:17 pm

nalin wrote:
Huang wrote:For high school, should writers assume Tracy McGrady can be an easy part of a sports bonus? Or would he be a middle part with Houston Rockets being an easy part (with obvious gettable clues)?

T-mac is only the highest paid player in the NBA. As for sports, there is little distinction between high school and college goes for easy parts, minus dating younger players. Most of the top 20 players in the NFL, NBA, and MLB are fair game especially if they have been in the league for 2+ years, or have done something current event-ish. For hockey I'd say top 10 is ok.
Despite being one of quizbowl's more ardent hockey fans, I'm actually going to disagree with you here. There are a whole ton of very good, very important hockey players who aren't tossupable at all. Rick Nash and Niklas Lidstrom are good examples. Despite being one of the absolute best scorers in the NHL, Nash isn't tossupable because he plays for a team that most Americans haven't heard of and Lidstrom isn't because he's a bland European defenseman. Just about every single Lidstrom clue is somehow related to how he's won, like, a billion Norris trophies and a few Stanley Cups. Last I checked, those were exactly the sort of clues people try to avoid using. It's probably beneficial to avoid tossups on current players unless they are super notable, even outside of the world of hockey (Malkin, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Brodeur all work), and spend more time tossing up teams and retired players.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:23 pm

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote:
nalin wrote:
Huang wrote:For high school, should writers assume Tracy McGrady can be an easy part of a sports bonus? Or would he be a middle part with Houston Rockets being an easy part (with obvious gettable clues)?

T-mac is only the highest paid player in the NBA. As for sports, there is little distinction between high school and college goes for easy parts, minus dating younger players. Most of the top 20 players in the NFL, NBA, and MLB are fair game especially if they have been in the league for 2+ years, or have done something current event-ish. For hockey I'd say top 10 is ok.
Despite being one of quizbowl's more ardent hockey fans, I'm actually going to disagree with you here. There are a whole ton of very good, very important hockey players who aren't tossupable at all. Rick Nash and Niklas Lidstrom are good examples. Despite being one of the absolute best scorers in the NHL, Nash isn't tossupable because he plays for a team that most Americans haven't heard of and Lidstrom isn't because he's a bland European defenseman. Just about every single Lidstrom clue is somehow related to how he's won, like, a billion Norris trophies and a few Stanley Cups. Last I checked, those were exactly the sort of clues people try to avoid using. It's probably beneficial to avoid tossups on current players unless they are super notable, even outside of the world of hockey (Malkin, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Brodeur all work), and spend more time tossing up teams and retired players.
And to go along with that, hockey players should never be easy answers in any bonus part. And many many of them are definitely even too hard for the medium part.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:00 pm

Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS wrote:
Terrible Shorts Depot wrote:
nalin wrote:
Huang wrote:For high school, should writers assume Tracy McGrady can be an easy part of a sports bonus? Or would he be a middle part with Houston Rockets being an easy part (with obvious gettable clues)?

T-mac is only the highest paid player in the NBA. As for sports, there is little distinction between high school and college goes for easy parts, minus dating younger players. Most of the top 20 players in the NFL, NBA, and MLB are fair game especially if they have been in the league for 2+ years, or have done something current event-ish. For hockey I'd say top 10 is ok.
Despite being one of quizbowl's more ardent hockey fans, I'm actually going to disagree with you here. There are a whole ton of very good, very important hockey players who aren't tossupable at all. Rick Nash and Niklas Lidstrom are good examples. Despite being one of the absolute best scorers in the NHL, Nash isn't tossupable because he plays for a team that most Americans haven't heard of and Lidstrom isn't because he's a bland European defenseman. Just about every single Lidstrom clue is somehow related to how he's won, like, a billion Norris trophies and a few Stanley Cups. Last I checked, those were exactly the sort of clues people try to avoid using. It's probably beneficial to avoid tossups on current players unless they are super notable, even outside of the world of hockey (Malkin, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Brodeur all work), and spend more time tossing up teams and retired players.
And to go along with that, hockey players should never be easy answers in any bonus part. And many many of them are definitely even too hard for the medium part.
And I'm going to disagree with you, too! I don't see how at least one or two of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin is not appropriate as an easy part. If those guys aren't easy parts, what is? "Hockey?" "The Stanley Cup?" "Ice?"
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:04 pm

What's a "Mario Lemieux?"
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Huang » Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:17 pm

nalin wrote:
Huang wrote:For high school, should writers assume Tracy McGrady can be an easy part of a sports bonus? Or would he be a middle part with Houston Rockets being an easy part (with obvious gettable clues)?
As for sports, there is little distinction between high school and college goes for easy parts, minus dating younger players.
I was under the impression that difficulty went up slightly across the board, no matter the subject, when it came to easy parts in college.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by 2007 Matt Weiner » Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:37 pm

nalin wrote:dating younger players
NO DON'T

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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Jesus vs. Dragons » Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:06 am

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote:
And I'm going to disagree with you, too! I don't see how at least one or two of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin is not appropriate as an easy part. If those guys aren't easy parts, what is? "Hockey?" "The Stanley Cup?" "Ice?"
Definitely agree with you here. Wayne Gretzky is just as famous as any athlete in the history of sports. While you would have to actually follow sports to get the last three (and not be a diehard fan of hockey, just actually have watched ESPN this year) they are more than appropiate. I would throw Patrick Roy in there as well.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by OntarioQuizzer » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:34 am

But shouldn't "watched ESPN the past year" be a decent requirement for getting the easy part of a sports bonus? It's not like we write history or science for people who haven't learned a thing about history or science...
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:03 pm

OntarioQuizzer wrote:But shouldn't "watched ESPN the past year" be a decent requirement for getting the easy part of a sports bonus? It's not like we write history or science for people who haven't learned a thing about history or science...
Eh, that's not necessarily true, especially at the high school level. Often times easy parts of bonuses on World Literature are something like, "Oe is an author from this country, who set some works in its city of Tokyo". For better or worse (probably better), easy parts in high school bonuses are written more to make sure almost every team converts them than to really test substantial knowledge. Thus, if you don't expect 80-90% of high school teams to have watched ESPN and paid enough attention to identify Alexander Ovechkin or whatever, change that bonus part to be something like "Alexander Ovechkin has scored a million goals against the Flyers while playing for the Capitals, a team based in this city which also had a sports team called the Redskins".

Anyway, my thoughts on trash in academic tournaments is to not let the distribution get skewed to your interests. A lot of this is on the editors, but people submitting packets can also do a better job. When formulating your trash questions, think about what other people are going to write and try not to write on that. For instance, rather than writing on your favorite comic book character or videogame, consider writing on something like an important movie outside of the usual "academic trash" distribution. This will improve the overall trash distribution of the tournament.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by New York Undercover » Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:48 pm

Terrible Shorts Depot wrote: I don't see how at least one or two of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin is not appropriate as an easy part. If those guys aren't easy parts, what is? "Hockey?" "The Stanley Cup?" "Ice?"
I'm not sure if you're aiming for high school or college level but as a highschooler who watches ESPN somewhat regularly, I can honestly only recognize Gretzky. A hockey bonus could be something like- _Steve Yzerman_ (middle part); Yzerman played for this team from Detroit: _Red Wings_ (easy part); something else (hard part)

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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Huang » Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:55 pm

Arquette wrote:
Terrible Shorts Depot wrote: I don't see how at least one or two of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin is not appropriate as an easy part. If those guys aren't easy parts, what is? "Hockey?" "The Stanley Cup?" "Ice?"
I'm not sure if you're aiming for high school or college level but as a highschooler who watches ESPN somewhat regularly, I can honestly only recognize Gretzky. A hockey bonus could be something like- _Steve Yzerman_ (middle part); Yzerman played for this team from Detroit: _Red Wings_ (easy part); something else (hard part)
As a high schooler who watches ESPN irregularly, I recognize Gretzky, Lemieux, Crosby, and Ovechkin. Those are probably the only four I know in addition to Bobby Orr. I only believe Gretzky and Crosby should be easy parts of a high school bonus but I wouldn't flip out if Lemieux or Ovechkin were easy parts. Although, I do agree that the bonus construction you have there is optimal for lesser known players.

Edit: Not having Sidney Crosby as an easy part would be akin to not having Kobe Bryant as an easy part
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Jesus vs. Dragons » Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:00 pm

It basically comes down to how you write. If you want an easy part that is converted by anyone with a pulse, Gretzky is pretty much the only hockey player for that. For an 80-90 percent conversion rate, pretty much any player named so far in this thread would work. Soccer is the same way. The only player who even the most sports-disabled player would convert would be David Beckham, and a very slight possibility of Pele.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Gautam » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:24 pm

All hockey questions should have the answer line:

"ANSWER: hockey [accept ice-hockey or NHL]"
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Kwang the Ninja » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:52 pm

gkandlikar wrote:All hockey questions should have the answer line:

"ANSWER: hockey [accept that funny thing they do with sticks in Canada or equivalents]"
Fixed.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:06 pm

Hockey is what brings out the sissyness in quiz bowlers. I'm contemplating writing a hockey packet for my trash side tourney, just based on this thread and the Penn Bowl Trash thread from last year.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Cheynem » Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:16 pm

It's not being a sissy. It's recognizing that hey, hockey is by far less popular than football, baseball, and basketball.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Matt Weiner » Sat Dec 19, 2009 9:30 pm

Yeah, I don't know why people have to go out of their way to pick fights about this, and perhaps we shouldn't even respond, but as a reminder, hockey is "popular," in the sense that people who are not actively identifying "hockey fans" know anything about it, only in Michigan, Minnesota, Canada, and parts of New England and Europe. Its TV ratings for anything other than a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final struggle to outpace things like rodeos and college softball. You can realize that not everyone in the country cares about the stuff that people in Michigan do, just like a writer from North Carolina should think twice before submitting a NASCAR question, or you can keep going on a crusade for quizbowl to ask more about your areas of knowledge and interests rather than trying to expand your horizons and considering nationwide needs when writing questions.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:05 pm

i agree that its less popular than the other 3 major sports, but when people call for eradicating it from the "trash canon" its quite ridiculous.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:08 pm

nalin wrote:i agree that its less popular than the other 3 major sports, but when people call for eradicating it from the "trash canon" its quite ridiculous.
It would be ridiculous if anyone were saying that. Conveniently...
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by MichaelKearney » Sat Dec 19, 2009 11:38 pm

I really like Mike's original call for suggestions for writing better trash questions, since it's far too easy to get nitpicky and complain about what's wrong, rather than provide constructive information that people can use to improve. But apparently we're now talking about how Sidney Crosby is way easier than Tim Horton who is HOCKEY SHOULDNT BE ASKED I LIKE NASCAR FLFLFFAHHFGS.
Instead of arguing over who is askable and who isn't, are there certain things that you think should be avoided when asking a hockey question? Are statistics and trophies the way to go, or anecdotes and personal information? If you want to talk about specific topics, what makes a good videogame/TV/Music question?

Some other ideas to add.

If you're writing for an academic tournament, ESPECIALLY a high school tournament, aim toward the easy side of things. Teams generally don't win tournaments based on their pop culture knowledge, so don't expect everyone to have seen Metropolis or The Wire. No matter how "important" things are, you want to take a more populist stand on topic selection. Especially on bonuses. If you write a whole bonus on JRPGs, people hit by a pitch, or songs by T.I., prepare to hear a lot of groans. Just because something is the "easy part" of a topic doesn't mean it's an easy question. Sometimes you'll get whole teams who don't watch sports, read comics, etc.

Watch your first line. Make unbelievably sure that you start with a pronoun/descriptor(This show, this actor, etc). Don't mention the lead actor/character, jersey number/team, unless you really want to have written a 7-line tossup with 6 lines that no one will ever hear.

I'm going to echo Mike's #3 with an additional thing....Nickelodeon is totally awesome, I know. But when you ask yet another question about Legends of the Hidden Temple, you are doing the exact same thing that TRASH writers are doing when they write about Dream On and Airwolf. Stuff that was popular when you were young might not have survived the test of time. Does anyone REALLY still care about Double Dragon the movie?

If you've got to torture the narrative of a tossup to make it askable, just drop it altogether, or put it in a bonus. There's a certain flow to well-written questions, and readers will trip over these weirdly constructed sentences. Like, The third word in this song's title, the lead actor in the 1960's broadway version of this remake, the expansion pack to the sequel of this game.....when you write questions like this, no one knows exactly what you're asking for, and you can't just fix it by leaving generous prompts or "also accept" lines.

And yet another call to watch those wiki-clues. Hey, it's awesome that the deleted scene from this movie had a duck in it. But if I watched that movie thirty-seven times in the theatre, I get screwed because I don't own the DVD. It's cool that this game was originally supposed to be voiced by Bruce Willis. But I played it, and I heard not a single YippieKiYay. Meta-references usually reward the people who read the same top 10 list as you, or saw the same article on IGN, but not the players who have real concrete knowledge.

Lastly, trash questions are supposed to inform just like any other question. Even if it's not your area of expertise, there should be something to be learned from what you're hearing. Thinking about important information that you want to impart to players is a good way to avoid straying outside "canon", and can keep the questions entertaining when you misjudge your audience.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Papa's in the House » Sun Dec 20, 2009 6:47 am

MichaelKearney wrote: Instead of arguing over who is askable and who isn't, are there certain things that you think should be avoided when asking a hockey question? Are statistics and trophies the way to go, or anecdotes and personal information? If you want to talk about specific topics, what makes a good videogame/TV/Music question?
For music questions, my philosophy has been that you should stick more to things a band/artist has done/songs they are notable for and less to lyrics from their songs when writing a question on them; of course, when writing a question on a specific song, lyrics should always be included. Hence, were I to write a tossup on Ozzy Osbourne, you'd hear more about how his wedding cake was made out of Hennessy or how his latest album is Black Rain and less about lyrics from "Time After Time" or "Mr. Crowley." Now, if I were to write a tossup on the band Frost, I would probably include more lyrics/song titles than more notable bands as I doubt very many players have heard of this band (though, I probably would also never toss this band up for the aforementioned reason).

Now, that has been my historical philosophy for writing music questions, but I will say that I have heard good arguments for including lyrics in a tossup even if the answer line is Ozzy Osbourne. Thus, while this has been my philosophy, I'd hope others will provide their views on the topic (I know I'm always looking to make my writing better).
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Ed McMahon » Sun Dec 20, 2009 4:02 pm

Kwang the Ninja wrote:
gkandlikar wrote:All hockey questions should have the answer line:

"ANSWER: hockey [accept that funny thing they do with sticks in Canada or equivalents]"
Fixed.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Camelopardalis » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:30 pm

Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS wrote:And to go along with that, hockey players should never be easy answers in any bonus part. And many many of them are definitely even too hard for the medium part.
Don't write high school academic questions on hockey. Problem solved!

But seriously, I think it's kind of silly for people to make demands about hockey being an integral part of the trash canon, as has been done many times before. I'd consider myself one of the bigger/est hockey fans, but hey, check it out, I'm Canadian, and that's the way it is. I'm not convinced that hockey is more popular than other sports like golf and soccer in North America, so sure, encourage writers to write about it under the "other sports" category to appease people from upstate New York and Minnesota and Canada, but beyond something like Guerilla Sports or other vanity events, I don't think it deserves to be a "necessary" part of the canon.

Also, I'm interested in hearing what the argument for keeping trash in the high school distribution is at all. My one power at the HSNCT back in the day came on a Buffalo Sabres tossup. I remember my sports-focused 16-year-old brain thinking "AWESOME SPORTS", but looking back on it, what was it even doing there? Right or wrong, trash is a part of the collegiate distribution because college players choose to keep it there (or are ambivalent about it). But in high school, can educators really make the argument that it rewards students for learning and knowledge and a curiosity in the world around them?

Returning to the original intention of this thread, I think Mike raises some good points, and specifically, I think #2 is an important rule to follow, just for trash generally. No one remembers or recognizes almanac clues, and they are thus pretty useless.
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:39 pm

Camelopardalis wrote:
Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS wrote:And to go along with that, hockey players should never be easy answers in any bonus part. And many many of them are definitely even too hard for the medium part.
Don't write high school academic questions on hockey. Problem solved!

But seriously, I think it's kind of silly for people to make demands about hockey being an integral part of the trash canon, as has been done many times before. I'd consider myself one of the bigger/est hockey fans, but hey, check it out, I'm Canadian, and that's the way it is. I'm not convinced that hockey is more popular than other sports like golf and soccer in North America, so sure, encourage writers to write about it under the "other sports" category to appease people from upstate New York and Minnesota and Canada, but beyond something like Guerilla Sports or other vanity events, I don't think it deserves to be a "necessary" part of the canon.

Also, I'm interested in hearing what the argument for keeping trash in the high school distribution is at all. My one power at the HSNCT back in the day came on a Buffalo Sabres tossup. I remember my sports-focused 16-year-old brain thinking "AWESOME SPORTS", but looking back on it, what was it even doing there? Right or wrong, trash is a part of the collegiate distribution because college players choose to keep it there (or are ambivalent about it). But in high school, can educators really make the argument that it rewards students for learning and knowledge and a curiosity in the world around them?

Returning to the original intention of this post, I think Mike raises some good points, and specifically, I think #2 is an important rule to follow, just for trash generally. No one remembers or recognizes almanac clues, and they are thus pretty useless.
I'm getting more and more annoyed at trash in academic packets in high school tournaments, but i'm willing to live with them because it keeps a lot of the mediocre teams and younger players interested. And that's okay.

What's not okay is trash in Nationals packets, either NSC or HSNCT. It should be eliminated.
Mr. Andrew Chrzanowski
Caesar Rodney High School
Camden, Delaware
CRHS '97-'01
University of Delaware '01-'05
CRHS quizbowl coach '06-'12
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Huang
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Huang » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:52 pm

Camelopardalis wrote: But in high school, can educators really make the argument that it rewards students for learning and knowledge and a curiosity in the world around them?
I think trash in general helps kids who like sports, movies, music, and etc. understand pyramidal questions a little better. Such an example would be a kid getting a sports TU early because he or she religiously reads ESPN articles or watches SportsCenter. They might think, "Oh hey, that's cool. I got that TU before everyone else because I knew more and not because my reaction time was slow." So it might help them translate whatever method they used for gaining knowledge in trash onto whatever subject they wish to get better at. It does in some ways help further curiosity but I guess some people would strongly disagree on whether or not it's conducive to "learning and knowledge."
Sandy

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Captain Sinico
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:53 pm

I'd like to add that it's important in trash bonuses to be scrupulously careful to avoid "all or nothing"-type bonus questions, which I understand to mean questions on which most teams will know everything about a topic if they know anything. I say that because many trash topics very much lend themselves to that phenomenon.
In fact, I think that stricture goes so far as to render some topics pretty much outside of what can make a good bonus, or at least definitely outside of that realm without very careful planning and considering. For example, I wouldn't write a bonus on Harry Potter (even if I'd read it or whatever) because basically it's either going to be 30'd (or maybe 20'd if I put in some crazy extra-textual stuff) by anyone who's read the books and 0'd (or 10'd if I put in a really easy part) by anyone who has not. The Simpsons used to be like this, too.
Please note that that doesn't necessarily mean that it's impossible to write on things that are parts of untenable all-or-nothing topics. For example, you might include some aspect of the books about everyone's favorite student of professors one of whom kills another as part of a larger bonus, like one on griffins in fiction (there's a pretty bitchin' griffin in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) or even one on just children's books. In general, then, it pays to broaden the topic if you're worried about all-or-nothing.

I further want to add to this that I hope when people are writing for "whatever" slots in academic tournaments, they'll also consider writing academic "whatever," too, especially interdisciplinary academic bonuses. I'm finding doing so highly edifying and rewarding to my own learning (even though editors currently cut these questions with extreme prejudice or transform them into tossups on the art of Ecuador.)
Finally, just to head-off any POSTING IN BAD FAITH accusations, it's true that I would prefer that academic tournaments not have trash questions, but it's also true that I like trash in general at least as much as the next guy and realize there's nothing I can do to stop people for tournaments I'm not in charge of.

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Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
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Captain Sinico
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:54 pm

That's actually a really interesting argument, Sandy.

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Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
Alumnus, Illinois ABT (2000-2002; 2003-2009) & Fenwick Scholastic Bowl (1999-2000)
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IHSSBCA
PACE

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Theory Of The Leisure Flask
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Re: Writing Trash for Academic Tournaments

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:17 am

Captain Sinico wrote:I further want to add to this that I hope when people are writing for "whatever" slots in academic tournaments, they'll also consider writing academic "whatever," too, especially interdisciplinary academic bonuses. I'm finding doing so highly edifying and rewarding to my own learning (even though editors currently cut these questions with extreme prejudice or transform them into tossups on the art of Ecuador.)
I'm also a big fan of interdisciplinary academic questions and wish they came up more often. I certainly hope that we're able to highlight some good interdisciplinary material for Penn Bowl.

Also, another subject that IMO deserves a larger part of the "choice" distribution: current events, knowledge of which doesn't get rewarded nearly enough in quizbowl today. This is probably higher than many people would go for, but I'd personally like to see something like 25% of the 1/1 that's normally devoted to pop culture go towards CE instead.
Chris White
Bloomfield HS (New Jersey) '01, Swarthmore College '05, University of Pennsylvania '10. Still writes questions occasionally.

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