Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Old college threads.
User avatar
Important Bird Area
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5522
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2003 3:33 pm
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Contact:

Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Important Bird Area » Sun Feb 07, 2010 3:48 pm

discuss.
Jeff Hoppes
President, Northern California Quiz Bowl Alliance
former HSQB Chief Admin (2012-13)
VP for Communication and history subject editor, NAQT
Editor emeritus, ACF

"I wish to make some kind of joke about Jeff's love of birds, but I always fear he'll turn them on me Hitchcock-style." -Fred

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6621
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 07, 2010 3:51 pm

I've sort of outlined my feelings in the other thread, but to summarize:

1. I think cross-disciplinary works if there are legitimate clues from various disciplines to begin with. There are a number of tossups (good ones) that could utilize a mix of, say, literary/historical/art clues. And that would be fine. It's when people try to write on something known by 95% of players for only appearing in literature/history/art, that's when people get irritated.

2. As for miscellaneous, I would hope people would use it as a chance to write on some of the exciting "Your Choice" style options outlined, for example, by Bruce in his thread, rather than borderline trash questions.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 07, 2010 3:57 pm

Ok, so, I'm responding to something Andrew Y. said in the other thread, but here's my take on interdisciplinary stuff:

It's fine to draw on multiple areas for the clues. The example Andrew gave of "Jupiter," using clues from Mozart, painting, etc. is perfectly fine and great. I don't think anyone would complain about such a question. What's annoying to me is when these interdisciplinary questions employ clues that are half-academic and half-trash, which happens a lot. Especially with ill-conceived answer choices, people just seem to pull whatever has the right word in it and stick that into a question. Just as a hypothetical, a tossup on "Stella," that used clues from Swift, Sidney, and the beer Stella Artois would suck because it basically inserts trash into academic questions. I have no objection to questions that unify several different areas of academic endeavor (for example, I thought the "sacrifice" tossup was pretty great that way) but I do object when the academic content gets displaced by trash.

Oh, and of course questions on things that are primarily known through a single channel (like the tossup on the Medusa) run into problems when they attempt to convert what's essentially art knowledge into history knowledge. One of two things will happen: either people quickly realize that it's a famous shipwreck from the 18th century and buzz, or no one knows anything until you tell them it's the basis for a notable painting, triggering a buzzer race. However attractive a history question on the Medusa might be, it doesn't play well in practice.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Auks Ran Ova
Forums Staff: Chief Administrator
Posts: 4061
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:28 pm
Location: Minneapolis
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:03 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Ok, so, I'm responding to something Andrew Y. said in the other thread, but here's my take on interdisciplinary stuff:

It's fine to draw on multiple areas for the clues. The example Andrew gave of "Jupiter," using clues from Mozart, painting, etc. is perfectly fine and great. I don't think anyone would complain about such a question. What's annoying to me is when these interdisciplinary questions employ clues that are half-academic and half-trash, which happens a lot. Especially with ill-conceived answer choices, people just seem to pull whatever has the right word in it and stick that into a question. Just as a hypothetical, a tossup on "Stella," that used clues from Swift, Sidney, and the beer Stella Artois would suck because it basically inserts trash into academic questions. I have no objection to questions that unify several different areas of academic endeavor (for example, I thought the "sacrifice" tossup was pretty great that way) but I do object when the academic content gets displaced by trash.
Yeah, this was going to basically be my response as well. Too often these cross-disciplinary tossups are tossups on random words with all sorts of clue-ordering problems, as Jerry mentions. The tossup on "rain" at this tournament suffered from these problems; other than the leadin being rather famous, it goes on to throw in some clues about a Beatles song for no apparent reason.
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

User avatar
naturalistic phallacy
Auron
Posts: 1369
Joined: Tue May 01, 2007 12:03 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:04 pm

Cheynem wrote:I've sort of outlined my feelings in the other thread, but to summarize:

1. I think cross-disciplinary works if there are legitimate clues from various disciplines to begin with. There are a number of tossups (good ones) that could utilize a mix of, say, literary/historical/art clues. And that would be fine. It's when people try to write on something known by 95% of players for only appearing in literature/history/art, that's when people get irritated.

2. As for miscellaneous, I would hope people would use it as a chance to write on some of the exciting "Your Choice" style options outlined, for example, by Bruce in his thread, rather than borderline trash questions.
This is pretty much what I feel multidisciplinary questions should be - academic in content, relevant, full of clues that people would actually know and/or care about. NAQT seems to think it a good idea to write questions of this type that also contain trash clues or giveaways (like the hypothetical Stella question outlined by Jerry). Does NAQT have any specific reason for encouraging this type of question?
Bernadette Spencer
University of Minnesota
MCTC
Event Manager, PACE

Father, among these many souls / Is there not one / Whom thou shalt pluck for love out of the coals?

User avatar
Chico the Rainmaker
Wakka
Posts: 201
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:52 pm
Location: Santa Monica, CA/Medford, MA

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Chico the Rainmaker » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:09 pm

I know this wasn't classified as cross-disciplinary or misc since it was almost all literature clues, but the question on literary figures named Clarissa that ended with "and a character who Explains It All" or something like that....seriously? I don't feel like I should get points on a lit question because I watched Nickelodeon as a kid. I'm sure it served to bring conversion rates for the tossup to a desired level or something but come on.
James(NotI)
Tufts '10

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:24 pm

tetragrammatology wrote:
Cheynem wrote:I've sort of outlined my feelings in the other thread, but to summarize:

1. I think cross-disciplinary works if there are legitimate clues from various disciplines to begin with. There are a number of tossups (good ones) that could utilize a mix of, say, literary/historical/art clues. And that would be fine. It's when people try to write on something known by 95% of players for only appearing in literature/history/art, that's when people get irritated.

2. As for miscellaneous, I would hope people would use it as a chance to write on some of the exciting "Your Choice" style options outlined, for example, by Bruce in his thread, rather than borderline trash questions.
This is pretty much what I feel multidisciplinary questions should be - academic in content, relevant, full of clues that people would actually know and/or care about. NAQT seems to think it a good idea to write questions of this type that also contain trash clues or giveaways (like the hypothetical Stella question outlined by Jerry). Does NAQT have any specific reason for encouraging this type of question?
I think this is less a question of the NAQT hivemind thinking it's a good idea and more a question of certain writers within NAQT having bad ideas and time pressure making it impossible to excise them all. (If you have a bunch of history to write, you code the weird shit that got submitted as misc and pray that you'll have time to get back to it. If a subject editor is part of the reason for this garbage, it might not even be in the set until too late to take it out.)
Andrew Watkins

User avatar
Important Bird Area
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5522
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2003 3:33 pm
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Important Bird Area » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:45 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:more a question of certain writers within NAQT having bad ideas and time pressure making it impossible to excise them all.
This is, in my experience, less a function of particular writers and more a function of "everyone generates weird ideas when they're writing questions at the very last minute." For instance, in this list of "bad ideas" noted by Dan in the other thread:

"A fucking tu on The Medusa? Common link on "independent (hey with NAQT it could've been a Dearborn tu off the leadin)?" "13 at dinner?" the confusingly worded "Marble" tu, which also tragicomically goes from marble madness to the Elgins."

... one of these four was written by a founding member of NAQT, and one of them by a new writer who signed the letter-from-the-circuit.
Jeff Hoppes
President, Northern California Quiz Bowl Alliance
former HSQB Chief Admin (2012-13)
VP for Communication and history subject editor, NAQT
Editor emeritus, ACF

"I wish to make some kind of joke about Jeff's love of birds, but I always fear he'll turn them on me Hitchcock-style." -Fred

Steve Watchorn
Lulu
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:55 pm
Location: Nashua, NH
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Steve Watchorn » Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:46 pm

I hope I'm not telling NAQT's tales out of school, but there is usually a part of the distribution called "mixed, with popular culture," meaning a mixture of academic and PC (or sports) clues. I think it is at least as plentiful as straight "miscellaneous, academic," but that may only be my perception.
Steve Watchorn
University of Michigan CBI Team 1991
University of Wisconsin - Madison Quiz Bowl 1995-2001
NAQT contributor (and often available for others as well)

samer
Wakka
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by samer » Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:52 pm

Steve Watchorn wrote:I hope I'm not telling NAQT's tales out of school, but there is usually a part of the distribution called "mixed, with popular culture," meaning a mixture of academic and PC (or sports) clues. I think it is at least as plentiful as straight "miscellaneous, academic," but that may only be my perception.
It's actually a smaller quota for with trash than without.
samer dot ismail -at- gmail dot com / Samer Ismail, PACE co-founder, NAQT editor

Ken Jennings
Lulu
Posts: 49
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:11 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Ken Jennings » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:40 pm

I currently edit stuff in NAQT's popular "mixed" (i.e. miscellaneous) category, so I appreciate the feedback. I'll keep an eye on this thread, so please comment away. It's a tricky category to edit, for obvious reasons, so your notes are helpful. I edited most of the questions referred to above, though I know the "independent" tossup was coded as "History: Government," so there may be exceptions.

I can understand the dislike for the Medusa tossup, and will be more careful about answer choices like this in future. I remember initially accepting it under the theory that (a) I've read art history texts--and taken art history classes--that spent time on the historical events behind famous artworks, presumably to liven up the subject a bit, and (b) the tossup wasn't coded to fill a fine-arts spot in the set, so the fact that it didn't measure substantive art knowledge didn't bother me. But I understand the objection that much of the tossup doesn't test important/widely-known knowledge in *any* field.

I guess I can't really agree with the idea that interdisciplinary tossups are fine, but become inherently problematic when they have a film or music or sports clue in there somewhere. (The "Stella Artois" case.) To me, this just seems like a subset of wider arguments about how much trash should be in the NAQT distribution: if you don't like the trash, you don't want a "Stella Artois" clue in there with your Swift and your Tennessee Williams, even if the clues are ordered right. (I'm not convinced that good pop culture clues can't be ordered well in tossups, including interdisciplinary ones. In this case, for example, I think you could get a consensus that "Stella Artois" is easier than Sidney or Swift clues but harder than the Streetcar one.) But if you think NAQT sets have about the right amount of pop culture, you probably don't mind the fact that, in practice, maybe 20% or so of these "mixed" questions might have a single sports or entertainment clue.

I guess in the hypothetical "Stella" tossup above, the whole thing would be lit except for one beer clue, which does seem random/incongruous to me. In that case I'd strip the Stella Artois clue and recode as lit. But if the clues went lit/science/history/beer/lit somehow, I still need convincing that that should bother me.

But NAQT does listen very closely to arguments like "There's too much pop culture at SCT." Or "there are too many mixed-discipline questions at SCT," especially when we can validate those opinions with surveys, etc.

I can't find the question referred to in the "13 at dinner" complaints...can someone post?

[Edited because I mangled the "easier" and "harder" arguments above.]
Last edited by Ken Jennings on Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ken Jennings
NAQT editor

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:52 pm

Ken Jennings wrote:I can't find the question referred to in the "13 at dinner" complaints...can someone post?
It is the title superstition of the Agatha Christie novel also known as Lord Edgeware Dies. London's Savoy
Hotel avoids the situation by using Kaspar the Cat if necessary. It has roots in Norse myth, in which Loki
arrives uninvited at a (*) banquet where Balder is subsequently slain. The French hire a Quatorzienne to avoid—
for 10 points—what superstitious situation concerning the number of diners at the Last Supper?
answer: thirteen at dinner or thirteen at table (accept any reasonable alternative for dinner or table)
Andrew Watkins

User avatar
Auks Ran Ova
Forums Staff: Chief Administrator
Posts: 4061
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:28 pm
Location: Minneapolis
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:56 pm

Ken Jennings wrote:I can't find the question referred to in the "13 at dinner" complaints...can someone post?
Round 7 wrote:10. It is the title superstition of the Agatha Christie novel also known as Lord Edgeware Dies. London's Savoy Hotel avoids the situation by using Kaspar the Cat if necessary. It has roots in Norse myth, in which Loki arrives uninvited at a (*) banquet where Balder is subsequently slain. The French hire a Quatorzienne to avoid—for 10 points—what superstitious situation concerning the number of diners at the Last Supper?
answer: thirteen at dinner or thirteen at table (accept any reasonable alternative for dinner or table)
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:11 pm

Too slow!
Andrew Watkins

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6621
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Cheynem » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:17 pm

This is another one in which I think there is enough material there perhaps for an interesting bonus (on like, Loki and other things), but as a tossup it just doesn't work. Unless you think rewarding random knowledge of one Agatha Christie novel or of the customs of the Savoy Hotel is great, then, well this either turns into negbait, "figure it out time," or basically just a buzzer race around the Loki arriving at a banquet thing.

As I've said, I am fine when interdisciplinary tossups reward real, solid knowledge from various disciplines. The 13th Guest thing rewards RANDOM knowledge from phony disciplines (an unimportant Agatha Christie novel, the Savoy Hotel's customs). I don't like that.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Not That Kind of Christian!!
Yuna
Posts: 847
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Manhattan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:32 pm

Cheynem wrote:As I've said, I am fine when interdisciplinary tossups reward real, solid knowledge from various disciplines. The 13th Guest thing rewards RANDOM knowledge from phony disciplines (an unimportant Agatha Christie novel, the Savoy Hotel's customs). I don't like that.
This.

Mike's point also applies to the random-trash-insert-into-otherwise-academic-common link problem. Either these are a cheap attempt to up conversion rates (as was suggested upthread), or it's just lazy editing. Delete that one clue or giveaway, and you have a perfectly serviceable academic question (well, one hopes) rather than a question that seems sloppy and random. Leave it in, and you have a question that smacks of gimmick and trivia.
Hannah Kirsch
Brandeis University 2010
NYU School of Medicine 2014

"Wow, those Scandinavians completely thorbjorned my hard-earned political capital."

User avatar
Coelacanth
Rikku
Posts: 276
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:41 pm
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Coelacanth » Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:09 pm

My problem with the "thirteen at dinner" question was that it somewhat penalized knowledge. Rob Carson (I think..) had an early buzz with "triskaidekaphobia" and when I prompted him he tried "fear of the number 13" or something. I'm sure it never occurred to him that "at dinner" would be required as part of this or any other answer line.

Even if you've read Lord Edgeware Dies or, like me, have seen the TV adaptation, you might know right away that the "title superstition" has to do with 13 but you'd still be negged out of a spectacularly early buzz because of the bizarre answer selection.
Brian Weikle
I say what it occurs to me to say when I think I hear people say things. More, I cannot say.

User avatar
women, fire and dangerous things
Tidus
Posts: 616
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 5:34 pm
Location: Örkko, Cimmeria

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:48 pm

Yeah, I negged that question with "triskaidekaphobia" too.
Will Nediger
-Proud member of the cult of Urcuchillay-
University of Western Ontario 2011, University of Michigan 2017
Member, ACF
High-volume writer, NAQT

alexdz
Rikku
Posts: 390
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:29 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by alexdz » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:01 pm

As did I.
Alex Dzurick
====
Owner/Editor, SAGES Quizbowl Questions
Coach, Harcum College (PA)
====
Former midwesterner (South Callaway - Mizzou - UIUC) coping with life on the east coast.

User avatar
Auks Ran Ova
Forums Staff: Chief Administrator
Posts: 4061
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:28 pm
Location: Minneapolis
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:49 pm

Coelacanth wrote:My problem with the "thirteen at dinner" question was that it somewhat penalized knowledge. Rob Carson (I think..) had an early buzz with "triskaidekaphobia" and when I prompted him he tried "fear of the number 13" or something. I'm sure it never occurred to him that "at dinner" would be required as part of this or any other answer line.
I can confirm my tale of woe.
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

User avatar
Not That Kind of Christian!!
Yuna
Posts: 847
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Manhattan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:24 pm

Also, if you're going to have a misc (because dear god I hope this wasn't fine arts) bonus on deaccessioning and related topics, you could at least mention Brandeis ;)
Hannah Kirsch
Brandeis University 2010
NYU School of Medicine 2014

"Wow, those Scandinavians completely thorbjorned my hard-earned political capital."

User avatar
Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
Chairman of Anti-Music Mafia Committee
Posts: 5640
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:46 pm
Location: Columbia, MO

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:29 pm

I guess I can't really agree with the idea that interdisciplinary tossups are fine, but become inherently problematic when they have a film or music or sports clue in there somewhere. (The "Stella Artois" case.) To me, this just seems like a subset of wider arguments about how much trash should be in the NAQT distribution: if you don't like the trash, you don't want a "Stella Artois" clue in there with your Swift and your Tennessee Williams, even if the clues are ordered right.
I think you are wrong. It is entirely possible to think that NAQT's stated distribution has the right amount of trash, and to not want there to be trash clues taking away from the academic parts of the tournament.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
"I won't say more because I know some of you parse everything I say." - Jeremy Gibbs

"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6621
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:32 am

Deaccessioning is actually one of those really cool but offbeat things that makes a fine Miscellaneous bonus. It rewards a certain level of academic study (I studied it in my master's program and did it when I worked in a museum) that doesn't pop up in the other forms of the distribution (nor should it).
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

Brian Ulrich
Wakka
Posts: 104
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:22 pm
Location: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:43 pm

Cheynem wrote:Deaccessioning is actually one of those really cool but offbeat things that makes a fine Miscellaneous bonus. It rewards a certain level of academic study (I studied it in my master's program and did it when I worked in a museum) that doesn't pop up in the other forms of the distribution (nor should it).
The deaccessioning was "Arts Current Events"
Brian Ulrich
NAQT Current Events Editor, 2005-
University of Wisconsin 1999-2003
Quincy University 1995-1999

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:06 pm

Brian Ulrich wrote:The deaccessioning was "Arts Current Events"
I guess this is the most appropriate place to discuss this, but I really wish that the mixed CE categories would disappear. I guess something like deaccessioning would be a fine hard part for some art bonus and it's not really the focus of my point here; it's just that I find most of the Arts:CE or Science:CE questions to be inappropriately shoehorned into this mixed category construction. I'm pretty sure that bonus on telescopes I posted in the other thread is an example of this. It's just this awkward mixture of different types questions that doesn't actually reward anyone who knows science or even current events, really. Most science projects have very little exposure outside of their field. It's rare that something like the LHC or Planck (just to name two really huge undertakings) become well-known outside their field. Just to give another example, NASA has a whole program called "Beyond Einstein," but I suspect very few people would be able to name it or explain what's in it.

Writing science questions that incorporate current events is a good idea. For example, if I were to write a cosmology bonus, I might do something like ask people to identify some aspects of the Beyond Einstein program, though not the program itself; its name is of niche interest and isn't anywhere near as important as the actual science that program aims to do. Or if you're writing about art you might incorporate recent discoveries, criticism, and so on. But trying to forcibly combine categories in this way is a recipe for terrible questions.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

Brian Ulrich
Wakka
Posts: 104
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:22 pm
Location: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:12 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Brian Ulrich wrote:The deaccessioning was "Arts Current Events"
I guess this is the most appropriate place to discuss this, but I really wish that the mixed CE categories would disappear. I guess something like deaccessioning would be a fine hard part for some art bonus and it's not really the focus of my point here; it's just that I find most of the Arts:CE or Science:CE questions to be inappropriately shoehorned into this mixed category construction. I'm pretty sure that bonus on telescopes I posted in the other thread is an example of this. It's just this awkward mixture of different types questions that doesn't actually reward anyone who knows science or even current events, really. Most science projects have very little exposure outside of their field. It's rare that something like the LHC or Planck (just to name two really huge undertakings) become well-known outside their field. Just to give another example, NASA has a whole program called "Beyond Einstein," but I suspect very few people would be able to name it or explain what's in it.

Writing science questions that incorporate current events is a good idea. For example, if I were to write a cosmology bonus, I might do something like ask people to identify some aspects of the Beyond Einstein program, though not the program itself; its name is of niche interest and isn't anywhere near as important as the actual science that program aims to do. Or if you're writing about art you might incorporate recent discoveries, criticism, and so on. But trying to forcibly combine categories in this way is a recipe for terrible questions.
The telescopes question was "Science Current Events." Other CE in the arts/sciences sub-categories:
In 2006 Robert Mang was identified as its thief after pictures of him buying a cell phone were circulated by the Viennese police. Mang had used that cell phone to contact the Kunsthistorisches [KOONST-hiss-TOR-ish-ess] Museum after mailing it a (*) golden trident to prove he had possession of a gold, ivory, and enamel sculpture stolen in 2003. For 10 points--name that work by Benvenuto Cellini used on Francis I's table to hold {sodium chloride}.

answer: Cellini _Salt Cellar_ or Golden _Salt Cellar_ of Francis I (or _Saliera_)
When WIMPs collide and annihilate, these entities could cause specific {wavelengths} of {gamma rays} detectable by NASA's FERMI satellite. They create a scalar field, should have (*) zero {spin}, are their own {antiparticles}, and should have a mass of about 130 GeV ["G-E-V"]. One of the goals of the Large Hadron Collider is to detect--for 10 points--what mass-endowing particle, an as-yet undetected {boson} [BOH-zahn]?

answer: _Higgs_ boson
As transistors get smaller, they radiate more heat per larger transistors. For 10 points each--

A. That fact seems likely to doom this maxim which holds that the number of transistors that can be housed on a microchip doubles approximately every 18 months.

answer: _Moore_'s law

B. In December 2006 IBM demonstrated this type of memory, a promising potential replacmeent for transistor-based memory, that stores data using a {germanium} alloy that exists in crystalline and amorphous states.

answer: _phase_ memory or _P-RAM_

C. Another candidate to replace transistors is this class of fullerenes that come in single-walled and multi-walled varieties.

answer: _carbon nanotube_s (accept _carbon nanotubule_s)
Distribution plans for its TIV and LAIV types are made by the McKesson Corporation of San Francisco. Multi-use units, like those from Novartis, contain thiomersal ["thigh"-AH-mer-sol]. That, along with a (*) 1976 event at Fort Dix where a greater risk of Guillain-Barr\'e [ghee-YEN buh-RAY] Syndrome was recorded, raised concerns about it. A recall by Sanofi Pasteur of 800,000 units in December 2009 and early distribution to Citigroup and other companies were also PR problems--for 10 points--for what drug to combat a 2009 flu pandemic?

answer: _H1N1_/09 (A) influenza _vaccine_(s) (prompt on partial answer; accept _swine flu vaccine_ or equivalents)
{Lee Hamilton} co-chairs a blue-ribbon panel to address one issue posed by the expansion of this industry. In the U.S., its 104 commercial facilities account for 70% of the energy from "clean" sources, but also create (*) storage issues that were to have been addressed by the Yucca Mountain Repository. For 10 points--name this source of {electricity}, whose "spent" fuel rods are {radioactive waste}.

answer: _nuclear_ energy (or power) or _fission_ energy or _atomic_ energy (accept _nuclear_ waste)
A teenager from this U.S. state won the 2009 International Science Fair by inventing a device whose {text messages} can penetrate underground rock formations. Meanwhile, four specimens found in this state's Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness were recently described as a new species of (*) Tyrannosaur. The world's most powerful controlled-pulse magnet is at Los Alamos in--for 10 points--which Southwestern state?

answer: _New Mexico_
A satellite named for the founder of {quantum physics} was launched in May 2009. For 10 points each--

A. Name that satellite.

answer: _Planck_

B. Planck is designed to improve on the maps made by COBE [KOH-bee] and WMAP ["W-map"] of this phenomenon that provides strong evidence for the Big Bang.

answer: _cosmic_ microwave _background_ radiation (or _CMB_ or _relic radiation_; prompt on "background radiation")

C. Planck was built by this space agency that launches most of its satellites from South America.

answer: _European_ Space Agency or _ESA_
Early works by this man included ~Dockside Packages~, in Cologne; ~Valley Curtain~, in Rifle Gap, Colorado; and a 1983 project that was set adrift in Biscayne Bay. In February 2005 he placed panels of saffron-colored nylon in (*) Central Park, an exhibition known as ~The Gates~. In 1995 he wrapped the Reichstag in {polypropylene}. For 10 points--name this {Bulgarian}-born artist, the husband of Jean-Claude.

answer: _Christo_ (or Christo _Javacheff_)
Five space agencies are official collaborators on the {International Space Station}. For 5 points each and a bonus 5 for having all correct--name those five agencies. Note that we want the agencies, not the countries.

answer: _NASA_ or _National Aeronautics and Space Administration_
_RKA_ or _RSA_ or _Russian Federal_ Space Agency (or _Roskosmos_; prompt on "Russia(n)" or "Russian Aviation and Space Agency")
_JAXA_ or _Japanese Aerospace Exploration_ Agency (prompt on partial answer)
_CSA_ or _Canadian_ Space Agency (do not prompt on "Canada")
_ESA_ or _European_ Space Agency (do not prompt on "Europe" or "Euro")
The last of those, on the five space agencies, had a note that we should probably replace it. The Christo question doens't seem that CE-ish to me - I wrote one that was, but it didn't make it in do to a repeat.
Brian Ulrich
NAQT Current Events Editor, 2005-
University of Wisconsin 1999-2003
Quincy University 1995-1999

User avatar
Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
Chairman of Anti-Music Mafia Committee
Posts: 5640
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:46 pm
Location: Columbia, MO

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:33 pm

This is a really nitpicky thing, but what does saying "meanwhile" in that New Mexico tossup accomplish? In a question with a character limit, I would really like to make sure NAQT isn't using words that don't need to be there. On top of that, meanwhile doesn't actually seem like the appropriate linking word to use there, since sentence 1 and 2 had nothing to do with each other, either in timeframe or subject matter.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
"I won't say more because I know some of you parse everything I say." - Jeremy Gibbs

"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

User avatar
Important Bird Area
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5522
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2003 3:33 pm
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:04 pm

Brian Ulrich wrote:The Christo question doens't seem that CE-ish to me
It's not, but I wrote this literally an hour before the set shipped Friday morning and needed something artsy and vaguely recent. It may well be terrible, but the alternative was "no tossup."
Jeff Hoppes
President, Northern California Quiz Bowl Alliance
former HSQB Chief Admin (2012-13)
VP for Communication and history subject editor, NAQT
Editor emeritus, ACF

"I wish to make some kind of joke about Jeff's love of birds, but I always fear he'll turn them on me Hitchcock-style." -Fred

Ken Jennings
Lulu
Posts: 49
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:11 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Ken Jennings » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:51 pm

Katamari Damacy wrote: I think you are wrong.
Is Charlie voicing a widespread opinion? Are there lots of players who, independently of what they think about pop culture in the NAQT distribution, think that mixing academic and non-academic material in the same question is an inherently bad idea for different reasons? What are those reasons?
Ken Jennings
NAQT editor

User avatar
MicroEStudent
Rikku
Posts: 462
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:20 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by MicroEStudent » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:02 pm

Ken Jennings wrote:
Katamari Damacy wrote: I think you are wrong.
Is Charlie voicing a widespread opinion? Are there lots of players who, independently of what they think about pop culture in the NAQT distribution, think that mixing academic and non-academic material in the same question is an inherently bad idea for different reasons? What are those reasons?
I personally don't believe it is a bad idea as long as it is known that this question type is likely to appear.

What I personally don't like are questions where the pop culture part is the giveaway only. This turns a perfectly good academic question into a mixed question. If a question uses both academic and trash clues throughout the question, I find it to be fine.
Nathaniel Kane
RIT '09, '11 (BS Microelectronic Engineering, MS Microelectronic Engineering)

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:03 pm

Ken Jennings wrote:
Katamari Damacy wrote: I think you are wrong.
Is Charlie voicing a widespread opinion? Are there lots of players who, independently of what they think about pop culture in the NAQT distribution, think that mixing academic and non-academic material in the same question is an inherently bad idea for different reasons? What are those reasons?
This is a prevailing opinion among the decent-to-good players in the country, and has been for years. You'll notice for example that independent tournaments as well as ACF events do not do this. The basic reason for avoiding doing this is that academic knowledge should be rewarded in academic questions instead of trash knowledge; there's simply no reason why anyone should be getting points on academic topics from trash clues. This is such a basic premise of academic quizbowl that I'm honestly surprised we're still discussing it in 2010.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:15 pm

Ken Jennings wrote:
Katamari Damacy wrote: I think you are wrong.
Is Charlie voicing a widespread opinion? Are there lots of players who, independently of what they think about pop culture in the NAQT distribution, think that mixing academic and non-academic material in the same question is an inherently bad idea for different reasons? What are those reasons?
If a tossup gets converted on a clue from subject x, it was, in effect, a tossup on subject x.* This makes no difference for single-subject questions, as they will be questions on that subject wherever they are converted. This makes a difference for multiple subject questions. I think the reason the objection to trash is strongest is threefold:
1) Trash is always a controversial subject. They're ostensibly academic matches, so why inject something non-academic at all? i think that this natural divide--between trash and any academic subject at all--is partially what you're talking about when you say that dislike of trash clues in mixed tossups is an expression of a dislike of how much trash is in the set distribution (or a dislike of 5%, or whatever that clue contributes, plus the set distribution of trash), but there are elements of it separate from "we don't like trash at level x."
2) Trash receives a small distribution, so making one more tossup (for competitive purposes) another trash tossup is an especially big move. That might double the number of points a PROFESSIONAL TRASH PLAYER would get in a round, for example, whereas a lit tossup converted off history knowledge is small change.
3) I think the mode of cross-pollination is different. If you got a tossup on Genghis Khan because you remember that the Genghis Khan campaign from Age of Empires II requires you to beat up on the Tayichi'ud,+ then you are answering that with academic knowledge about Genghis Khan that you acquired through a weird route. That method is unavoidable, and I think it's a lot like what happens when there's a lit or history tossup got off knowledge from the other one. But the cross-pollination that happens when pop culture is explicitly included is like the jarring, sudden "Stella Artois."

*At least from the perspective of the competitive/ game-oriented side of quizbowl, rather than the didactic/ learning-oriented side.
+Try to believe me when I tell you that I know that from reading The Cambridge history of China: Alien regimes and border states, 907-1368. Please? For me?
Andrew Watkins

User avatar
naturalistic phallacy
Auron
Posts: 1369
Joined: Tue May 01, 2007 12:03 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:29 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Ken Jennings wrote:
Katamari Damacy wrote: I think you are wrong.
Is Charlie voicing a widespread opinion? Are there lots of players who, independently of what they think about pop culture in the NAQT distribution, think that mixing academic and non-academic material in the same question is an inherently bad idea for different reasons? What are those reasons?
This is a prevailing opinion among the decent-to-good players in the country, and has been for years. You'll notice for example that independent tournaments as well as ACF events do not do this. The basic reason for avoiding doing this is that academic knowledge should be rewarded in academic questions instead of trash knowledge; there's simply no reason why anyone should be getting points on academic topics from trash clues. This is such a basic premise of academic quizbowl that I'm honestly surprised we're still discussing it in 2010.
Exactly this. Also, if a question needs a trash giveaway to make it convertible, it probably is too hard.
Bernadette Spencer
University of Minnesota
MCTC
Event Manager, PACE

Father, among these many souls / Is there not one / Whom thou shalt pluck for love out of the coals?

User avatar
Important Bird Area
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5522
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2003 3:33 pm
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:31 pm

grapesmoker wrote:The basic reason for avoiding doing this is that academic knowledge should be rewarded in academic questions instead of trash knowledge; there's simply no reason why anyone should be getting points on academic topics from trash clues. This is such a basic premise of academic quizbowl that I'm honestly surprised we're still discussing it in 2010.
I find this argument kind of circular: these questions are academic because they are academic questions. (We published our distribution 11 months ago, so it's no secret that "SCT contains 9/15 questions that may combine academic and pop culture material.")

It's entirely legitimate to argue that these questions shouldn't exist, and that the entirety of our "miscellaneous" questions should be "miscellaneous pure academic." But I believe it needs to be argued, like Andy's post does, instead of just asserted.
Jeff Hoppes
President, Northern California Quiz Bowl Alliance
former HSQB Chief Admin (2012-13)
VP for Communication and history subject editor, NAQT
Editor emeritus, ACF

"I wish to make some kind of joke about Jeff's love of birds, but I always fear he'll turn them on me Hitchcock-style." -Fred

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:38 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:I find this argument kind of circular: these questions are academic because they are academic questions. (We published our distribution 11 months ago, so it's no secret that "SCT contains 9/15 questions that may combine academic and pop culture material.")
Since the question is whether your distribution should change or not (a question that is asked perennially), simply saying that the distribution contains some number of such questions is pretty irrelevant.

My argument is not circular in any sense. It's about differentiating, to the extent possible, between legitimate academic topics and things that are not so. To reprise my ridiculous example that I never thought anyone would defend, to answer a question on various Stellas in literature, one has to be at least moderately well-read; to answer that same question off a clue about a reasonably popular beer requires nothing more than that one be minimally aware of the existence of alcoholic beverages.
It's entirely legitimate to argue that these questions shouldn't exist, and that the entirety of our "miscellaneous" questions should be "miscellaneous pure academic." But I believe it needs to be argued, like Andy's post does, instead of just asserted.
These arguments are being made, and they've been made every year, after every SCT, for as long as I've been playing quizbowl. The result? In 2010 we are still arguing about whether these questions have a place in the distribution. Forgive me if I'm at this point somewhat intolerant of suggestions that this argument has not been made to the satisfaction of a large majority of reasonable people on the circuit. Nobody other than NAQT does this in their questions, which alone should be proof enough of what the circuit thinks.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:03 pm

I don't honestly get what the issue is here. It is uncontestedly true that "academic questions" contain 100% "academic clues" and that's not circular at all, that's just a definition.

The only issues that we should be discussing at this point are (1) how much "academic" material is acceptable in "non-academic" questions and (2) whether the presence of "academic" material in non-academic questions affects how many non-academic questions are acceptable in a 26-question game played on an NAQT distribution.

I don't think there's a problem at all with having several academic clues in non-academic questions; I think that it would be better if NAQT made questions a clear amalgam of academic and non-academic instead of making the question 80% academic and then adding a trashy giveaway, but I'm not opposed to the idea that some people can answer this question based off hard non-academic knowledge while others can answer based off easier academic knowledge. I personally enjoy such questions, as long as I remind myself that these questions are not actually "academic." If NAQT were to count these questions as "academic" questions, then that would make me angry, but my understanding is that they do not.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

Ken Jennings
Lulu
Posts: 49
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:11 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Ken Jennings » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:10 pm

grapesmoker wrote: My argument is not circular in any sense. It's about differentiating, to the extent possible, between legitimate academic topics and things that are not so. To reprise my ridiculous example that I never thought anyone would defend, to answer a question on various Stellas in literature, one has to be at least moderately well-read; to answer that same question off a clue about a reasonably popular beer requires nothing more than that one be minimally aware of the existence of alcoholic beverages.
I don't want to give the impression that I like the crappy "Stella" question you have in your head, just because I followed suit in using it as a hypothetical. What if it's a multidisciplinary question more like this five-minute attempt:

This name is the alias of Celinda Toobad, the Mary Godwin analog in Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey, as well as the title of a 1955 Melina Mercouri film retelling of the opera Carmen. It is also the surname of the American painter of the 1960s Protractor Series, the title of a 2005 Comedy Central series featuring former cast members of The State and, in a Philip Sidney sonnet sequence, the love of Astrophil. For 10 points--what is this woman's name, taken from the Latin for "star," which Stanley Kowalski bellows to his wife in A Streetcar Named Desire?

I'd argue that this rewards deep knowledge in fields both academic and non- (Romantic lit and Greek cinema), before moving on to more surface-level knowledge (names of people and works) in poetry, modern art, TV, and finally uses a giveaway open to both good academic knowledge and Andy Watkins' idea of possible trashy cross-pollination (you might know Streetcar from people doing bad Brando impressions, but hey, at least that's really Streetcar).

Anyway, this is the kind of tossup I like to see when I'm editing our small number of mixed-discipline questions that allow pop culture and sports clues. (I dislike sudden-trash-giveaway as well, and would never defend it, especially not if coded in an academic category.) Does the Stella tossup above (assuming it's not a cartoonishly bad question of its type) strike good players as problematic?
Ken Jennings
NAQT editor

User avatar
Coelacanth
Rikku
Posts: 276
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:41 pm
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Coelacanth » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:18 pm

The main problem with that tossup, Ken, is when it is read at those sites with suboptimal sound insulation between adjacent rooms. Most players will find it difficult not to answer it with a Brandoesque "STELLA!!!".

That aside, if you've decided to write a question on Stellas, I think that one is legit. Whether such a thing should be a part of your answer space is a separate issue; some people like this type of common-link question, others do not.
Brian Weikle
I say what it occurs to me to say when I think I hear people say things. More, I cannot say.

Brian Ulrich
Wakka
Posts: 104
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:22 pm
Location: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:56 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Brian Ulrich wrote:The Christo question doens't seem that CE-ish to me
It's not, but I wrote this literally an hour before the set shipped Friday morning and needed something artsy and vaguely recent. It may well be terrible, but the alternative was "no tossup."
Oh, yeah, I figured that was the reason. Overall, I think these questions do have a place, and that while something may occasionally get shoehorned in that's weird, that relates more to broader problems with getting things done that seemed to impact this set far more than last year's.

Brian
Brian Ulrich
NAQT Current Events Editor, 2005-
University of Wisconsin 1999-2003
Quincy University 1995-1999

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6621
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:58 pm

Why do we need the Comedy Central clue there? Putting aside the fact that you wrote this quickly off a hypothetical example, I can honestly say that I don't like these "Wikipedia Disambiguation Tossups," but it's tolerable if you threw out the random trash clue, in my opinion.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Birdofredum Sawin
Rikku
Posts: 400
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:25 pm
Location: Mountain View

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:13 pm

grapesmoker wrote: This is a prevailing opinion among the decent-to-good players in the country, and has been for years. You'll notice for example that independent tournaments as well as ACF events do not do this. The basic reason for avoiding doing this is that academic knowledge should be rewarded in academic questions instead of trash knowledge; there's simply no reason why anyone should be getting points on academic topics from trash clues. This is such a basic premise of academic quizbowl that I'm honestly surprised we're still discussing it in 2010.
I don't think Jerry's argument here actually makes all that much sense. It seems to me there are two basic bipolar positions: (1) For quizbowl to be truly "academic competition," there cannot be any questions on "non-academic" subjects. (2) It is acceptable for legitimate quizbowl to have (some quantity of) questions on non-academic subjects.

Position (1) has its defenders, obviously. (Notably in relation to this year's ACF nationals.) But if you aren't advocating that drastic viewpoint, then you must be in accord with position (2). (And if you are advocating (1), then you have bigger fish to fry -- you should be calling for the complete extirpation of sports and pop culture from NAQT sets.)

If you are, in fact, willing to accept position (2), then it isn't clear why having a tiny portion of the distribution devoted to "cross-disciplinary questions with a pop culture inflection" is any worse than having a tiny portion of the distribution devoted to "questions on TV shows" or "questions on popular music."

Another way of putting this point: I think people like Jerry who are blasting these cross-disciplinary questions are starting from the premise "these ought to be normal academic questions, but they've been perverted by the taint of trash clues." But there's no reason to start from that premise. I would argue, instead, that these questions are a small part of a distribution which, at a fundamental level, admits the possibility of questions on non-academic subjects. You can rail against that basic fact. Or you can argue that while non-academic content is OK, it should occupy a smaller portion of the distribution. But there aren't any a priori reasons why this kind of question is self-evidently illegitimate, if you are willing to grant that some amount of non-academic content is acceptable.
Andrew

Ex-Virginia, Ex-Chicago, Ex-Stanford

Ken Jennings
Lulu
Posts: 49
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:11 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Ken Jennings » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:19 pm

Cheynem wrote:Why do we need the Comedy Central clue there?
I've put almost no input into the NAQT distribution, but I imagine the official answer is "Because we believe our audience, in general, likes pop-culture material in about the proportion we currently include it." And we extend that philosophy to a small number of questions that mix both pop culture and academic clues.
Putting aside the fact that you wrote this quickly off a hypothetical example, I can honestly say that I don't like these "Wikipedia Disambiguation Tossups,"
Heh, good call.
but it's tolerable if you threw out the random trash clue, in my opinion.
But again: does this come from a dislike of trash in the NAQT distribution in general (i.e. is your complaint analogous to "Why have that hockey tossup? The round would have been tolerable if you threw out that random trash tossup, in my opinion"), or because trash and academia just don't "play well" in the same question together, for some hard-to-pin-down aesthetic reason? As an NAQT editor, I'd like to know if the focus of the feedback is (a) trash is fine in the current proportions, as long as it's never in the same question as academic material or (b) we'd like trash down everywhere, including where it appears in half-academic questions.

Looks like Andrew covered this same dilemma pretty well while I was posting this.
Ken Jennings
NAQT editor

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:21 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:But there aren't any a priori reasons why this kind of question is self-evidently illegitimate, if you are willing to grant that some amount of non-academic content is acceptable.
What about the reasons I presented that have to do with the way that these questions--from a competitive standpoint--cause the distribution of rounds to be variable in yet another way beyond the editors' control?
Andrew Watkins

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6621
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:27 pm

I have no problem with trash questions, and provided they are well written, I'm actually okay with NAQT's distro having that proportion of trash questions.

I think one of the aesthetic problems with cross-disciplinary things is just the sort of sickening feeling that real academic knowledge was not rewarded over random trash knowledge. In a trash tossup, that's the nature of the beast--you must know stuff about Gary Unger or Felix Unger or Urkel or whoever and that's okay. It's entirely different from the academic tossups. In these academic/trash hybrids, I could know about the Protractor Series dude but some dude who knows this random Melina Mercouri film exists gets points before me. That doesn't seem right with me, and perhaps you're right, maybe it is just some aesthetic feeling. Perhaps someone more eloquent than me could express it. What with the number of trash questions that already exist such a tossup has the possibility to further reward trash knowledge over academic knowledge.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Birdofredum Sawin
Rikku
Posts: 400
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:25 pm
Location: Mountain View

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:35 pm

Cheynem wrote:I have no problem with trash questions, and provided they are well written, I'm actually okay with NAQT's distro having that proportion of trash questions.

I think one of the aesthetic problems with cross-disciplinary things is just the sort of sickening feeling that real academic knowledge was not rewarded over random trash knowledge. In a trash tossup, that's the nature of the beast--you must know stuff about Gary Unger or Felix Unger or Urkel or whoever and that's okay. It's entirely different from the academic tossups. In these academic/trash hybrids, I could know about the Protractor Series dude but some dude who knows this random Melina Mercouri film exists gets points before me. That doesn't seem right with me, and perhaps you're right, maybe it is just some aesthetic feeling. Perhaps someone more eloquent than me could express it. What with the number of trash questions that already exist such a tossup has the possibility to further reward trash knowledge over academic knowledge.
Again, I think that the fundamental dichotomy here is between the viewpoint which says "Trash knowledge should never be rewarded in quizbowl" and the one which says "It is acceptable for trash knowledge to sometimes be rewarded in quizbowl." If you take the former viewpoint, then yes, you should have a problem with these cross-disciplinary questions; but then, you should also find NAQT's distribution to be anathema, and these particular instances of NAQT's general willingness to reward trash knowledge probably shouldn't be Item A on your agenda. If you take the latter viewpoint, then it's far from clear that there is any principled reason for you to object to trash knowledge being rewarded in this particular manner.

You might still say "I have an inarticulate dissatisfaction with this kind of question," which is totally fine. My point, then, would be that this is an argument about one's "quizbowl aesthetics," and not a basic structural point about quizbowl which everyone on the circuit has known for years and NAQT is absurdly unaware of.
Andrew

Ex-Virginia, Ex-Chicago, Ex-Stanford

Ken Jennings
Lulu
Posts: 49
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:11 pm

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Ken Jennings » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:35 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: What about the reasons I presented that have to do with the way that these questions--from a competitive standpoint--cause the distribution of rounds to be variable in yet another way beyond the editors' control?
I really liked your post, which seemed like a good constructive start at discussing actual implications of these kinds of questions.

But doesn't this same problem hold for including, say, an extra anthropology or myth clue (of the "common link" variety) in an otherwise history tossup and sticking it in our "mixed" bin? Those are small categories too, just like the trash quotas. I think the offense becomes qualitatively different for many people when the offending clue is, say, Comedy Central sketch comedy instead.

Likewise to Mike's post...I think that's a good start at articulating this kind of objection. But again, this seems analogous to a good lit player being beaten to a mixed-disciplinary (but 100% academic) tossup because the history clue happened to come first this time. As long as I'm okay with NAQT awarding 10 points for Felix Unger sometimes, it seems wrong for me to insist that nobody should ever use a tough Felix Unger clue to beat me to a mixed-discipline tossup, even if I would have nailed the slightly easier Felix Holt the Radical clue that was coming up next.

(Argh, I don't mean to imply that this kind of facile Stella/Felix "name's the same" crap should be the backbone of our mixed-discipline questions...these were examples that leapt to mind. I think there are other question templates, common concepts and so on, that could work just as well as an example here and still mix academic clues with pop-culture ones.)
Last edited by Ken Jennings on Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ken Jennings
NAQT editor

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:37 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I don't think Jerry's argument here actually makes all that much sense. It seems to me there are two basic bipolar positions: (1) For quizbowl to be truly "academic competition," there cannot be any questions on "non-academic" subjects. (2) It is acceptable for legitimate quizbowl to have (some quantity of) questions on non-academic subjects.

Position (1) has its defenders, obviously. (Notably in relation to this year's ACF nationals.) But if you aren't advocating that drastic viewpoint, then you must be in accord with position (2). (And if you are advocating (1), then you have bigger fish to fry -- you should be calling for the complete extirpation of sports and pop culture from NAQT sets.)
I do, as a matter of fact, advocate position 1. It's just that I know it's a dead end argument that I can't win, so I'm trying to settle for what I think I can achieve rather than my ideal outcome.
If you are, in fact, willing to accept position (2), then it isn't clear why having a tiny portion of the distribution devoted to "cross-disciplinary questions with a pop culture inflection" is any worse than having a tiny portion of the distribution devoted to "questions on TV shows" or "questions on popular music."
Well, we already have questions devoted to TV shows and popular music. They're part of the distribution. Why should an otherwise academic question have pop culture flavorings in the middle?
Another way of putting this point: I think people like Jerry who are blasting these cross-disciplinary questions are starting from the premise "these ought to be normal academic questions, but they've been perverted by the taint of trash clues." But there's no reason to start from that premise. I would argue, instead, that these questions are a small part of a distribution which, at a fundamental level, admits the possibility of questions on non-academic subjects. You can rail against that basic fact. Or you can argue that while non-academic content is OK, it should occupy a smaller portion of the distribution. But there aren't any a priori reasons why this kind of question is self-evidently illegitimate, if you are willing to grant that some amount of non-academic content is acceptable.
I'm not sure I see the reason to start from your premise either. I guess any of these is a legitimate stepping-off point for an argument, but here's what I'm seeing: even people who defend the existence of these questions aren't saying that any number of academic questions can have trash clues inserted into them at will. The strongest defense of these mixed questions that has been offered is that they're a small part of the overall distribution. However, it seems to me that if you're willing to accept that mixing academic and trash clues together is an ok thing to do, you should in principle be prepared to accept it in any or even every tossup. I don't think you can counter that kind of argument unless you have some conception of quizbowl as being ultimately an academic competition. I'm not too interested in making some kind of foundational a priori argument against these questions; I'm operating from the assumption that quizbowl is essentially an academic game about academic stuff.

Let's take a look at that Stella tossup that Ken wrote. Now, for me, every clue before the Philip Sidney clue is not helpful as I don't know them. However, I have decent knowledge of Astrophil and Stella, but no knowledge at all of any show featuring members of The State. On such a tossup, despite the fact that I have actual real knowledge of Astrophil and Stella, I can easily be beaten by someone who has no knowledge of that work at all but knows something about the Comedy Central lineup from 5 years ago. I view this as inherently problematic because, as Andrew pointed out, I start from the position that this ought to be an academic question that has been tainted by trash content. I don't think this is a bad position to work from, and it's a position which independent tournaments and ACF have adopted essentially wholesale by not writing questions like these.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Birdofredum Sawin
Rikku
Posts: 400
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:25 pm
Location: Mountain View

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:55 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
I'm not sure I see the reason to start from your premise either. I guess any of these is a legitimate stepping-off point for an argument, but here's what I'm seeing: even people who defend the existence of these questions aren't saying that any number of academic questions can have trash clues inserted into them at will. The strongest defense of these mixed questions that has been offered is that they're a small part of the overall distribution. However, it seems to me that if you're willing to accept that mixing academic and trash clues together is an ok thing to do, you should in principle be prepared to accept it in any or even every tossup. I don't think you can counter that kind of argument unless you have some conception of quizbowl as being ultimately an academic competition. I'm not too interested in making some kind of foundational a priori argument against these questions; I'm operating from the assumption that quizbowl is essentially an academic game about academic stuff.

Let's take a look at that Stella tossup that Ken wrote. Now, for me, every clue before the Philip Sidney clue is not helpful as I don't know them. However, I have decent knowledge of Astrophil and Stella, but no knowledge at all of any show featuring members of The State. On such a tossup, despite the fact that I have actual real knowledge of Astrophil and Stella, I can easily be beaten by someone who has no knowledge of that work at all but knows something about the Comedy Central lineup from 5 years ago. I view this as inherently problematic because, as Andrew pointed out, I start from the position that this ought to be an academic question that has been tainted by trash content. I don't think this is a bad position to work from, and it's a position which independent tournaments and ACF have adopted essentially wholesale by not writing questions like these.
I'm happy to offer a stronger defense. Here's one: In a distribution which permits trash knowledge to be rewarded, I see no problem with having a subset of the questions that reward trash knowledge consist of "questions that mingle academic and trash knowledge."

The claim that "if you're willing to accept that mixing academic and trash clues together is an ok thing to do, you should in principle be prepared to accept it in any or even every tossup" makes no sense to me. For instance, I take it that you have no problem with NAQT's academic cross-disciplinary questions (i.e., questions that mix clues from various academic disciplines, like the "Jupiter" example alluded to earlier). But that doesn't mean that "in principle" you are willing to accept that, e.g., every music tossup should incorporate literature clues.

Also, I think that the word "essentially" in "quizbowl is essentially an academic game about academic stuff" is something of a dodge. At some level, everyone in this thread subscribes to that position. But saying as much doesn't answer the real questions, which include "Can quizbowl only be legitimate as 'academic competition' if 100% of the questions used in a tournament are purely 'academic'? If so, how can you be certain that you are only asking on things that are truly 'academic' and not on things that are 'non-academic'? If not, what percentage of questions can be on 'non-academic' subjects before the tournament loses its legitimacy as authentic 'academic competition'?" These are contested subjects, on which people of good will can and do differ. My point here is that you can't just assert that "quizbowl is essentially academic" and use that as an end-run around providing reasoned arguments for whichever side you take in this debate. Note that I'm not claiming to have provided any reasoned arguments, in this thread, for any position in this debate; I'm just pointing out (a) that nobody else has either, but (b) you can't pretend to offer absolute denunciations of this kind of cross-disciplinary question without assuming a particular position in this debate.
Andrew

Ex-Virginia, Ex-Chicago, Ex-Stanford

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:20 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I'm happy to offer a stronger defense. Here's one: In a distribution which permits trash knowledge to be rewarded, I see no problem with having a subset of the questions that reward trash knowledge consist of "questions that mingle academic and trash knowledge."

The claim that "if you're willing to accept that mixing academic and trash clues together is an ok thing to do, you should in principle be prepared to accept it in any or even every tossup" makes no sense to me. For instance, I take it that you have no problem with NAQT's academic cross-disciplinary questions (i.e., questions that mix clues from various academic disciplines, like the "Jupiter" example alluded to earlier). But that doesn't mean that "in principle" you are willing to accept that, e.g., every music tossup should incorporate literature clues.
I just think that things that are cross-academic are different; the Jupiter example utilizes information from a number of important areas, and that's fine. I think that's qualitatively different than having clues about TV shows in literature questions.
Also, I think that the word "essentially" in "quizbowl is essentially an academic game about academic stuff" is something of a dodge. At some level, everyone in this thread subscribes to that position. But saying as much doesn't answer the real questions, which include "Can quizbowl only be legitimate as 'academic competition' if 100% of the questions used in a tournament are purely 'academic'? If so, how can you be certain that you are only asking on things that are truly 'academic' and not on things that are 'non-academic'? If not, what percentage of questions can be on 'non-academic' subjects before the tournament loses its legitimacy as authentic 'academic competition'?" These are contested subjects, on which people of good will can and do differ. My point here is that you can't just assert that "quizbowl is essentially academic" and use that as an end-run around providing reasoned arguments for whichever side you take in this debate. Note that I'm not claiming to have provided any reasoned arguments, in this thread, for any position in this debate; I'm just pointing out (a) that nobody else has either, but (b) you can't pretend to offer absolute denunciations of this kind of cross-disciplinary question without assuming a particular position in this debate.
My personal position is much stronger; I don't think that an academic national championship ought to have any trash content at all. I'm glad that ACF has come around to this position. That's not the same thing as asserting that any tournament with trash content is illegitimate, because that would be crazy. Now, SCT is not a national championship, nor is ACF Regionals, and people sometimes like to hear trash questions, so I'm willing to allow for a section of that distribution to be allocated to trash. However, that said, I also want to see the amount of trash minimized in both distributions. In ACF it's at most 1/1, which seems to be a stable equilibrium that works for everyone. In NAQT it's a much larger part of the distribution, and I'm arguing for its reduction. I'm not comfortable saying that this makes SCT illegitimate as an academic tournament, but certainly think it's less legitimate (if there's a scale for these things) than its ostensible ACF equivalent, Regionals. Since the trash/non-trash divide is essentially zero-sum, every question with additional trash content is one less question with all-academic content, which is what motivates me to argue against such mixed questions.

As for establishing bright dividing lines between the academic and non, I'm not trying to argue for that. I think my interpretation of intellectually worthwhile pursuits is pretty broad, maybe even broader than a lot of what actually makes it into packets. But there are paradigmatic divisions, and, say, Moby Dick falls on one side of that division, while college football is on the other side. I'm much less concerned about grey areas because they pop up much less often than people worry about.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
nobthehobbit
Rikku
Posts: 293
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2006 1:18 am

Re: Miscellaneous and Cross-disciplinary questions

Post by nobthehobbit » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:00 pm

I can't say that my thoughts on this issue will make any more sense than anyone else's, but here's how I see the issue:

If you take a history tossup and put in a mythology clue, and I get the question off that mythology clue, that's fine; I'm still getting points for academic knowledge.

If you take that same history tossup and put in a non-academic clue, and I get the question off that non-academic clue, that's not fine (unless the tossup is put in an explicitly non-academic part of the distribution, but I'm not going to argue whether that part should exist): either the clue was the giveaway, in which case, as others have said, the answer was probably too hard, or it was an earlier clue, in which case there is someone with academic knowledge (which, if the question was in an academic part of the distribution, is what it should reward) who would not have gotten the points since I got the points before the academic clue that person knew was read with my non-academic knowledge.

Succinctly: if a question has a non-academic clue, it should not be in an academic part of the distribution.

(And yes, I know I've added just about nothing to this discussion, except possibly rephrasing earlier arguments.)
Daniel Pareja, Waterloo, Canadian quizbowl iconoclast

Stats zombie.
William Lyon Mackenzie King wrote:There are few men in this Parliament for whom I have greater respect than the leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. I admire him in my heart, because time and again he has had the courage to say what lays on his conscience, regardless of what the world might think of him. A man of that calibre is an ornament to any Parliament.

Locked