a broader perspective on this discussion

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a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

So in the course of this discussion, the following arguments have been made:

1. NAQT needs to eliminate the clock
2. NAQT would be better if trash were drastically reduced and perhaps eliminated from nationals-level tournaments
3. NAQT should remove cross-disciplinary questions that include trash, perhaps because "they don't appear in ACF or circuit tournaments" and are thus known to be invalid

Which leads me to believe that this discussion is trending in the direction of some previous NAQT-related discussions: i.e., it is turning into "NAQT should stop doing things that are distinctive of NAQT, and should start being just like ACF." I resist that position, as I've always been of the view that ACF is great, but that it's good for quizbowl as a whole to have some diversity of format.

Anyway, I'd like to propose a new topic for discussion. Which of NAQT's distinctive features (i.e. "features that are different from ACF and standard circuit tournaments") seem acceptable to people? This is, in particular, a challenge to Jerry to explain how his arguments in this discussion go beyond "NAQT isn't ACF, and I only like ACF, so I think that sucks." (I'm aware that this is a caricature, but I'm genuinely curious as to what non-ACFish aspects of NAQT someone like Jerry is willing to admit as legitimate, or good ideas, or what have you.)
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by nobthehobbit »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:1. NAQT needs to eliminate the clock
I don't necessarily mind the clock. What I do mind is readers who can't get through more than 14 tossups in 20 minutes. I was advocating the clock+floor in the other thread as a compromise between the "just the clock" and "no clock at all" positions.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:2. NAQT would be better if trash were drastically reduced and perhaps eliminated from nationals-level tournaments
If the amount of trash in the set is known, then people can judge for themselves how academic NAQT's sets are, and how much worth they place on the ICT title.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:3. NAQT should remove cross-disciplinary questions that include trash, perhaps because "they don't appear in ACF or circuit tournaments" and are thus known to be invalid
If the amount of such questions is known, and they are known not to count against the academic distribution, I personally don't have a problem with them.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Cheynem »

What do I like (or rather don't mind staying the same) about a NAQT format? That's a good question. I would say:

1. The length of tossups.
2. The different distribution (I'm okay with NAQT having more current events, I wouldn't mind seeing trash go down)
3. The somewhat indiosyncratic answer selection at times (I'm not talking about stupid stuff like 13th Guest, I mean that this is a tournament where The Prisoner of Zenda and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie appear)
4. Powers
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I'm aware that this is a caricature
Ryan pretty much has said that thing exactly before. That said, Ryan is a caricature.

I think having shorter questions, but more questions, is a unique-to-NAQT thing that can feel free to keep on happening. I think that having cross-disciplinary tossups is--while not per se unique to NAQT--is something NAQT does particularly well (and, compared to ACF, particularly frequently) and can keep on happening. I think that NAQT does bonuses in interesting, unique ways (instead of lit bonuses being to such a great extent one work or one author, they often go for sets of works that have common properties (novels that feature bat mitzvahs where someone dies? radio plays by Germans?) that still accord with an easy/medium/hard structure) much more often than ACF does, and I think that's great.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Here are three NAQT-as-distinct-from-ACF things that I, personally find acceptable and suspect that many (but not all) circuit regulars do as well:

1. The philosophy that "more, shorter questions" can test knowledge equally well as "fewer, longer questions." As long as the tossups meet some minimum standard of pyramidality and the bonuses meet some minimum standard of progressive-difficulty, I find this to be an equally acceptable philosophy to the ACF philosophy of deciding winners after 20 longer tossups. In fact, one of the most common arguments in the "the timer must go" discussions is that the timer is counterproductive to hearing "more, shorter questions," because either readers don't get through even 20 questions or readers are going so fast that important clues are missed.

2. NAQT's use of minimum quotas for "legitimately academic" and "marginally academic" categories that rarely show up in ACF. Specifically, purely-academic-mixed questions and current events questions (I'm abjectly terrible at current events - I take mini-naps while waiting for Ray Anderson to buzz or get beaten to the buzzer - and I'd like to see its presence in the distribution decrease a little bit, but I also believe it shouldn't be relegated to the almost 0/0 ACF has), but also setting aside very minor quotas for things like "theology" and "real social science - law." ACF typically only has top-level per-packet quotas for the final product and this can occasionally lead to imbalances within and between packets that are almost as bad as the imbalances NAQT's per-tournament model causes.

3. NAQT's use of the power mark, especially since it "gets it right" most of the time (that is, when people complain about getting easy 15's, it's because of bad clues, not bad power mark placement). This is a relatively harmless gimmick that is being increasingly emulated in non-NAQT tournaments, but ACF is unlikely to ever adopt the power mark. In general, powers promote fun (as opposed to FUNN) and appear to increase people's enjoyment of the game without radically altering anything fundamental about the game.

Essentially, this post is just an expansion on everything Mike said.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by MicroEStudent »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:1. NAQT needs to eliminate the clock
I used to be a fan of the clock when there was a sense of gamesmanship (clock-killing negs, using the full amount of time on bonuses) when the clock ended a question. I know some people didn't like this, but I did. Now, the clock only causes irregularities in number of tossups heard. I'd support a hard 2*/2* (a minimum of 20, but I wouldn't be against any higher number), and with the shorter questions, rounds shouldn't take much longer. We played 11 rounds and only 1 had fewer than 20 tossups and that had 19.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:2. NAQT would be better if trash were drastically reduced and perhaps eliminated from nationals-level tournaments
I don't think I'm in a position to talk about ICT having never qualified, but without the trash at SCT, I'd probably have to play solo. I bet RIT is not the only school where participation would decrease without any trash.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:3. NAQT should remove cross-disciplinary questions that include trash, perhaps because "they don't appear in ACF or circuit tournaments" and are thus known to be invalid
I would not be against keeping these types of questions, if and only if trash is integrated through the question, and not just the giveaway. I'd recommend having half of the clues before the power mark be academic and half trash.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Captain Sinico »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:3. NAQT should remove cross-disciplinary questions that include trash, perhaps because "they don't appear in ACF or circuit tournaments" and are thus known to be invalid
I think you know, Andrew, that this isn't what I'm saying. If NAQT wants to tell me "We're going to have what we call non-academic at whatever level we like and then have a bunch of what the circuit would call non-academic on top of that and if you don't like it, that's too damn bad," that's fine, I guess. If we want to actually try to talk to each other, let's do that; I'd prefer it.
I think you're well aware that I'm fine playing literally any form of quizbowl and that I can enjoy playing and even writing trash (and then submitting it very, very late!) I appreciate a lot of the things that make NAQT distinct. All I'm saying is: NAQT has too much non-academic stuff for my liking and I don't think I'm alone in that. That doesn't mean NAQT needs to become or emulate ACF or even get rid of all its non-academic stuff, though it probably would do so in my ideal world. All I'm saying is: I'd appreciate a reduction in the non-academic stuff because that's what I'd like to play and because I think a more academic game has a higher value and purpose. Those things are true independent of what anyone else is doing (or mostly so - I guess I must except whatever influence I've had on the shape of the things other people are doing.)

To answer your larger point, I think the reason for the trends in this discussion is the fact that people have the same issues they've had ("I think there are too many non-academic questions and clues") and their concerns are being addressed in the same way ("There are m of what NAQT calls non-academic questions and n academic questions, though the latter may contain as many as 2n non-academic clues. NAQT is okay with this because we think some non-academic stuff is okay and because there are only m non-academic questions.") That's a problem; we're talking past each other using different definitions of terms. The lecture on the scientific method that I just finished giving suggests to me that we should change something and maybe we'll get different results.

MaS
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Cheynem »

Andy's post about bonuses reminds me that I tend to like some of the more creative NAQT lit bonuses and have tried experimenting in that style with some of my own questions for other tournaments as of late. I think this would actually be one way of alleviating the (work/author/character or work/author/work) debate that pops up a lot in lit questions.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by magin »

I'm not sure that "NAQT should stop doing things that are distinctive of NAQT, and should start being just like ACF" captures the essential arguments people seem to be making. Sure, there are people here criticizing questions like that Hawkes bonus part (which I thought was well done) who likely wouldn't have criticized that question at ACF Regionals, and that's understandably annoying (since a question should be evaluated on its merits, not on who wrote it). But I don't think the arguments against the clock or for less trash in NAQT's distribution are of the form "NAQT should change to become like ACF because ACF is inherently better," but rather "although these features of NAQT have certain benefits, I don't think their costs are acceptable." Certainly, that's my position: I think clocks are a poor idea not because ACF doesn't use them, but because they (to my mind, unacceptably and demonstrably) exacerbate staffing problems and moderator errors, which to me overshadow their usefulness in keeping games moving briskly.

Also, I think that it's less important for NAQT (or ACF, or any quizbowl organization) to worry about having "distinctive features" than to attempt to provide the best questions and tournaments possible. I suspect that calls for NAQT to make changes stem from the desire that NAQT have the best questions/tournaments that it can, rather than the desire to make NAQT a carbon copy of ACF. In fact, I think this concern about "distinctive features" misses that organizations can improve by adopting policies that have been successful elsewhere; ACF can learn from NAQT's successful policies, just as NAQT can learn from ACF's successful policies. If ACF had a clock and NAQT did not, resulting in 14 or 15 tossup games at ACF events, I think that people would be arguing for the removal of clocks from ACF by appealing to untimed NAQT games that were more successful. In short, there's nothing wrong with organizations wanting to have a unique identity, but that has to be less important than providing a better and fairer game for players.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Captain Sinico wrote: I think you know, Andrew, that this isn't what I'm saying. If NAQT wants to tell me "We're going to have what we call non-academic at whatever level we like and then have a bunch of what the circuit would call non-academic on top of that and if you don't like it, that's too damn bad," that's fine, I guess. If we want to actually try to talk to each other, let's do that; I'd prefer it.
I think you're well aware that I'm fine playing literally any form of quizbowl and that I can enjoy playing and even writing trash (and then submitting it very, very late!) I appreciate a lot of the things that make NAQT distinct. All I'm saying is: NAQT has too much non-academic stuff for my liking and I don't think I'm alone in that. That doesn't mean NAQT needs to become or emulate ACF or even get rid of all its non-academic stuff, though it probably would do so in my ideal world. All I'm saying is: I'd appreciate a reduction in the non-academic stuff because that's what I'd like to play and because I think a more academic game has a higher value and purpose. Those things are true independent of what anyone else is doing (or mostly so - I guess I must except whatever influence I've had on the shape of the things other people are doing.)
Actually, Mike, I didn't have your posts in mind at all when I offered the characterization "NAQT should remove cross-disciplinary questions that include trash, perhaps because "they don't appear in ACF or circuit tournaments" and are thus known to be invalid." I was thinking instead of Jerry's defense of the claim that cross-disciplinary questions are bad, in which he stated: "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."
Captain Sinico wrote: To answer your larger point, I think the reason for the trends in this discussion is the fact that people have the same issues they've had ("I think there are too many non-academic questions and clues") and their concerns are being addressed in the same way ("There are m of what NAQT calls non-academic questions and n academic questions, though the latter may contain as many as 2n non-academic clues. NAQT is okay with this because we think some non-academic stuff is okay and because there are only m non-academic questions.") That's a problem; we're talking past each other using different definitions of terms. The lecture on the scientific method that I just finished giving suggests to me that we should change something and maybe we'll get different results.

MaS
Again, I was in fact hoping to bring about exactly this kind of positive change in the discussion by reframing the issues. I also think that there's a bit of confusion created by the fact that a number of people in this thread are endorsing broad assertions, when in fact they mean significantly different things by their critiques. For instance, I think a claim like "cross-disciplinary questions with trash in them are bad" can be decomposed into a number of distinct assertions: (1) "Such questions are always terrible, no matter how they are categorized or how few of them there are" (I think Jerry holds this view); (2) "Such questions are OK with me in theory, but I'd prefer that there be a lot fewer of them, and I'd like to be assured that they are delimited to a fixed -- and small -- percentage of the distribution" (I think you hold this view); (3) "Such questions rub me the wrong way, though when I think about it I can't really offer a principled explanation of why they are unacceptable" (I think Mike C. has asserted this). I don't really think that my attempts to bring analytic clarity to the discussion are "a typical instance of NAQT talking past its critics." Instead, I'm trying to figure out where there is common ground; where NAQT may already be satisfying its critics, if we are only clear on our terminology; and where there may be insuperable grounds of difference.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

magin wrote: Also, I think that it's less important for NAQT (or ACF, or any quizbowl organization) to worry about having "distinctive features" than to attempt to provide the best questions and tournaments possible. I suspect that calls for NAQT to make changes stem from the desire that NAQT have the best questions/tournaments that it can, rather than the desire to make NAQT a carbon copy of ACF. In fact, I think this concern about "distinctive features" misses that organizations can improve by adopting policies that have been successful elsewhere; ACF can learn from NAQT's successful policies, just as NAQT can learn from ACF's successful policies. If ACF had a clock and NAQT did not, resulting in 14 or 15 tossup games at ACF events, I think that people would be arguing for the removal of clocks from ACF by appealing to untimed NAQT games that were more successful. In short, there's nothing wrong with organizations wanting to have a unique identity, but that has to be less important than providing a better and fairer game for players.
I have to say that I find a lot of this paragraph question-begging. Sure, we all want the "best questions and tournaments possible." But the question is always, What are the criteria according to which we say something is "better" than something else? Is it "better" to have a game that is almost completely (or, in fact, completely) purified of questions on pop culture? Or is it "better" to have a game in which there is some non-trivial quantity of pop culture questions? My strong hunch is that "a significant percentage of questions on pop culture topics" is one of NAQT's more "successful" policies, if by "successful" you mean "appealing to a larger and more diverse body of players." (See, e.g., the poster earlier in this thread who speculates that at his school, "participation would decrease without any trash.") I'm not saying that should be the sole, or even the principal, criterion. But I'm curious what criteria other people have in mind, which is part of the motivation for starting this thread.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by theMoMA »

I'd really just like to see better-written questions in NAQT's relatively overemphasized distributional areas. I also agree with the idea that more, shorter tossups is a distinctive feature of NAQT that works well, and the timer actually seems to detract from it.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

Since I'm a former rather than current player, I'm not sure my perspective is really what Andrew is seeking, but I've always liked NAQT's broader answer selection - what seems a desire to push the bounds of culturally useful knowledge in ways only imperfectly captured by the academic/trash dichotomy. Closely linked to this is the desire to ensure through a tournament-wide distribution that lots of sub-categories are represented over the course of a set and its tendency to do the QB version of what in higher education these days is called "interdisciplinarity."

I admit these efforts don't always succeed, but I think it's worth continually trying to make them succeed.

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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:So in the course of this discussion, the following arguments have been made:

1. NAQT needs to eliminate the clock
2. NAQT would be better if trash were drastically reduced and perhaps eliminated from nationals-level tournaments
3. NAQT should remove cross-disciplinary questions that include trash, perhaps because "they don't appear in ACF or circuit tournaments" and are thus known to be invalid
Ok, before I start with my explanation I want to challenge some of the wording here. First of all, the first point and points 2 and 3 are really separate discussions. I think I've done a serviceable job of outlining my opposition to the clock in another thread so I think it would be redundant to do so here. As for points 2 and 3, I certainly hold to position 2 but I don't expect to achieve my ideal result, which would be the complete satisfaction of that point. I freely acknowledge that my view lies at the end of a continuum of views regarding the prevalence of trash in NAQT. Where I think I'm on solid ground is in advocating a reduction of trash, which more people than just me want to see. More than anything, I would like for the trash that does make it into NAQT tournaments to be written in a way that's more generous to non-trash players, rather than being an automatic zero for teams that don't watch the right show or listen to the right bands.

As far as point 3 goes, the point I was making by referencing ACF and circuit tournaments was not to say, "those tournaments don't do this and those tournaments are always right, therefore NAQT shouldn't do it either." What I'm saying is that empirically, this is true, and if it's true, there might be a good reason for that. The reason that I can see is that people who write and edit tournaments have, over time, decided that it was a good idea to move away from such questions; perhaps they subscribe to something like my position in the discussion thread, perhaps they believe something else, I don't know. But NAQT is the outlier here, which isn't necessarily wrong, but also isn't necessarily right either. I don't think distinctiveness for its own sake is particularly relevant, so I'm advocating positions that I think make for better quizbowl.
Which leads me to believe that this discussion is trending in the direction of some previous NAQT-related discussions: i.e., it is turning into "NAQT should stop doing things that are distinctive of NAQT, and should start being just like ACF." I resist that position, as I've always been of the view that ACF is great, but that it's good for quizbowl as a whole to have some diversity of format.
There aren't that many things that make NAQT distinctive. NAQT is basically quizbowl, a lot like ACF, but with certain stylistic differences. The divergence between the two used to be much greater.
Anyway, I'd like to propose a new topic for discussion. Which of NAQT's distinctive features (i.e. "features that are different from ACF and standard circuit tournaments") seem acceptable to people? This is, in particular, a challenge to Jerry to explain how his arguments in this discussion go beyond "NAQT isn't ACF, and I only like ACF, so I think that sucks." (I'm aware that this is a caricature, but I'm genuinely curious as to what non-ACFish aspects of NAQT someone like Jerry is willing to admit as legitimate, or good ideas, or what have you.)
Well, I'll start by saying that it's not like I'm holding forth that ACF is the truth, the way, and the light, and therefore anything it does is correct. I'm attracted to the ACF philosophy because I find that it rewards the kinds of things I think should be rewarded in this game, and I'm basing my criticisms of NAQT on the extent to which it fails (to me) to meet those standards.

For starters, I'm perfectly fine with NAQT's character-limited questions. I think they provide a certain amount of attraction to a lot of teams by speeding up the pace of the game, and that's perfectly all right with me. My only complaint about it is that I think many of the questions in this particular set did not make very good use of the limited space they had to work with, so you wound up with two lines of very hard clues or even just plain static and then something you could buzz on. I think this is suboptimal.

I am also, and this may shock some people, mostly fine with NAQT's macro-level distribution. I mean, I don't want to see trash in national tournaments, but given that I'm not going to get that wish, I think a reduction of trash concentration is a reasonable compromise that still leaves room in quizbowl for a tournament that has some non-negligible amount of it. I also like the fact that NAQT has a current events distribution, although in this set I found it it largely misused as a way to ask about totally non-memorable politicians. I think the academic interdisciplinary category is a good idea and I'd actually like to see ACF's "your choice" move more in that direction. I would likewise prefer to see a reduction of pure geography, or at least a rewriting of geography questions so that they become more interesting than mountain-and-river-bowl.

On the other hand, as I've pointed out elsewhere, the micro-level distribution often seems to produce very bad questions because things are being shoehorned into science:CE or art:CE instead of worrying about whether they are science or art. Also, the packet-level distributions in multiple packets were just off, whether it was by breakdown of macro categories or within categories, and that sucks.

More than anything, I would like to see more circuit people writing for NAQT; I think it would alleviate a lot of the technical problems with the questions in this set. When Seth was head editor last year and Subash did it in 2005 (I think), the sets were really good and reflected that. When no one was doing that job (like this year), the set was at best mediocre and large parts of it were just poor. NAQT has made some good strides to recruiting people, but it hasn't been able to get the same pull on the circuit in terms of writing as ACF has, and I'm not sure why. I suspect a lot of it has to do with previous commitments; my Regionals editing was something I committed to in the summer (or it might have been even earlier). SCT editing, on the other hand, is always a black box and at the end we find out that the majority of questions were written by Andrew, Jeff, Kevin Comer, and some other dudes who haven't played anything in years. This is obviously a structural thing but it's connected to question quality in a direct way. NAQT has the logistical capability to run a 192-team tournament but it hasn't done too good a job at getting people to actually produce stuff. I have some theories about why that is that I'd be happy to talk about in another post.

I think those are the kinds of reforms that I'd like to see. I don't think that they are going to leave NAQT looking irreparably like ACF; the shorter questions (of which there is a greater quantity) and the slightly varying distribution are plenty different from ACF. The things that I think should be corrected (clock, reduced trash, varying distribution among packets) are things that I think really negatively impact my gameplay and the gameplay of people that I know on the circuit. I can't tell you how many times people rolled their eyes this weekend; if "NAQT being NAQT," is not a shopworn cliche already, it ought to be, given how often people have expressed that sentiment. The degree to which I think NAQT should move to converge with ACF is the degree towards which I think the ACF model rewards academic knowledge while minimizing things that detract from that goal.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

In the spirit of this discussion, I'll say what I like about NAQT in particular (not to be self-serving, but in hopes of explaining why I'm resistant to some of the criticism):

1. I like the clock. I liked it when I was playing, both because it created a different tempo to the game and because it kept tournaments moving (and I think it's a bit disingenuous to say something like "the latest version of Penn Bowl ran very efficiently, so clocks are obviously unneeded to keep a tournament from stalling" -- we all have been to many tournaments that would have benefited from some extrinsic agency compelling a brisker pace). I am however intrigued by hybrid "clock/minimum number of tossup" proposals that would mitigate the unfairness that can be caused by the clock when readers are poor -- I would be in favor of having NAQT move to such a system.

2. I like powers. This is one area where the "distinctiveness" argument comes into play for me -- while I enjoy powers in NAQT, I don't much care for the wacky powers/super-powers in use at hardcore certain tournaments. To me, this innovation fits well with NAQT play in general and doesn't communicate successfully to "really long and hard ACF-style tossups."

3. I like, broadly speaking, the distribution, though there are lots of little and not-so-little tweaks I might want to make to it. In particular, I like that it includes pop culture and current events (even though I'm not particularly adept at the latter).

4. I also like, conceptually, the way NAQT structures its distribution so that lots of sub-categories which might seldom appear in a standard ACF tournament get represented. (Though, again, my personal preferences might call for a number of these sub-categories to be tweaked.)

My own objection to NAQT sets, as they are currently constituted, is basically Andrew Hart's in this thread. That is, while the good questions in an NAQT set are, to my mind, perfectly fine, the worst questions tend to be much worse than the comparable "worst questions" in a given ACF set. If one were to compare the bottom 10% of the questions at this year's SCT and the bottom 10% of the questions at the upcoming ACF regionals, I have little doubt that the bottom decile of the questions at SCT would be much more howlingly bad. That is, there are more glaring clunkers in any given NAQT set, and they tend to be even more atrocious than the comparable clunkers in an ACF set. I suppose there are a number of reasons for that, which I won't speculate on here, though I don't think that any of those reasons are intrinsic to NAQT's format or distribution.

A way of rephrasing my question in this thread, then, would be as follows: If the bottom decile (or whatever slice you like) of questions at SCT were raised in quality, such that it was no worse comparatively than the bottom decile of a tournament like ACF regionals, would you still have significant issues with NAQT? I wouldn't; it sounds as if people like the other Andrews in this thread might also be OK with NAQT at that point; it doesn't sound as if Jerry would be satisfied with that.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Important Bird Area »

grapesmoker wrote:This is obviously a structural thing but it's connected to question quality in a direct way. NAQT has the logistical capability to run a 192-team tournament but it hasn't done too good a job at getting people to actually produce stuff. I have some theories about why that is that I'd be happy to talk about in another post.
I for one would be very interested in reading this.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

grapesmoker wrote:I am also, and this may shock some people, mostly fine with NAQT's macro-level distribution. I mean, I don't want to see trash in national tournaments, but given that I'm not going to get that wish, I think a reduction of trash concentration is a reasonable compromise that still leaves room in quizbowl for a tournament that has some non-negligible amount of it. I also like the fact that NAQT has a current events distribution, although in this set I found it it largely misused as a way to ask about totally non-memorable politicians.
Just a point on this - the only "old" politicians mentioned in the political current events distribution were Traficant and Eagleton, both as bonus parts with two more contemporary figures. I actually thought U.S. political CE did a good job getting away from just naming politicians this year - perhaps in favor of just naming the states where they were from, but also in terms of movements. I was worried about the fact we asked both the 9-12 movement and Tea Parties, for example.

NAQT cuts off current events at 5 years, and for me to approve something it has to have ongoing relevance.

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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I don't think it's debatable that, no matter which categories they were in, there were a lot of questions this year on US political figures, many of whom are still active. I'm not saying, "don't write questions on these people," I'm saying that something is wrong with your distribution-checking process when every packet contains questions about them.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Brian Ulrich »

grapesmoker wrote:I don't think it's debatable that, no matter which categories they were in, there were a lot of questions this year on US political figures, many of whom are still active. I'm not saying, "don't write questions on these people," I'm saying that something is wrong with your distribution-checking process when every packet contains questions about them.
That may be - I didn't do anything but edit CE, and don't feel like looking through all the categories for politicians. I guess I'm partly trying to forestall this becoming an example of how it's hard to usefully fill a CE distribution similar to what we now have.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:In the spirit of this discussion, I'll say what I like about NAQT in particular (not to be self-serving, but in hopes of explaining why I'm resistant to some of the criticism):

1. I like the clock. I liked it when I was playing, both because it created a different tempo to the game and because it kept tournaments moving (and I think it's a bit disingenuous to say something like "the latest version of Penn Bowl ran very efficiently, so clocks are obviously unneeded to keep a tournament from stalling" -- we all have been to many tournaments that would have benefited from some extrinsic agency compelling a brisker pace). I am however intrigued by hybrid "clock/minimum number of tossup" proposals that would mitigate the unfairness that can be caused by the clock when readers are poor -- I would be in favor of having NAQT move to such a system.
The point of my comparison to Penn Bowl was not to say that "Penn Bowl ran on time therefore clocks are unnecessary." It was to provide an example of a well-organized tournament, similar in number of rounds and field size to the northeast SCT, to demonstrate that one can run an untimed tournament almost as efficiently as a timed one. In fact, many, many untimed tournaments have run just fine over the years; this is just one example of it happening recently. Likewise, many untimed tournaments have run quite poorly over the years as well. Would the quality of those events been improved by the presence of the clock? You know, I don't know; I suspect that the clock will definitely shorten badly run events, but it won't have much of an effect on well-run ones. But I think I'm on solid ground in pointing to the clock as a direct cause of problems for even well-run tournaments such as Harvard's SCT. I hate to beat a dead horse some more, but we really did commit half of our club to staffing because we were sure we could qualify the teams we wanted to qualify, and that really helped move the games along. Were it not the case that we could do that, things would have been very poor indeed.

I won't pretend that my animosity toward the clock doesn't have a very personal component. I find that the clock rushes games well beyond the pace at which I'm comfortable playing. The demand to get through as many tossups as possible for the benefit of the players leads to mispronounced words, hurried prompts, the 2-second rule for answering after buzzing (which cost me more than a few negs) as opposed to ACF's 5-second rule, and so on. It is frustrating to be forced by artificial means to think at lightning speeds; I actually find that this is more mentally exhausting to me than longer tossups off the clock. Other that making sure tournaments get out half an hour earlier, I just don't see any legitimate use for the clock. I realize that this is a subjective evaluation, but that's my position on it. Even the tossup floor won't eliminate what I see as negative aspects of the clock in gameplay because good moderators will still try to go super fast to give good teams a shot at 24 or even 26 tossup/bonus cycles. And it also doesn't fix the distributional problems of possibly having a sizable chunk of your literature or science or whatever backloaded.
2. I like powers. This is one area where the "distinctiveness" argument comes into play for me -- while I enjoy powers in NAQT, I don't much care for the wacky powers/super-powers in use at hardcore certain tournaments. To me, this innovation fits well with NAQT play in general and doesn't communicate successfully to "really long and hard ACF-style tossups."
Ok, I love powers too. I don't think anyone has ever suggested that they be eliminated.
3. I like, broadly speaking, the distribution, though there are lots of little and not-so-little tweaks I might want to make to it. In particular, I like that it includes pop culture and current events (even though I'm not particularly adept at the latter).
We're kind of now trying to figure out how much of each should be included. I'm fine with NAQT preserving the pop culture and CE categories; I would just like to see them reduced somewhat and also written better.
4. I also like, conceptually, the way NAQT structures its distribution so that lots of sub-categories which might seldom appear in a standard ACF tournament get represented. (Though, again, my personal preferences might call for a number of these sub-categories to be tweaked.)
Conceptually, the micro-distribution might be an interesting idea, but my experience is that it doesn't work so well. Look at the Christo tossup that Jeff wrote which was stuffed into Art:CE. Couldn't that have just as well been an ACF tossup? I'm just not sure what specific sub-distributional categories are so necessary that they wouldn't otherwise be represented. I'm willing to be convinced differently on this, but I think a lot of those categories are a reach and we'd do better not to have them.
A way of rephrasing my question in this thread, then, would be as follows: If the bottom decile (or whatever slice you like) of questions at SCT were raised in quality, such that it was no worse comparatively than the bottom decile of a tournament like ACF regionals, would you still have significant issues with NAQT? I wouldn't; it sounds as if people like the other Andrews in this thread might also be OK with NAQT at that point; it doesn't sound as if Jerry would be satisfied with that.
Any improvement in question quality is welcome, no doubt. Would I be satisfied with that? I don't know, I think it would make my playing experience more enjoyable for sure, so I'm not looking at this as an all-or-nothing kind of situation. I think that I have enumerated several different areas of concern that I had with this SCT and suggested certain remedies. My satisfaction increases in direct proportion to the number of my suggestions that are implemented. However, I would like to resist making this thread about me, even though I'm posting an awful lot in it, and have it be more about the validity or lack thereof of the points I'm making.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Susan »

I'm reasonably pro-clock under circumstances where reading under the clock doesn't compromise the tournament (i.e. you have enough competent staff that rooms are regularly hearing 22-24 questions, and that the questions are being read in a way that's comprehensible to the players). I enjoyed the faster pace of NAQT-style timed tournaments as an occasional contrast to ACF and mACF tournaments. However, it seems clear to me that it's logistically incredibly difficult, if not outright impossible, to ensure that the circumstances I outlined in the first sentence--sufficient competent staff--can be met at SCTs, especially now with the larger number of SCTs engendered by the ACUI agreement. The solutions that people have proposed for this problem have consisted of tossing the clock entirely or setting a minimum number of tossups that must be read, even if the time to read them exceeds 20 minutes. So far as I could tell, these solutions were meant to be applied to both SCT and ICT. How would people feel about keeping the clock at ICT, which regularly draws enough competent staff to run a timed tournament, but adopting some system for SCT--no clock but same timing rules, a tossup floor, whatever--that ensures that bids aren't being decided on 14-tossup games?

Also, my sense from playing NAQT tournaments and hearing criticism of more recent tournaments is that a) Andrew's entirely correct that the worst questions in NAQT are worse than the worst questions in ACF or independently edited tournaments, and b) that categories that are only found in NAQT, or found at higher concentrations in NAQT's tournaments (pop culture, current events, misc.) are overrepresented in those worst questions. I'd be curious to hear whether people agree with me on (b), and if so, if that's because those questions are mostly written by people who aren't tied in to the current circuit, if these sorts of questions are inherently more difficult to write well (which I doubt) or some other reason.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

myamphigory wrote:Also, my sense from playing NAQT tournaments and hearing criticism of more recent tournaments is that a) Andrew's entirely correct that the worst questions in NAQT are worse than the worst questions in ACF or independently edited tournaments, and b) that categories that are only found in NAQT, or found at higher concentrations in NAQT's tournaments (pop culture, current events, misc.) are overrepresented in those worst questions. I'd be curious to hear whether people agree with me on (b), and if so, if that's because those questions are mostly written by people who aren't tied in to the current circuit, if these sorts of questions are inherently more difficult to write well (which I doubt) or some other reason.
I agree with you on b, and I'd postulate that it's because good answer choice is more difficult rather than because the questions themselves are more difficult to write well. That question on thirteen at table or whatever may have been pyramidal, in its own strange way, but it still sucked.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

I'm coming awfully late to this party, having just had teams play the DII SCT set at the CCCT, but I'd like to (unsurprisingly, I'm sure) chime in as a voice in favor of the clock. I completely sympathize with the problem of poor moderators, which indeed puts pressure on hosts to provide good staff (though one hopes that in a perfect world people wouldn't bid to host unless they were sure they could provide quality staff), but the clock does focus players in ways that untimed tournaments, even with authoritative moderators, usually can't. And I do like it as a distinctive feature of NAQT. Most of my players and those I spoke with at CCCT also like how quickly things moved there, and surely a major factor in that was the clock.

The thing I don't understand is why halves were expanded to ten minutes (I believe) for the regular SCTs but have remained at nine minutes for the CC SCTs and CCCT. Maybe a way to both help ensure that slower readers can still get more than 20 questions read while maintaining the game and tournament pace a clock enforces is to simply bump the time up to 11 minutes. However, I also like the idea that a reader would be required to get to a minimum of 20 toss-ups if time ran out; still, this would allow for the same kinds of delays posed by slower readers at any tournament.

As to the trash, I personally don't care for it and would like to see it reduced, but I don't play. In the hallways between games, though, I certainly heard more excited discussions of the questions on zombies and such than those on Strindberg. So it goes.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

I imagine the increased half time in DI was in part instituted to compensate for the increased tossup length in DI.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by Important Bird Area »

ValenciaQBowl wrote:The thing I don't understand is why halves were expanded to ten minutes (I believe) for the regular SCTs but have remained at nine minutes for the CC SCTs and CCCT.
The ten-minute halves are to compensate for the increased length of DI SCT tossups starting with the 2009 SCT. (Ten minutes at DII SCT as well so that DII and DI rooms would run on the same schedule.) I for one would be fine with using ten-minute halves for CC play as well.
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Re: a broader perspective on this discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

Ah--that certainly makes sense. And since obviously there is no worry about having to accommodate both DI and DII questions at the CC SCT and CCCT, at least now I understand the basis of that distinction (thanks to both of you). However, since we did play the exact same set as the DII teams, I certainly hope that we can go to ten minutes next year if the clock is still in place. On the other hand, based on what I saw from readers at CCCT, that would likely nearly guarantee every reader would get through 24 questions, so it might obviate the clock altogether! Crap, now I have no basis for liking the clock! (Well, I think it still enforces a brisk tournament pace, then, if not an in-game pace).
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