Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

A place to discuss topics affecting quizbowlers as a community rather than quizbowl as a game.
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Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by ganman0305 »

Hi all, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these extremely crazy times. I wanted to continue a discussion which I started on Facebook, which can be found here. Specifically, I wanted to provide some clarifications, get some points across, and have a more formal discussion than my original meme allowed.

My original post implied that NAQT's Collegiate Trash Distribution was made up of two things: baseball and obscure video games/indie bands. This post was intended as more of a joke than criticism, as this is a big generalization, and NAQT competitions do cover other topics. I meant no disrespect towards NAQT on this, as I know they put in a lot of work for some of the most important competitions of the year, and are more often than not criticized than praised for the questions they put out.

Rob Carson and I had a really good conversation about the points above, and to briefly paraphrase what he said (I welcome Rob to post as well in this thread), the baseball emphasis was a distributional thing. The more important point was with the other side: because ICT in particular is a difficult competition, the expected knowledge of specific areas of things such as video games or bands becomes more difficult, thus making a 0 on a bonus more feasible for a team that isn't that specialized in a certain area, which makes sense considering it is an incredibly difficult competition.

What I would like to discuss though is the discussion about the miscellaneous distribution that followed. Specifically, the role of this relatively small part of a set in how it affects the community. I'd like to give an example of my friend Aidan from high school. Aidan is one of my closest friends from that time, and its because he was on my quiz bowl team with me. But when I first convinced Aidan to come to practice, he was a little intimidated by the vast array of primarily educational/formal knowledge presented in quiz bowl versus, say, Jeopardy, which has more pop culture and a different canon. Aidan told me that the thing that kept him coming back at first, and began his love of quiz bowl, was that he could always 30 a trash bonus, or power a trash question on something he liked. Despite feeling outgunned on everything else, having that pop culture content which is so different from the rest of quiz bowl can make someone's experience, and encourage them to keep coming back to the game.

Broad and large, miscellaneous I feel are some of the most memorable and fun questions of a competition, and provide an important break from academia. With this being said, I believe its important to have this miscellaneous content accessible to many different types of people so that everyone could enjoy these questions and be affected like Aidan was and become more invested in the quiz bowl community. Coming from the Iowa perspective where we have about a 50/50 gender split, I remember talking to my teammates who have mentioned that they wish that there was more miscellaneous content which better represented what they like and could subsequently enjoy. Miscellaneous questions are the subject where whoever writes the question represents themselves the most by what topics come up. Considering quiz bowl is a male-dominated activity, then its natural for male writers to writer trash questions on male topics. The issue is that the trash distribution quickly becomes somewhat insular and inaccessible to people who may not be part of that culture. I want to let people in this thread give their specific experiences so I do not speak for them, but this is a problem I have seen frequently discussed.

I consider this to be an issue. Let's say a female-identifying person comes to practice for the first time. Like anyone's first practice, they're intimidated by tough questions and new topics - definitely more so in college play than high school. If all of the set is inaccessible, then that person is going to be less likely to return. But let's say that there is a trash question on something that isn't necessarily primarily enjoyed by men. There's millions of things that could go here. The player could see that quiz bowl is not completely inaccessible, and could come back to practice the next week with the attitude of wanting to continue to grow and get better. Naturally, if writers take the steps now to make quiz bowl more inclusive to other wants, then over time, as more diverse people enter the quiz bowl community, then questions will naturally better represent the diverse people writing them.

This is my philosophy which I've developed after working on ACF Fall and widely played high school sets such as WHAQ, where the interest is in making the questions as accessible and playable to the most teams possible. I understand that the philosophy behind this distribution may change as difficult climbs, which is what this thread is for discussing.

I think the one thing I want to ask is for all writers and players to be more considerate about the topics that come up. Instead of another video game question, consider changing it to something more pop culture that a broader audience could enjoy. I don't believe the quiz bowl community is "bad." In fact, some of the kindest, smartest, funniest, and awesome people I've ever met make up the majority of the community, and I'm incredibly happy to know you all. I just wanted to throw out this post not in a soapbox patronizing way, but as a start to a discussion about how we can keep our little community growing. I look forward to seeing the responses!

TL;DR Even though a small part of the distribution, miscellaneous questions do a good job at diversifying quiz bowl and its important to represent different people's interests in your writing!
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by 5 Fingaz to the Male Gaze »

I heartily endorse Ganon's post; I don't have much to add because I think it pretty comprehensively lays out the systemic issues with quizbowl pop culture writing. It's really quite clear what kind of people make up most quizbowl writing corps when players have to sit through the umpteenth question on video games or the same two indie bands. I said this a while ago, in the 2020 ACF Regionals General Discussion forum, but I'll say it again:
The popular culture interests of quizbowlers [who are predominantly men, often white, straight, and cis, with very eclectic knowledge bases and interests] are seldom reflective of what are actually the most relevant and consumed topics in popular culture for a more general audience. This bent particularly casts out popular culture that is created by or predominantly consumed by women (again, for obvious reasons).
I actually think the problem is usually worse in housewrites than in NAQT sets for two reasons: 1. NAQT has so much more pop culture that the likelihood of something that isn't typical "quizbowler vanity pop culture" coming up is higher than in a housewrite with a handful of pop culture questions that the writers will thus try to stuff as much of their favorite things into as possible, and 2. NAQT does have multiple and more experienced pop culture editors at its disposal. I urge current and future pop culture editors for housewrites to not overlook the importance of that small piece of the distribution – if anything, it takes a lot more care to write pop culture than most academic subjects because its "canon" is more intangible and requires one to be plugged into pop culture constantly.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Here Comes Rusev Day »

5 Fingaz to the Male Gaze wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 9:47 pm I heartily endorse Ganon's post; I don't have much to add because I think it pretty comprehensively lays out the systemic issues with quizbowl pop culture writing. It's really quite clear what kind of people make up most quizbowl writing corps when players have to sit through the umpteenth question on video games or the same two indie bands. I said this a while ago, in the 2020 ACF Regionals General Discussion forum, but I'll say it again:
The popular culture interests of quizbowlers [who are predominantly men, often white, straight, and cis, with very eclectic knowledge bases and interests] are seldom reflective of what are actually the most relevant and consumed topics in popular culture for a more general audience. This bent particularly casts out popular culture that is created by or predominantly consumed by women (again, for obvious reasons).
I actually think the problem is usually worse in housewrites than in NAQT sets for two reasons: 1. NAQT has so much more pop culture that the likelihood of something that isn't typical "quizbowler vanity pop culture" coming up is higher than in a housewrite with a handful of pop culture questions that the writers will thus try to stuff as much of their favorite things into as possible, and 2. NAQT does have multiple and more experienced pop culture editors at its disposal. I urge current and future pop culture editors for housewrites to not overlook the importance of that small piece of the distribution – if anything, it takes a lot more care to write pop culture than most academic subjects because its "canon" is more intangible and requires one to be plugged into pop culture constantly.
I endorse the two posts above entirely, and it's good that this something being talked about instead of people doing the big "oh well" shrug. I actually think ACF Regionals 2020 was a great example of diversifying and trying to include more stuff with the bonus on the WNBA because in general, I found when I played (and still to some extent) that ACF pop culture was just another indie band, rap artist, or random tv show characters that fit the writer or editor's fancy. I feel, at least to some extent, the same way with the NAQT sports and video game questions, even if I greatly appreciate them, it's probably kind of upsetting that's a big thing for someone to remember (that the pop culture is just again another Metroidvania game or baseball question). Lastly, and I think this was alluded to above, that we have to remember there are absolutely players who are playing and the pop culture questions are the only things they are largely looking forward to all day, we should at least try to put some sort of effort into diversifying and asking the content in a way that would allow said player to be pleased with the product the set is offering.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Cheynem »

I think Ganon's post is pretty good. I don't want to generalize what kind of popular culture that white, male, female, cis, or any other kinds of people like, so I guess I'll just say:

-For your tournament, if you have popular culture, write on a variety of popular culture topics. It's not that hard to sub-distro a popular culture topic if you have 1/1 trash (I don't think this word is pejorative, and I'm sick of writing the phrase "popular culture" over and over).

-Think about trash topics that are popular or appealing beyond your immediate interests. I'm obviously as guilty as this as the next person, but I do try in my NAQT questions to include a range of topics. For example, for television, there's the niche or "nerdcore" TV shows that are popular among a large strata of quizbowlers (this is not to say these are unpopular shows, but programs like The Good Place or Game of Thrones, for example). There is also the less critically acclaimed but still widely viewed shows--your NCIS, even perhaps your Superstore or The Neighborhood. There's also like reality shows, such as The Bachelor, Survivor, Drag Race, Chopped, The Masked Singer.

-Dial back pop culture topics for questions--be gentle on answerlines. For a lot of my NAQT questions, I keep things pretty simple--I ask for like movies or TV shows or sports teams. Even things like character or location names, which may be fine, can seem super simple to you but super hard to people who only have mild familiarity with the topic at hand.


Also to repeat myself and Rob, baseball doesn't get any more allotment in the NAQT distro than like basketball or football--what happened at SCT this year was a quirk and not intentional.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Ciorwrong »

As someone who has written literally hundreds of trash tossups and bonuses over the years (see FTP), I think trash does not balance the intercollegiate game of quizbowl very well. I would like to see it removed from the already incredibly crowded distribution at events harder than ACF Fall. Events such as this year's MWT and Sun God show that you can ask about an incredible diversity of topics without having pop culture in your set. Particularly if your set is a qualifier for ICT or Nats, I don't see the justification for having trash in the set. Over the years, sets like Penn Bowl have tended to ask about trash that the particular editing team enjoyed or liked--which is okay for a vanity set or casual packet--but can lead to a groans when it's the nth tossup on Skyrim or the history editor's favorite football team. Maybe we can relegate these types of questions back to tossup 0 or a bonus packet of trash and cut questions? When writing Spartan Housewrite, it was incredibly hard to both have a diverse set of topics in trash, ask about knowable and gettable things and have the category be small enough that other, more important, categories didn't get squeezed. No college set should have have more than .25/.25 trash frankly.

I consider myself good at sports but the knowledge base of writers is too random and the clues seem too trivial to ask about in a good, consistent way. Sports tossups love to ask about statistics and anecdotes that seem random and unimportant without context. Sometimes, borderline trash things can work (e.g. the Nats tossup on Kareem or the tossup on "punk music" from PIANO) but I think it's time we start to eliminate or dramatically reduce pop culture in mainstream quizbowl. The fact that SCT contains so much trash, geography and current events makes that tournament feel more anachronistic than it already does. Will Alston and others have dramatically improved the quality of the latter two categories but trash feels very old-school quizbowly at NAQT events. When I read high school, I see a lot of trash tossups that are clearly not mean for high schoolers born in the early 2000s. Even as someone who played a ton of video games, the questions tend to ask about old ass RPGs in a very boring and lame way.

Some super wide categories are already incredibly constrained for space such as Other Arts or Social Science. Expand the space allotted to these categories and cut the trash questions which feel like they are stuck in 2012, NAQT.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by A Dim-Witted Saboteur »

While I don't agree with its main prescription, Harris's post has another issue with trash writing that I'd like to highlight: the disconnect between the age of trash writers and the age of their audiences. For other categories this isn't much of an issue, but pop-cultural tastes evolve dramatically with age and with the passage of time. I'm not advocating any sort of "throw the bums out" approach, but this is definitely an area where recruiting younger writers is particularly crucial.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Ciorwrong »

A Dim-Witted Saboteur wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 11:06 pm While I don't agree with its main prescription, Harris's post has another issue with trash writing that I'd like to highlight: the disconnect between the age of trash writers and the age of their audiences. For other categories this isn't much of an issue, but pop-cultural tastes evolve dramatically with age and with the passage of time. I'm not advocating any sort of "throw the bums out" approach, but this is definitely an area where recruiting younger writers is particularly crucial.
I 100 percent agree with this. I am very anti trash at the collegiate level but I think NAQT would be wise to have writers born in this century write the majority of high school and middle school trash questions. Maybe this is done already, but the amount of stuff I read to high schoolers where I think "was this written by someone 10 years older than me?" is very high. High school housewrites written by college students and high schoolers are dramatically better on this front.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Cheynem »

When I was head editing HSAPQ, I noticed in general two trends for trash questions that applied to everyone (i.e. older and younger writers alike):

-a focus on niche topics under the assumption "I like this and all my friends do, so it's really popular."
-a curious interest in generally asking about older trash things, probably under the (frequently) correct assumption that it's easier to distinguish knowledge on.

I think Jakob is correct that new perspectives and ideas are helpful in all quizbowl, particularly popular culture, but the deleterious trends addressed in this thread are prevalent in the work of all quizbowl writers, not just the old.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Mike Bentley »

I definitely agree that if you're going to include trash in an academic tournament, it really behooves you to pay as much attention to the sub-distribution as any other category. I've probably been harping on this for over 10 years now. Any category included in a distribution should be taken seriously. It should not be a dumping ground for the pet interests of the editors.

What do we want trash questions to test? Is it things that the audience playing the set is already likely to know through their day-to-day activities? If so, I suspect that the trash distribution would need to lean in even more into things that 18-year-old men typically like. Is it things that a hypothetically more diverse audience of the same age group playing the set is already likely to know? In that case, you'll probably end up with lower conversion by asking about the interests of a hypothetical rather than actual audience. You probably end up with less sports (this is not to say that only young men enjoy sports, but I don't think it's controversial to say that their interest in major sports leagues are higher than the general population's). But in both cases you may not be asking much about older pop culture because people are less likely to encounter them in their day-to-day activities.

Or do we want to test some broader engagement with popular culture? If so, older trash is more fair game--within reason. In academic subjects there's certainly a degree of expecting you to do the work to learn the canon. I don't think it's completely unreasonable to make at least some of these demands in the trash space, but it should be done intentionally. And (as described more below), expecting people to go deep on the niche interests (the aforementioned indie bands and '90s gaming) of older writers doesn't seem like the way to go about this.

I think current trash writers, especially as they get older, need to take a hard look at whether the topics they're asking about have persisted in the culture as they age. When I was getting started writing trash questions in the mid to late 2000s, I had lots of complaints about the '80s TV shows and one-hit-wonders that at the time dominated TRASH tournaments. As a millennial, very little of this culture interested me. But that's not to say that some things from this era haven't endured--or that someone couldn't write an '80s trash tournament if they really wanted to (making it clear ahead of time who was being catered to). I wrote several trash tournaments in reaction to this trash canon that I'm still proud of. But if I were writing a trash tournament today it certainly wouldn't have the same distribution--even adjusting for bringing the year cutoffs up by 10 years. Things that people younger than myself care about are different. Older stuff that once seemed very enduring and "everyone knows this" has probably, to at least some extent, gotten harder as it's more distant. (A good example of this would be the Beatles. I wrote several questions about them in my trash tournaments. I still think they're likely fair game, but they've continued to recede in the culture and I suspect the average high school player today would have more trouble with a tossup on "Taxman" than when I was in high school.)

Most people engage most with the culture they first experienced as a kid / teenager. I certainly care a lot more about the videogames I played in this era than almost anything I play today. I'd be surprised if there isn't a trash writer out there who, when they first get started, wants to really mine this space for the culture that means the most to them. These questions will often feel very fresh at the time to your peers. They are also the ones most likely to age poorly--it's hard in the moment to know what's going to endure, and kids content you enjoyed as a kid is almost certainly not going to be enjoyed by people 10 years older or younger than you.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Stained Diviner »

It seems like the main points are:
1. Keep in mind that the audience is diverse and quizbowl should be welcoming.
2. Keep in mind that the age of the audience is not that diverse and should be catered to.
3. Have a varied subdistribution.
4. Have answers that are accessible.

These points are all appropriate. To the best of my limited knowledge, however, these things generally happen with the exception that pop culture topics skew male and upper/upper middle class, and that includes both NAQT and non-NAQT. (When I looked at sets for racial diversity, I found a problem in US History but not in Pop Culture.) NAQT publishes its subdistribution in detail, and it guarantees variety. If there are issues with specific tournaments, then it is good to point those issues out, as some of you have already done.

I haven't looked at conversion stats that include pop culture recently, but in the past when I looked at the stats, pop culture tossups got answered more often than academic tossups, and the problem with pop culture bonuses was that PPB were too high. There are of course examples of pop culture questions that were too difficult, but I am unaware of that being a widespread/systematic problem. If you edit a tournament with a lot of writers, then you probably are going to get some questions that are too difficult in every category.

If people have a problem with subdistributions, then it might help to suggest what a subdistribution should look like for a set that has 15/15 pop culture. If nobody does it here, and you are looking for ideas, then it might help to look at what trash sets do and scale accordingly. If academic sets should have a different pop culture distribution than pop culture sets because the focus should be on widely consumed pop culture (TV/movies/pop music) as opposed to less consumed pop culture (video games/soccer/progressive rock), then it would help for somebody to suggest a distribution.

I think it's fine to ask about old pop culture as long as you keep it accessible (eg ask about The Beatles but not The Sonics) and balanced, but it's OK to disagree on that. If there was a consensus, I would follow it, not that I write much pop culture anyways.

To be clear and less rambling, pop culture topics skewing towards male interests is an actual problem.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by ahuff »

Going off what Mike said, beyond just questioning day to day pop culture or broader engagement with pop culture, there is also a question of if we should be writing pop culture as "trash" or "art". That is, we can either focus on rewarding people for engaging with the most popular pieces of pop culture or we can write pop culture like a subsection of fine arts, focusing on works with generally recognized artistic merit. Whichever we choose, we should make a more inclusive pop culture canon, but there seem to be substantial reasons to chose both approaches at different tournaments.

If we reward people for keeping up with mass culture, pop culture questions will do a better job of being a way for new players to be able to score points. On the other hand, if we focus on works with artistic merit, we can integrate lots of film and recorded music with obvious artistic merit and serious academic study that doesn't really fit anywhere else in the quizbowl distribution.

For easier tournaments, especially at the high school level, rewarding people for engaging with pop culture seems like a good way to increase new player engagement.

For college tournaments, I would like to see "pop culture" as a category removed, but large swaths of what is currently relegated to trash being added to the fine arts canon. I think quizbowl is often too conservative about what kinds of films can tossed up, with college film studies classes covering tons of movies excluded from the quizbowl film canon for being too much a part of pop culture. I also haven't heard a good justification for why recorded jazz belongs in the fine arts canon but other recorded music generally doesn't. Because of this, quizbowl gives a pretty distorted image of what relevant art was/is in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I don't necessarily have the answer to this, but I think if we were more intentional with our pop culture, making sure its broadly inclusive and has a specifically targeted goal for what kinds of knowledge it wants to reward, we could turn what too often is the least thought out of our categories into something that can both help bring in new players and be fun to play for serious players.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

ahuff wrote: Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:55 am For college tournaments, I would like to see "pop culture" as a category removed, but large swaths of what is currently relegated to trash being added to the fine arts canon. I think quizbowl is often too conservative about what kinds of films can tossed up, with college film studies classes covering tons of movies excluded from the quizbowl film canon for being too much a part of pop culture. I also haven't heard a good justification for why recorded jazz belongs in the fine arts canon but other recorded music generally doesn't. Because of this, quizbowl gives a pretty distorted image of what relevant art was/is in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Here is an old thread on this issue. Naturally, I particularly wish to draw your attention to this post of mine. (I would have to re-read that thread carefully to see if I stand by everything I said in it, but I stand behind the logic of that specific post.)
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Mike Bentley »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: Tue Jun 02, 2020 4:49 pm
ahuff wrote: Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:55 am For college tournaments, I would like to see "pop culture" as a category removed, but large swaths of what is currently relegated to trash being added to the fine arts canon. I think quizbowl is often too conservative about what kinds of films can tossed up, with college film studies classes covering tons of movies excluded from the quizbowl film canon for being too much a part of pop culture. I also haven't heard a good justification for why recorded jazz belongs in the fine arts canon but other recorded music generally doesn't. Because of this, quizbowl gives a pretty distorted image of what relevant art was/is in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Here is an old thread on this issue. Naturally, I particularly wish to draw your attention to this post of mine. (I would have to re-read that thread carefully to see if I stand by everything I said in it, but I stand behind the logic of that specific post.)
John mentions age as a factor in whether something ends up in the trash or academic distribution. I agree this is an important factor (but not the only one). I'm reasonably hesitant to include very recent film in the arts distribution for this reason. People are often encountering, say, an Oscar-nominated film of the last few years in a pop culture context. I'm a little uncomfortable rewarding this type of engagement in the academic distribution, although every once in a while it's fine.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by ahuff »

Thanks John for pointing out the existence of that thread. I still don’t agree with your stances (my stances seem to have already been argued better by Tommy and Jacob) but your points are well thought out and have a clear vision and purpose to them so I definitely retract my statement that I haven’t seen a good justification.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Apocolocyntora »

Here Comes Rusev Day wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 10:29 pm I endorse the two posts above entirely, and it's good that this something being talked about instead of people doing the big "oh well" shrug. I actually think ACF Regionals 2020 was a great example of diversifying and trying to include more stuff with the bonus on the WNBA because in general, I found when I played (and still to some extent) that ACF pop culture was just another indie band, rap artist, or random tv show characters that fit the writer or editor's fancy. I feel, at least to some extent, the same way with the NAQT sports and video game questions, even if I greatly appreciate them, it's probably kind of upsetting that's a big thing for someone to remember (that the pop culture is just again another Metroidvania game or baseball question). Lastly, and I think this was alluded to above, that we have to remember there are absolutely players who are playing and the pop culture questions are the only things they are largely looking forward to all day, we should at least try to put some sort of effort into diversifying and asking the content in a way that would allow said player to be pleased with the product the set is offering.
I'm a little late to the main discussion of this thread but Ganon's original post resonated with me and with how I've seen quizbowl questions play out in groups of new and diverse players. I just want to expand on Zach's point here a little more--there have been a lot of good points made about diversifying questions on popular media and making them appeal to wider interests, but I didn't see a lot of elaboration on the same recommendation for sports. The sports canon overwhelmingly caters to the interests of (mostly white) men and I think there's something to be said about expanding the range of topics that sports can cover and perhaps decreasing the prevalence of sports that don't have a huge following among a set's target audience.

For one thing, male high school and college students tend to follow basketball, football, and other sports prominent in the sports distribution much more than their non-male counterparts. Personally (and this is from anecdotal experience based on the interests of people I know both inside and outside the community), I've seen way more interest for sports like figure skating, gymnastics, and tennis among my peers than is reflected in the sports canon. Furthermore, many people I know are much more invested in sports like these and similar ones based on the Olympic schedule -- e.g. interest in gymnastics or tennis sees a resurgence before and after a Summer Olympics, and I don't think question writers capitalize on seasonal interests as much as they could (but perhaps this is irrelevant in a covid world).

Such sports rarely get their due in quizbowl, nor do sports that may be of greater interest to a non-white audience, such as soccer and cricket, have much of a presence. The general interest I've seen for these categories of sports is way larger than the interest I've seen in sports like hockey and baseball, which have lower followings around younger people and tend to have largely male followings. Others' experiences may be different, but particularly at the collegiate level where sports questions are few and far between, I think we'd benefit from a much more diverse and scattered selection of potential topics.

Editing to add to this that one of the key distinctions in my mind between pop culture questions and the remaining distribution is that pop culture questions aren't really things players should be studying for to improve upon--ideally, they capture knowledge of things a significant portion of the population is at least marginally aware of by virtue of being in tune with contemporary popular currents. If that is the case, we also really shouldn't see too many questions that require niche knowledge of topics that don't have relevance to present times--for instance, a fringe band from the '90's that didn't really influence future acts, didn't have a large impact on the public during its time, and isn't relevant to any current popular cultural references probably doesn't belong as an answerline, nor does an NCAA football team that was extremely strong 15 years ago but quickly fell into obscurity.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Mike Bentley »

Apocolocyntora wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:30 pm
Here Comes Rusev Day wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 10:29 pm I endorse the two posts above entirely, and it's good that this something being talked about instead of people doing the big "oh well" shrug. I actually think ACF Regionals 2020 was a great example of diversifying and trying to include more stuff with the bonus on the WNBA because in general, I found when I played (and still to some extent) that ACF pop culture was just another indie band, rap artist, or random tv show characters that fit the writer or editor's fancy. I feel, at least to some extent, the same way with the NAQT sports and video game questions, even if I greatly appreciate them, it's probably kind of upsetting that's a big thing for someone to remember (that the pop culture is just again another Metroidvania game or baseball question). Lastly, and I think this was alluded to above, that we have to remember there are absolutely players who are playing and the pop culture questions are the only things they are largely looking forward to all day, we should at least try to put some sort of effort into diversifying and asking the content in a way that would allow said player to be pleased with the product the set is offering.
I'm a little late to the main discussion of this thread but Ganon's original post resonated with me and with how I've seen quizbowl questions play out in groups of new and diverse players. I just want to expand on Zach's point here a little more--there have been a lot of good points made about diversifying questions on popular media and making them appeal to wider interests, but I didn't see a lot of elaboration on the same recommendation for sports. The sports canon overwhelmingly caters to the interests of (mostly white) men and I think there's something to be said about expanding the range of topics that sports can cover and perhaps decreasing the prevalence of sports that don't have a huge following among a set's target audience.

For one thing, male high school and college students tend to follow basketball, football, and other sports prominent in the sports distribution much more than their non-male counterparts. Personally (and this is from anecdotal experience based on the interests of people I know both inside and outside the community), I've seen way more interest for sports like figure skating, gymnastics, and tennis among my peers than is reflected in the sports canon. Furthermore, many people I know are much more invested in sports like these and similar ones based on the Olympic schedule -- e.g. interest in gymnastics or tennis sees a resurgence before and after a Summer Olympics, and I don't think question writers capitalize on seasonal interests as much as they could (but perhaps this is irrelevant in a covid world).

Such sports rarely get their due in quizbowl, nor do sports that may be of greater interest to a non-white audience, such as soccer and cricket, have much of a presence. The general interest I've seen for these categories of sports is way larger than the interest I've seen in sports like hockey and baseball, which have lower followings around younger people and tend to have largely male followings. Others' experiences may be different, but particularly at the collegiate level where sports questions are few and far between, I think we'd benefit from a much more diverse and scattered selection of potential topics.

Editing to add to this that one of the key distinctions in my mind between pop culture questions and the remaining distribution is that pop culture questions aren't really things players should be studying for to improve upon--ideally, they capture knowledge of things a significant portion of the population is at least marginally aware of by virtue of being in tune with contemporary popular currents. If that is the case, we also really shouldn't see too many questions that require niche knowledge of topics that don't have relevance to present times--for instance, a fringe band from the '90's that didn't really influence future acts, didn't have a large impact on the public during its time, and isn't relevant to any current popular cultural references probably doesn't belong as an answerline, nor does an NCAA football team that was extremely strong 15 years ago but quickly fell into obscurity.
I personally find minor sports more interesting than major sports and enjoyed writing them compared to major sports in my trash tournaments. It did feel like there was less room to go deep there--most people's interest doesn't extend beyond what happens at the Olympics. Not necessarily a problem in the confines of 1/1 trash per packet but if there was something closer to a trash circuit (like there used to be) you might be seeing the same answers over and over again.

Cricket is one of the many trash topics that is really tricky to ask about. People's knowledge of it tends to be either very deep or non-existent. It's hard to imagine a question that isn't just a country (e.g. New Zealand) playing well.

I'm not really convinced that asking about, say, the WNBA is really the ticket for a more inclusive trash distribution. I think it's certainly the case that, comparatively, a lot more women than men are interested in the WNBA than the NBA. But the absolute number of people interested in the WNBA is still quite small. I think a more diverse audience would be better served by just eating into the distribution currently given to sports and replacing that with content from outside of the sports distribution. (This could still go along with reconfiguring the sports distribution to, say, reduce the number of baseball questions, something I'm strongly in favor of.)
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Blackboard Monitor Vimes »

I'm about to split the discussion of if we should have trash questions in college packets into a new thread in Collegiate Discussion. If you're engaging in that conversation, please give me a moment.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Blackboard Monitor Vimes »

Blackboard Monitor Vimes wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:18 pm I'm about to split the discussion of if we should have trash questions in college packets into a new thread in Collegiate Discussion. If you're engaging in that conversation, please give me a moment.
Split thread is here.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I register a complete endorsement of Tora's comments.

I'd also like to advise against thinking about the "quality" of Other Academic distributions based on writers' taste of topic choice, as long as it is not myopically skewed towards one narrow set of topics. One reason I (and I think many others) like modern Other Academic distributions is that they aren't necessarily canon-confined. They may touch on topics hovering between well-defined quizbowl categories and integrate them; they may reach outside these categories entirely. People will bring in areas of their own personal interest and as far as I'm concerned that's good, as long as standards of writer integrity are maintained (i.e. it's still difficulty for someone to precisely guess what answers you'll go for based on following your personal life / social media / past questions closely). It's great to see people's areas of passion busted into quizbowl, and a great writer does so in a way that makes others share that passion or wish to do so.

This is not meant to proscribe preferring some writers over others because the write questions that jive better with your knowledge base and interests - we all do this. But I do think it means there's no real one "right" way to do Other Academic. There's a bunch of ways, which we will probably never completely explore, and as long as writers create questions which meet good standards of conversion and playability and hit on a diverse range of topics that are "worth knowing" (in the classic quizbowl sense of "not trivia") then I think we'll continue to be in a good place.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by matthewspatrick »

Ciorwrong wrote: Thu May 28, 2020 11:18 pm ...I think NAQT would be wise to have writers born in this century write the majority of high school and middle school trash questions...
Keep in mind that NAQT writers and editors must be at least 18yo and be HS graduates. Those criteria alone will limit the number of writing candidates "born in this century". Now consider that not all of the people in that age cohort who apply to be NAQT writers will be accepted, that not all of those who are accepted will be interested in writing pop culture questions for a MS/HS audience, and that not all who are interested will submit work that gets accepted. I'm not sure that even if this were desirable that it would be presently attainable.
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