On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

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On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by buffaloz1331 »

No doubt due in part to the pandemic, a series of new sets intended for the high school difficulty [along with returns of older sets, including Harvard Fall and RAFT II], both announced and unannounced, have been cropping up. While I fully support the idea of increasing the amount of people involved in writing and producing quizbowl questions, and recognize how moving online [especially across Discord] has facilitated assembling teams of writers for new sets, I think it makes sense to take a hard look at all these sets and some issues that may crop up. Robert Condron created a spreadsheet [https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... edit#gid=0] of all the sets announced for next year and several others on high school difficulty [including COAST, SENATE, and the provisional BOREDSAIDM/BLAST 2]** are not yet announced.

This is the situation. We must recognize that we are in the middle of a pandemic right now, and it doesn't seem to be improving, at least in the United States. There is a very real possibility that next season will not happen, or that it will be shortened/changed in some way. Thus, we find ourselves facing the shortest season in recent memory, with more sets than in previous years. Some of these sets that have been announced are NAQT sets or housewrites [including PACE, HFT, and BHSAT] that would have been produced in any other year, but I primarily want to address the new housewrites. Given that there are a finite amount of weekends in a season [and that the season may be shorter than usual], each of these sets will get less play than they would in a normal, full year, with fewer sets. This means that the editors and writers get less compensation than they normally would for writing their questions [not to suggest that payment is why people write for quizbowl, just that this compensation is already low, and diluting it more may disincentivize writing for future sets]. This seems to me to be an issue, and that if set numbers continue to increase, some of these sets will get no play whatsoever beyond the main site.

I am interested in hearing what people think about this situation, and how to address it/whether or not it needs to be addressed. I am concerned that this will lead to a flooding of sets in a year when there may be very little time to play them. I personally believe that several of these sets, especially the ones that are below a certain threshold of completion [say, 40-45%] would do well to either delay until next year or combine with other, less complete sets. Both of these options ensure that the writers involved still get experience. It may also be necessary for some sets, especially new ones that either haven't been announced or have almost no work done on them to stop work for now or, as I mentioned earlier, to combine with other sets that are also not fully complete. Of course, some sets have been working for a long time and have been announced for a while, and are nearing completion. It wouldn't make sense to me, or be fair, in my eyes, to ask sets that have been announced for a while or are almost complete, to stop work or combine with other sets. I also want to reiterate that what I have said doesn't apply to established housewrites, and is more targeted towards the new crop of sets that have arisen specifically during this time frame. I hope to hear what other people think on this issue.

**EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that SENATE has been announced under a new name as the Southeast-Midwest tournament, COAST has been pushed back a year, and BOREDSAIDM is intended for college difficulty. My bad on that. All of these are good ideas and ways to change the sets to reduce them in number.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Rohangeo »

I do agree with mostly everything in this post. However looking back at my middle school years I think it would be nice if some schools and experienced writers could team up to write an mACF style MS set to bring more middle schools that cannot afford hosting a tournament based on MS series into the circuit. It would also be interesting to introduce a variety of distributions into that part of quiz bowl and this is because I have been in contact with rising 8th graders and others who feel this would be an interesting change. Just wanted to put this out there.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by bkmcavoybickford »

If what the online quiz bowl scene looks like next season is similar to what it looked like this season, most sets will be having only one online mirror (or maybe a few, but not as many as they would in a normal environment). As such, the surplus of sets will be less of a problem if quiz bowl stays the same, since NAQT sets wouldn't be competing for hosts (nor would some other sets) and there'll be a large number of free weekends for tournaments.

However, if online tournaments shift towards regional mirrors (perhaps something like 8 regions), there could still be somewhat of a problem with too many sets competing, although larger regions and removing many of the difficulties of hosting will help make up for some of this. This would heavily rely on the eagerness of teams that aren't some of the best in the country to play online tournaments. The current system has heavily drawn very competitive and very plugged in teams, but very few of all the teams in the country are playing online, and school policies do not appear to yet have adapted to clubs hosting events online, which could hurt teams with teacher participation. <a>viewtopic.php?f=6&p=374178#p374178</a> indicates that some sets are moving towards this.

Since different options for what quiz bowl looks like next year would affect how many sets can get mirrors, it seems premature to begin being concerned about merging sets. Instead, we should try to figure out what online quiz bowl will look like next year- national mirrors, regional mirrors, or something different?

Additionally, the concerns about a glut of sets hurting future years seem overblown. While there is some correlation between sets that are considered good and sets that have a large number of mirrors, my impression (although I'm not an expert on this by any means) is that most good sets do not start with the profit motive. Instead, they start with the desire to produce high-quality quiz bowl questions, and the profit motive comes second. The worries aren't unfounded but I'm not convinced that there will be negative long-term effects from this.

In addition to sets merging, another option could be to write side events instead- I know there's at least one lit tournament for HSers being written.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by alexdz »

Rohangeo wrote: Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:01 pm I do agree with mostly everything in this post. However looking back at my middle school years I think it would be nice if some schools and experienced writers could team up to write an mACF style MS set to bring more middle schools that cannot afford hosting a tournament based on MS series into the circuit. It would also be interesting to introduce a variety of distributions into that part of quiz bowl and this is because I have been in contact with rising 8th graders and others who feel this would be an interesting change. Just wanted to put this out there.
I've teamed up with a couple of writers in PA to complete a MS set based on SAGES questions. It'd be usable basically anywhere except probably Springfield, IL, area schools and possibly parts of Alabama, as the sets it'll be based on will most likely be used in those two regions.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Rohangeo »

That's Great! Hopefully I can convince my Middle School to mirror the set in the future... there needs to be more like this and Im glad writers are teaming up to make the circuit more enjoyable and diverse. It's a pity some of my problems of Middle School Quiz bowl are being answered in my freshman year :sad:
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Stained Diviner »

There is an upside to having more sets--it makes it easier to find a set for a tournament. Also, if you get a bad report of a set from an early site, then you have options to switch to.

The downside of people not getting rich from quizbowl is one of the oldest downsides in quizbowl.

I wrote/edited some questions that Rohan's middle school team used this year, though I don't know how many they got to with the season being shortened.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Rohangeo »

Mr. Reinstein I tested lots of the IESA questions and found that they were much more enjoyable than Avery's questions by a very large margin. Avery's They had a consistent distribution, had useful answer lines, and was pyramidal in a way that it resembled "real" middle school cannon level knowledge. I hope you can gain control of the IESA circuit and put these questions into action soon.Thank you for your efforts on trying to make the MS circuit better.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by buffaloz1331 »

Stained Diviner wrote: Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:42 pm There is an upside to having more sets--it makes it easier to find a set for a tournament. Also, if you get a bad report of a set from an early site, then you have options to switch to.

The downside of people not getting rich from quizbowl is one of the oldest downsides in quizbowl.
I guess I just want to say that I'm not so much primarily concerned with writers' compensation [because it is expected that this will be low in any case] but rather that teams are spending time and effort to create sets and questions that it would be a shame to see go to waste because there are upwards of a dozen [!] announced housewrites at the moment, with more likely coming soon — which is why I had mentioned the possibility of delaying or combining some of these sets.

And I see the value of having multiple available housewrites, and surely some will be of higher quality than others. However, I think we have reached a point where the number of housewrites [especially for a season that will likely be limited/restricted/shortened in some way] outweighs the benefits of having multiple sets to choose from — each of these sets will be played fewer times. I guess what I meant to say is just, more sets in a shorter season makes little sense to me.

Also, re: Ben's post above, I think this idea of having online regional mirrors become more prevalent if the current situation continues beyond the fall is something to look into — an interesting idea that could allow these sets to be played even with a shorter in-person season.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Cheynem »

If the pandemic prevents many regions from playing in person quizbowl, I think regional online mirrors (that effectively simulate what an in person field would be like) are a must.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Stained Diviner »

Arthur's reply to me is perfectly reasonable. If you are writing a high school set and getting burned out or not having fun for whatever reason, then you should consider combining with another set, giving yourself another year, or just announcing that your set isn't finished but you want to read what you have on Discord and post it.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

It is seeming like, at least for a substantial part of the season, in-person mirrors won't be allowed (even if they're technically allowed within the reopening, I doubt many schools would like the liability issues and actually let them be held). For example, if in-person college classes of people from the same school aren't even allowed, I really doubt in-person extracurricular events of people from multiple institutions would be.

As a head editor of one of the sets in question, I'd like it if we could, as a community, set up a general online calendar of events, at least for high school. If there are to be multiple online mirrors of a given set (perhaps organized regionally, perhaps otherwise), these mirrors should ideally be situated at around the same time. A calendar could help this effort along and avoid unfortunate conflicts.

[EDIT: Allowing new sets completed earlier/announced earlier to reserve dates first in this calendar also seems like the most efficient and fair way of sorting between all of these sets without mirror rates coming down to which new set's writers happen to have the most clout/connections with most regions or organizers. Later sets can be merged (as they are still sufficiently incomplete for this to be done without massive overlap in questions) or carried over to the following season.]
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Gerald Ford's Economics »

I would suggest that not everyone needs to be involved in writing a full set. If people have the writing bug, they can write a vanity packet and read it on Discord a couple of times. As it stands right now, the market is completely saturated with sets. Many of these sets will be mediocre. Most of these sets will not make anywhere near enough money to fairly compensate their writers. I encourage would-be writers to channel their energy into vanity packets instead of creating the new [insert contrived acronym]. Really, anything but actual sets.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by matthewspatrick »

Rohangeo wrote: Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:01 pm I do agree with mostly everything in this post. However looking back at my middle school years I think it would be nice if some schools and experienced writers could team up to write an mACF style MS set to bring more middle schools that cannot afford hosting a tournament based on MS series into the circuit. It would also be interesting to introduce a variety of distributions into that part of quiz bowl and this is because I have been in contact with rising 8th graders and others who feel this would be an interesting change. Just wanted to put this out there.
You really think the fees for MS series questions makes hosting "unaffordable"? If you get a decent number of teams, your per-team outlay can be ~$14, while a common price point for a mirror is ~$10/team. (The 2020 SCOP MS set could potentially be had for $5/team with all applicable discounts.) Plus, if you're looking to host in a relatively under-served area, you can use MS series questions free if you're >90 miles from a MSNCT-qualifying site this past season.
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Re: On the Abundance of High School Sets During the Pandemic [And Its Problems]

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

At least for the fall, when presumably no in-person tournaments will be occurring, the dates of basically all tournaments are going to be controlled by a small number of people, namely those who are logistics managers for each housewrite, plus NAQT and AQBL. This issue of too many sets has only gotten far worse now in terms of schedule clutter with AQBL hosting 65 tournaments, mostly on their own sets, and NAQT announcing that they will allow online mirrors.

For the sake of the community at large, I would like to propose that we logistics managers coordinate national/regional plans and schedules so that we conflict with each other minimally. This would both streamline scheduling and probably increase the number of teams playing at everyone's tournaments, which I see as a win-win. This usually doesn't happen due to restrictions on when people have space for things and due to it not really being necessary since there generally aren't that many sets, but it seems especially apt with the amalgam of national, regional, open, and closed tournaments at the high school level, with all their dates controlled by a small number of organizers with basically no physical or administrative restrictions.
Daniel, Hunter College High School '19, Yale '23
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