Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

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Adventure Temple Trail
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Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:47 am

Intro

Five years have passed since the foundation of National History Bee and Bowl in the spring of 2010. In that half-decade, a lot of aspects of the academic quizbowl community have grown, changed, or utterly transformed. Five years is longer than the average student's high school quizbowl career -- the last class of students to play high school quizbowl without the opportunity to do NHBB (which includes me) has for the most part been out of college for a year. By contrast, the opportunity to do History Bowl is no longer an interesting new thing for people currently in high school, but rather an established normal part of the world. In a game where the turnover rate is so high and historical memory runs so short, five years is a whole era.

And five years is a pretty good benchmark for assessing how the project has been going and where it ought to go. As a relative outsider to the NHBB organization, I can only do this honestly from the perspective I actually have: that of a dedicated member of the quizbowl community. As such, I'm going to focus this post not on what NHBB should do tout court, but specifically on the relationship between NHBB and the quizbowl community, which is where it most impacts most of this board's readership.

This post has been a long time coming. It might have been wise to make a post at this benchmark even if the past year of NHBB had gone swimmingly without a community-derailing incident. But my main motivator is the simple fact that the long-term status of NHBB is currently too tied-in with the rest of the quizbowl ecosystem to be ignored in any attempt at resetting the community on a good footing.

Toward this end, I got dinner with Dave Madden several weeks ago in mid-May, and we talked for about four hours about the current state of NHBB, where it ought to go from here, and what its relationship to the broader community ought to be. Most of what I post here comes from what I've already relayed to the National History Bee and Bowl organization.

The Implicit Quizbowl-NHBB Compact: Origins

As I see matters, we (the various involved people of the quizbowl community) struck a sort of "implicit compact" with NHBB at the very beginning, with the assumption that each side would do some things for the other, under the expectation that benefits would flow to both sides as time went on. Now the terms of that "compact" are starting to be tested or strained. Given that the implicit compact wasn't an actual document that anybody signed, though, it seems fair to take this opportunity to make sure we actually have a meeting of the minds, renegotiate it, and get set on a healthier footing.

As far as I can recall, the idea of a History Bowl competition first came on the radar of denizens of these forums in this thread from September 2010. (The inaugural event at Ridgewood had been held the preceding spring.) And of course, in good-quizbowl terms, it looked utterly risible. An event with question quality from 1999, led by a man whose only ties into the community since that time were a stint moderating for Chip Beall? It sure looked like it'd be an unmitigated disaster. But: A few people (aside from Madden himself) saw the seed of something which could be much better and more beneficial. The feedback from Chris Ray (and to a lesser and less constructive extent, Charlie Dees) in that thread started planting the first seeds for the NHBB we have today. It took a little push and shove, but within that thread alone, and certainly by the time of the inaugural High School Championships in April 2011, NHBB was well on its way to a full disaffiliation with Questions Unlimited and had contracted HSAPQ to write the inaugural Bowl set (while producing the Bee and the regional sets in-house).

I don't think anyone wanted NHBB to fail, at the outset. (Certainly I didn't, at least once I caught on to its potential.) But many people were worried, to be sure. Many of us were aware of Science Bowl, which will ALWAYS be written on terrible one-liners, have multiple choice, etc. since nobody with a better idea of how to do things will ever get through to the Department of Energy bureaucracy or whoever runs it. The prospect of another single-subject event of poor quality draining resources and energy from the work we'd been doing -- which was at that point far less secure and more precarious in many regions -- could have been a nightmare. That said, the baby NHBB also presented tremendous opportunity if it worked out -- if we could manage a "symbiosis" with it on acceptable questions, it had promise to be an utter game-changer for outreach, funding, and the like for the all-subject quizbowl world.

So many prominent people took the gamble and threw their support behind NHBB to make it good. As I saw things, the rough terms of "implicit compact" by which that occurred looked something like this:
  • The quizbowl community would help NHBB by ensuring that its questions met modern quality standards (read: would write NHBB's questions insofar as NHBB let it do so).
  • Following from the above, the quizbowl community would help NHBB by drumming up support from existing quizbowl teams and coaches from the very outset.
  • NHBB would have to officially disaffiliate from Chip Beall and Questions Unlimited.
  • NHBB would help the quizbowl community by doing intense outreach to bring many new teams into its events in existing and new circuits alike.
  • NHBB would explicitly encourage the new teams it brings in to take part in all-subject quizbowl as well.
How things have turned out since then

As should come as a surprise to nobody who's been following along, the follow-through in both directions on that compact has been ... checkered at best. We're currently testing whether that arrangement, or any [arrangement] so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. So, point-by-point, let me go through how things seem to have gone:

>The quizbowl community would help NHBB by ensuring that its questions met modern quality standards (read: would write NHBB's questions insofar as NHBB let it do so).

I think the largest hiccup in this process is obvious to all, or else I wouldn't be writing this. Nonetheless, I think there's more to discuss here than the already widely-discredited single-person-does-it-all approach.

Writing the full slate of NHBB competitions has been a far more massive a task than anybody reading these boards could have anticipated in 2010, and it seems only to grow with time. NHBB dedicated itself to producing not one, not two, but thuh-ree different regional sets, with both a Bee component and a four-quarter (and thus less familiar to most existing good-QB writers) Bowl component. Then atop those and the massive Nationals set -- which all have to be answerable by high school players, mind you -- the ill-fated College History Bowl was first tried in 2012, the Geo Olympiad component and the first original Sports & Entertainment Bee were added in 2013, the U.S. History Bee in 2014, and now we have the International History Olympiad (with many specialized quizbowl components) in 2015. At some point along the way small pockets of customized international questions were also thrown into the mix for uses of the regional sets abroad, and the Elementary/Middle School Division was spun off into its own competition with its own Bowl, Bee, and Olympiad stuff. This is a huge, huge, HUGE amount of new content, and it built up incredibly quickly. And there's no sign of slowing -- I've confirmed with Madden that they have no plans to cut any events for the 2015-16 year (though this slate, and the HS Nationals weekend, seem pretty seriously maxed out with little prospect of addition).

To be quite frank, this makes many people worried that NHBB's reach has exceeded its grasp. Every time a group or person manages to figure out how to write one component, a bunch more gets added and makes existing arrangements far less tenable. And this is frustrating, both to people who seek/sought to help write these events and to people who hope to try and schedule them all in against the existing calendars in their regions. The HSAPQ arrangement only held firm for 3.5 years before that group decided it couldn't renew the contract. (Disclaimer: I was a full member of HSAPQ during the 2012-2013 competition season and was a freelance writer in the surrounding time between May 2011 and May 2015. My opinions here are only my own.) I can't speak for HSAPQ's leadership at that time, but I can say that it felt to me as a member and observer that NHBB commitments were rapidly draining the group of energy which it could be using on other projects, and crowding out ability to focus on much of anything else.

I think it's now fair to say that this behemoth amount of questions is not what anybody back in 2010 initially thought they were signing up for, and has left many people worried that NHBB is teetering on the brink of being utterly unmanageable. Certainly, it'll be quite difficult to expect that a community which is already writing dozens of its own sets will be able to put forward concerted efforts to tackle this whole other set of things forevermore.

>The quizbowl community would help NHBB by drumming up support from existing quizbowl teams and coaches from the very outset.

I think we made good on this. Because the questions were guaranteed to be good, a lot of mainstream-quizbowl powerhouses (including all four of the first four High School Bowl champions) have added on History Bowl teams that draw from or overlap seriously with their quizbowl teams. The first NHBB, perhaps fittingly, ended with a showdown between defending HSNCT champions Maggie Walker and long-time NAC team Parkersburg, with Maggie Walker prevailing. And many coaches, such as Jason Flowers of LASA and Steve Frappier of Ransom Everglades, have really taken to NHBB as a project they want to support, serving as regional directors, site captains, and the like beyond merely taking their teams to events. In many regions, this gives NHBB a larger support network than the central organization itself could uphold on its own. And it means that those teams could hit the ground running in their own regions talking up quizbowl to NHBB teams and NHBB to quizbowl teams. This is perhaps the area where the attempted symbiosis has worked most well.

But as time goes on, many community leaders are starting to have misgivings. In part due to the frustrations discussed below, and in part due to the large burden that NHBB scheduling puts on many local circuits, there are many areas of the country that haven't signed on very fully. Select community leaders, such as Sean Phillips, have sworn off doing anything for or with NHBB in their regions, resulting in NHBB engagement which is often patchy, skipping over many of the most prominent quizbowl powerhouses (such as 2011-14 Ladue).

> NHBB would have to officially disaffiliate from Chip Beall and Questions Unlimited.

This one happened full-stop around the time the first NHBB was held, and I'm glad for it. Thankfully, Questions Unlimited has only deteriorated further since 2010, with even more high-profile defection stories (e.g. High Tech). NHBB rightly made the calculation that having any ties to a business with such a poor ethics record as QU would have shot its efforts at reaching the bulk of serious ready-made teams in the foot. Perhaps even more thankfully, NHBB has allowed many local schools to transition their efforts away from Question Unlimited. Many ex-Chip players have made their way to NHBB and done productive good work, allowing them to make up for their past affiliations (e.g. Maggie Larkin, Will Mantell).

> NHBB would ...do[] intense outreach to bring many new teams into its events in existing and new circuits alike.

I think this has happened somewhat -- and the areas where it has really taken off are something to behold -- but it's more checkered than the optimistic projections many of us have had. From what I can tell, NHBB has really taken the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State Area, the mid-Atlantic, Florida, and Northern California by storm, often bringing out dozens of teams to events in those areas. Most areas where there's a decent amount of quizbowl have a decent amount of NHBB. And there have been forays into areas where quizbowlers haven't set foot yet, such as the Dakotas, Kansas, Guam, and Hawaii. However, I can't help the sinking feeling looking at the website that a huge number of the "new" areas that NHBB has set up tournaments are not successes for anyone, in that they're often events with only 4 to 8 teams, from 1 to 3 schools, in attendance. I earnestly don't think it's a good idea to expect that NHBB will bring about a blossoming of quizbowl tournaments in areas where they don't yet exist, or that the dots on the map in relatively quizbowl-devoid areas represent any major contribution to our outreach and expansion efforts within all-subject quizbowl.

The international stuff [more on that later] seems to have stuck in east Asia and been mostly a dud everywhere else. To be perfectly honest, I think that international expansion is mostly a waste of NHBB's efforts unless it has much more of a guarantee of self-sufficiency in the years to come (without requiring folks like the Maddens to be constantly flying everywhere to prop it up). I don't have access to NHBB or IHBB finances, but I have major doubts that the costs of flights, hotels, school visits, etc. are anywhere near getting recouped, and until there's more likelihood of that happening, it seems to me that a lot of the international efforts are effectively flushing time and money down a drain that could be better spent making sure the events in the United States are actually functional.

It is worth noting that NHBB is only five years old, and is stretched quite thin (across four continents, no less!). It's hard to say that, for example, Kansas won't have an explosion of participants at some point down the line now that the door has been opened a crack.

> NHBB would explicitly encourage the new teams it brings in to take part in all-subject quizbowl as well.

I think again that this is happening in fits and starts, but not nearly as consistently or successfully as the good quizbowl community hoped for. The "NHBB-to-quizbowl pipeline" really isn't as much of a thing as many people expected it to be. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an utter failure, as some might, as there are certainly high-profile crossovers who used NHBB as a launching pad into all-subject quizbowl success, such as Bethlehem Central and Saratoga, but they're relatively few and far between. Many of the good History Bowl teams that also moved into doing quizbowl seem to be led largely/only by a single star player, such that the team's quizbowl involvement folds when that player moves on. And of course, due to the successful seeding of NHBB with good-at-quizbowl teams from the very beginning, a huge percentage of the best NHBB teams are also the best quizbowl teams. So it's hard nowadays to expect any systematic or large-scale cross-pollination of quizbowl with devoted NHBB teams. In fact, at many schools, the separate establishment of History Bowl and Quizbowl teams, often with separate rosters, coaches, and sets of funding, and occasionally (from what I've heard) with inter-team drama and strife, is detracting from the ability of individual schools to do both events harmoniously.

What's more, NHBB personnel, having much more on their plates than they used to just handling their own competition, are much less likely to do unrelated things for, to, or in the quizbowl community than they were maybe 3 or 4 years ago -- a trend which I expect to continue. There are still some, such as the National Quizbowl Awards. But since about summer 2012 a lot of those efforts really stalled, as the international expansion of NHBB has taken up more and more of Madden's time. And there's relatively little motivation for NHBB to keep doing anything that takes teams' energy and attention away from NHBB itself.

That said, it is very clear to me that NHBB's attitude towards quizbowl is NOT, and hasn't ever been, one of indifference or hostility -- it's one of support and endorsement, insofar as it can give it while still doing its own thing. From what I can tell NHBB does what it can to schedule around the intricacies of local circuits and convey the news that "if you want more practice for History Bowl, there are a million all-subject tournaments a year," and I see that willingness to coordinate (which again, Science Bowl and other buzzer-based competitions would NEVER EVER do) as an earnest expression of their sincerity on this front.

For whatever it's worth, NHBB also has what one might call "hella money" in a way that the all-subject quizbowl community doesn't (yet). The use of some of those resources in the promotion of all-subject quizbowl, or the payment of people who do good work for both, isn't nothing.

Other frustrations of the quizbowl community towards NHBB

So it seems like, on the whole, the expected arrangement between the quizbowl community and NHBB, in which they agreed to mutually support one another with the expectation of mutual benefit, has been (in the optimistic view) somewhat shaky or perhaps (in the pessimistic view) unraveling at the edges. The original factors which seemed most salient in 2010 are not the only ones which matter in determining the quizbowl community's attitudes toward NHBB, however. Through various conversations, posts here, etc. I have gotten the sense that there are many other ancillary frustrations that community members have with the NHBB organization. It's worth getting those out into the open air now, so as to get a more complete idea of how to get things back on the right foot.

Frustrations with Dave Madden

One need not be on the verge of hurling any Charlie Dees-style invective to sense that many people lack confidence specifically in the leadership style of David Madden, rather than in the idea of an all-history subject tournament itself. These complaints include:
  • the almost knee-jerk dismissiveness of criticism on most fronts about most issues. (When public response to criticism often resembles this post, it's easy to draw the conclusion that the snark and dismissiveness run to the core of NHBB's attitude as a whole.
  • A sort of "oversharing" demeanor as regards internal NHBB crises and personnel changes -- cf. this thread and this thread, which can often be seen as going beyond "informing the public of what it needs to know" (most other major quizbowl organization has a Communications officer of some sort, whose messages are more "official" in timbre, so it's less easy to conflate the personal rhetorical style of the organization's leader with the policy announcements than it is with NHBB.)
    [*] The fact that he is often unreachable when traveling across many continents -- especially when so much incoming communication about every subject comes into the director@historybowl email address -- is often frustrating (especially when it's entirely uncertain what rewards that travel will bring). As the Regional Coordinators have taken on more of the day-to-day interaction with regional sites this is less of an issue, but (for example) I had to have a 3-hour phone call to set up the parameters of the High School Championships sets this year via a Google Voice call from an unknown number in Thailand twelve time zones way (midnight to 3 AM my time), and that really shouldn't be the way things have to be the next time NHBB has an emergency.
    [*] Often-unreasonable expectations of subordinate officers and people working for/with him (e.g. question writers, the "4000 cookies"), with relatively little firm idea of what that work entails and how much effort it takes to accomplish those tasks
    [*] Insistence on some level of control over tasks that can (or could, in the near future) be delegated, such as doing final "editing" on sets, getting yelled at for 30 minutes by a parent over a protest resolution, etc. -- uncertainty as to whether that's by necessity (i.e. there aren't enough other people to cover everything) or by choice (i.e. won't be able to let go and let other people do things even 5-10 years from now)
    [*] Opining on matters within the non-NHB quizbowl community in sort of strange ways (e.g. the clock thread)
NHBB's behavior has burned bridges with many people who might have been helpful

In part because the demands of the organization are quite high, and in part because of other factors, it seems from an outside view like NHBB's choices have resulted in a large crowd of detractors and "refugees" who once did work for it but would never consider doing so again. Aside from the obvious examples of Greg Bossick, HSAPQ, and Matt Weiner, there are many people in the wider community on a smaller level who have negative experiences working with NHBB and choose not to come back. At least from my perspective, it seems like there's something of a "sour grapes" attitude towards people who choose to turn away from or not support NHBB -- that if they're not on board with what NHBB does going forward, they must not be worth it anyway. If this is true, it's a very bad situation for a constantly-expanding organization to be in and a very bad attitude to have. There may be people who are absolutely never going to help NHBB ever again such as Sean Phillips or Cody Voight, but that number seems to be growing larger each year and it's uncertain what, if anything, could be done to convince people who have a bad experience with NHBB to reconsider a few years down the line.

The ridiculous rate of expansion (and inability to hold together existing projects)

Again, this isn't a problem in the abstract, but when a huge amount of the work -- the writing, the editing, the scheduling, the staffing -- falls on the quizbowl community, and when the logistics of the existing pieces of the NHBB apparatus are noticeably suboptimal even before new components get added, there's much reason for frustration. And quite frankly, it's hard for many to believe that NHBB has any gratitude for the people who do the hard work to make it happen when that gratitude for past work is always coupled with the implicit order of "Now, back to work" -- on the even LARGER number of events and questions and teams in attendance next year. It's dispiriting in the extreme that the reaction to work done for NHBB is virtually always coupled with an invitation to do an even larger slice of work.

A sense that the dependency of NHBB on existing quizbowl community members has become largely "parasitic" rather than symbiotic

This complaint runs largely as follows: NHBB has gone about things assuming that the quizbowl community has infinite ability to do work, infinite patience for NHBB's goofups, and zero external commitments, a type of homo economicus-type ideal which fails badly when it hits reality. In reality, the community feels quite frayed when NHBB needs help (of either the normal or "emergency" variety), because we're all doing two or three things at the same time even without NHBB added on top. In general, this is inching in a better direction over time, as NHBB develops a larger internal staff and takes care of its own business without needing to ask for outside help on things such as tournament coordination, but I suspect this complaint won't go away in full until NHBB it develops its own staff to do everything internally, pretty much. (This includes a sustainable writing team -- see my suggestions to NHBB below.)

Growing rifts within schools and communities between QB and NHB

As I said above, while the success of quizbowl in a given area and the success of NHB in that area certainly seem to be positively correlated, there's no guarantee that improvements in the prospects of one matches one-to-one with improvements in the prospects of the other, and this can be a source of frustration. Certainly on the level of individual students, there are a rising number of stories of strife between History Bowl and Quizbowl teams/programs. This isn't something that any organization can handle at the national or even regional level, but it's more grist for the anti-NHBB mill to hear stories of a high school that's conflicted in this way.

Fears of a backslide in, or indifference to, question quality
There's some skepticism that NHBB actually cares about question quality. After all, it's only once you get to the very top of the field (the top 32 or so) that quality matters one whit at HS nationals -- the teams that know more would get that far even if the questions were utter crap, just by virtue of being more familiar with the game. Given that I was among the people who had to ensure question quality across every round at this past year's HS Nationals, and worked extensively with David Madden / NHBB to enforce real standards, I personally believe this skepticism is unfounded. But I understand where it comes from, given the pattern of expectations of massive numbers of questions on short time scales that NHBB demands.

----

All of these frustrations, and more I'm sure, are creating a larger and more calcifying group of people who never, ever want to help NHBB again. And it's very easy to give them a sour-grapes style response of "oh well, we didn't need you anyway" -- it's a lot harder to crawl back to those same people when you're desperate for help, and beg and plead for them to come back again the next time something somewhere in the NHBB apparatus is crashing and burning.

My view

I'm going to put my personal opinion out there at this juncture. It doesn't reflect all of the frustrations I relayed above or the official view of any organization I might represent, only my own views based on the personal experiences I've had.

I like that the world has History Bowl in it. I would really have liked playing it when I was in high school, if it were there to play. I want NHBB to succeed. I think NHBB has been, and continues to be, a good force for getting buzzers into the hands of more kids nationwide, and that good/all-subject quizbowl can build on that momentum to find more people who enjoy buzzing in on questions that otherwise wouldn't be found. For all the same reasons as good all-subject questions, it's been humbling to watch high school competitors rise to the challenge and become more informed people as a result. I want NHBB and quizbowl to benefit each other. I think that a known friendly arrangement between the two activities is the best way to ensure that each benefits, rather than detracts from or harms, the other. (As a friend of mine recently quipped on this topic, "divorce only hurts the kids.")

Nonetheless, I acknowledge that dealing with NHBB as an outsider right now can often be at least mildly frustrating, and don't think that my appreciation for the concept or its successes thus far is in any way an endorsement of any individual mistake or goofup or overreach it has made thus far. My primary allegiance is of course to the quizbowl teams and organizations that I've belonged to and helped build up, whereas my contributions to NHBB have been more sporadic. And my hope is that as NHBB grows and solidifies, the underside to its incredible growth -- the hurt feelings and damage it's done to some people -- doesn't continue. Because I want quizbowl to be the best it can be, I also want History Bowl to be the best it can be, and put forward my own suggestions and criticisms firmly towards that end, without malice or spite.

I believe my actions corroborate the above. I had a chance this year to stand by and watch NHBB burn. I chose not to stand by, and instead worked 30-40 hours a week to save the high school championship weekend and put it on a more sustainable future path.

At NHBB's outset, David Madden and co. were simply not capable of putting together a competition that could succeed by its own efforts without our community nurturing his and providing our qualified support as far as we could. At this juncture, the foundations are there, and there is no choice but to expect that NHBB will do much more for itself from here on out. At minimum, it has to be okay from here on out for quizbowl people to decide whether or not they want anything to do with NHBB without the expectation that they're failing quizbowl in some way by standing by. To use yet another overwrought metaphor: NHBB started out as an infant, which we helped to nurse rather than leave it to die in a crib or become a dangerous feral child. But now, it's starting to reach maturity and needs to find its own path, of course knowing that it'll still have the support of many of us in its self-sustaining phase of life.

As I've written elsewhere, there's way more involved people now than there were 5 years ago, and I suspect that number will keep expanding as the number of involved players of quizbowl and History Bowl continue to expand. I am very much not worried about NHBB's ability to find people who would be interested in helping it from here on out. After all, one of the more interesting and heartening differences I've seen between NHBB and quizbowl, at least in terms of who staffs its high school nationals weekend, is that NHBB is ever-zealous in finding any people who might be interested in helping out and roping them in by giving them something to do. (In fact, I staffed the Geo Olympiad and the National History Bee with a guy who just happened to hear about NHBB one day while working at a magazine [I think Reader's Digest? I'm not sure] and has been back many years in a row, getting more responsibilities each time. The quizbowl community is much more reluctant to bring in people who haven't proven themselves worthy by rising up our own ranks and demonstrating competence in pre-set ways.)

I suspect that the overlap in personnel between quizbowl and History Bowl at the level of players and coaches will always be substantial, at least at the level of "key member of the NHBB team also plays quizbowl" and often at the level of "same coach for both". Barring any other major catastrophes, therefore, NHBB will always have at least some allies within the quizbowl community who are willing to pitch in as writers, staffers, site captains, logistics people, local directors/coordinators, or what have you. And as time goes on, the pressure on disinterested people to do stuff for NHBB will fade because it won't be necessary to apply such pressure.

Words of advice

I have some more words of advice for those on both sides of this interface.
To NHBB:
  • Respect that most people in the quizbowl community are doing double, triple, or higher-order n-tuple duty for multiple teams and organizations already. The existing quizbowl community has its own :capybara: to deal with, and the basic laws of supply and demand don't really guarantee that there will always be people to produce what it might be good for us to produce. Quizbowl products require skilled labor from a very finite supply of people which cannot be overextended.
  • One of the things I'm happiest about w/r/t NHBB is that it's now committed to / locked into having quality questions (by more or less the same standards that we in good quizbowl established over the past decade or so). The middle-term goal for NHBB needs to be to grow its own pool of writers/editors who are capable of producing questions that satisfy dedicated teams' quality standards without detracting from the ability of the most dedicated all-subject quizbowl writers to work on all-subject quizbowl tournaments. (This could include alumni of both games who are focused mainly on doing their writing for NHBB, but again as I said in the first thread in this series, that focus ought to be pretty tight.)
  • The ONLY way NHBB will survive long-term is if it builds up its own team of people primarily focused on NHBB and little else. And the best reliable source of people I can see for building up that team is by approaching dedicated high school History Bowl players as they graduate. The saving grace of NHBB is that it's becoming an established part of the high school extracurricular fabric, and many alumni & strong players will want to give back once they graduate high school. Training those people to write, to edit, to coordinate regional sets, as is often more informally true of college quizbowlers who keep giving back to high school quizbowl -- that's the real solution to this whole knot of issues.
  • If funds/arrangements permit, it'd be great if NHBB had a dedicated administrative assistant who NEVER travels outside the US and is able to read/answer emails incoming to NHBB regardless of whether the top-brass officers are on the road or on a plane.
  • Lastly, I'd venture, perhaps optimistically, that the current crunch in personnel and NHBB is temporary. NHBB is still in its early childhood, and a consistent vision of good high school quizbowl is still in its adolescence. We are quite crunched now because we're still doing things in 2015 under assumptions that a 2010-size personnel crunch will hold forever. But it won't -- by five years from now, if not two or three, we'll have much less of a problem than we do now and things will likely get better by mere virtue of the demographics of outreach/expansion. Make the best of the growth of the activity to raise up not just the next generation of players, but also the next generation of organizers.

To the Quizbowl Community:
  • NHBB is not going to go anywhere, so it's a waste of energy to harbor hopes that it go down in flames. If you don't like NHBB and you don't want to participate in it, aid it, or abet it, that is (or by every right ought to be) completely fine. But wishing for its demise is both impractical and more than a bit cruel to the many players, coaches, schools, etc. who benefit from it.
  • NHBB teams are not going to fall out of the sky into your tournament fields. They never were; if you want NHBB teams to come to your stuff, you have to pull them in, and do the hard work of explaining why a game about everything (rather than just history) is worth their time. NHBB is too busy to help with this in any consistent manner and doesn't have time anymore to do much more than it does to get teams to cross-pollinate. They're glad to clue teams into the forums and encourage them to play all-subject tournaments as a reinforcement of (or extension past) what they learn for NHBB, but little more. I suspect that much of the bitterness toward NHBB came from an unrealistic expectation that new NHBB teams would cross over without extra effort on our part. Well, now we know what we must do; let's do it.
  • NHBB doesn't necessarily do things the way we do, and often doesn't comprehend or act on observations that seem obvious to us. But it does learn from its mistakes and adapt to pressure. Don't assume that they're total idiots who never learn anything -- there HAVE been big changes in how this event runs with time and there will be more as necessity dictates.

Outro

Like in any relationship, there are approximately a million things two entities can do to try to make things work better rather than go for a total hostile breakup.

Ultimately, I will not be the one who decides what the quizbowl-NHBB relationship looks like into the future. I suspect that my record speaks for itself in showing just how seriously I've given to the game of quizbowl, to NHBB, to the ideals of question quality, and to promoting that moment when a kid's eyes brighten with the realization that they do know what's being asked about, just before they press their finger down to make their first correct buzz. But I won't be around their intersection forever. In keeping with my suggestions that people pick their commitments and focus more narrowly on being a single pillar rather than holding up the entire roof, I expect that I will not be joining the writing or administrative team of NHBB during 2015-16. And I suspect I'll be involved more narrowly on the quizbowl community side too, though I'm still figuring that out.

I again suspect (given the tenor of conversations I've been having) that my opinion might not match up with the prevailing sentiment among boards-readers, or among the broader public. I especially welcome robust comment and disagreement. I think it's bad for all involved if nobody speaks up, as it's easy to assume in the absence of comment everybody feels fine & dandy or feels indifferent.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:42 am

Matthew J wrote: I've confirmed with Madden that they have no plans to cut any events for the 2015-16 year (though this slate, and the HS Nationals weekend, seem pretty seriously maxed out with little prospect of addition).
This one sentence, right here, is why I cannot fully support Matt's post, which I mostly agree with. I attended a local NHBB event this winter, TDed by Mr. Madden himself. Even with access to the game's founder, it took FORTY minutes to explain the format, rules, tests, nationals, etc. etc. at the opening meeting. To expect to run timely events, especially if new to buzzer-completion teams are there, is an utterly impossible prospect. To produce enough quality questions to service every single last little bee, bowl, exam, and Olympiad already under the NHBB umbrella is absurd no matter who produces the questions. I have seen personally or heard through the grapevine of enough stories of just local bowls running far over schedule to accommodate all of the events on account of lack of quality staff (I am sorry, but this concept of "all teams must bring a moderator" and trusting those moderators to run a quizbowl style gameroom, and the pace that demands, does not work, has not worked, and never will work) and seen children miss lunch because they spent so long taking exams at lunch.

I believe Dave Madden means well and truly cares about getting kids to learn and spreading academic competition. I don't subscribe to the theory mentioned above that NHBB would switch to any old questions if it would suffice. I think that if the National History Bee and Bowl organization can do just that- host a NATIONAL BEE and a NATIONAL BOWL - there is certainly potential there to succeed and for both quizbowl and NHBB to grow off of each other. As constructed, however, NHBB is spread too thin. Maintaining dozens of national circuits, doing geography competitions, doing the international history olympiad (this event downright disturbs me- $1,070 plus airfaire in many cases for an unproven format? Spending time to organize a sightseeing tour? Why is this event even happening? Is it really a good idea to be charging this much money for the sake of getting history buffs together?), and the like is a model that will spread itself too thin, especially if more and more continue to be added to the slate. It does not matter if the quizbowl community or NHBB itself does the brunt work here- the overload problems come not just at the level of the question production, but on tournament day. The company's continued indication that scaling back to a reasonable set of goals won't happen is maddening and saddening. Unless NHBB gets a serious focused mission with realistic goals, and then executes that mission, I don't see how it can sustain productive growth.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Kouign Amann » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:30 am

I think something that can help people understand the issues at hand here is to think about the completely opposite ways in which quizbowl and NHBB are organized on a large scale. NHBB is totally top-down. David Madden shows up in 2010 with, as Matt says, "hella money" and starts throwing it at people. Hires a staff, rents out wacky venues, buys good questions. I don't want to sound too harsh in saying this, and I certainly don't mean it as a personal attack, but the reason he works this way is simply because Madden lacks a lot of the normal quizbowl skills that qb people learn over time in the community. We learn to write, we learn to edit, we learn to plan tournaments, we learn to set a field cap when directing. David Madden didn't come from this community and didn't have those skills, so he realized early on that he needed to buy the labor of those who do, which seems like a perfectly sound business strategy. He doesn't have skills, but he has money, and the people with skills want money, so it seems like everything should be hunky-dory. However, quizbowl is not a business and never has been. There are quizbowl businesses, like NAQT and HSAPQ, but NHBB is both the activity and the business. There is no History Bowl without NHBB, whereas if NAQT went under tomorrow, quizbowl as an activity would certainly survive (albeit far worse off).

I think it's worth thinking about previous instances when single businesses or organizations have tried to lay claim to the entire activity. Science Bowl has been mentioned, and I think Chip certainly fits this mold as well—he lives in a fantasyland where his is the only tournament that matters. CBI was the same way, as far as I understand, with intramural, regional, and national events all available for purchase. These activities were/are all coextensive with their corporate ecosystems.

These precedents are not auspicious.

If NHBB wants to thrive, it needs to reflect critically about how its structure compares to these examples and how that structure might be improved.

All-subject quizbowl, on the other hand, is organized from the bottom up. Local teams host invitationals attended by other local teams. Over team, the idea of a "circuit" emerges. Circuits coordinate and you end up with state and regional championships. Teams qualify to attend nationals, which are written and organized by a widely-distributed group of people.

If any one person or event goes down, the quizbowl community has enough manpower to ensure its continued survival. We survived the most extreme possible case this semester. Since we survived that, I think we can comfortably say that there is no one person on whom we as an activity depend. Many people in the community are comfortable with writing, editing, directing, and outreach. We have lots of helpful redundancy here. In contrast, if David Madden were to be incapacitated for any reason, that would be an absolute disaster of a far greater magnitude. I don't think NHBB could survive a month without Madden's constant input.

Redundancy helps stabilize quizbowl against both large-scale disasters and the small-scale fluctuations in output and reliability we deal with regularly. NHBB has no redundancy. Hell, in a lot of places they don't even have dundancy, or whatever the word is for one person with capability. They only have the labor they have purchased.

Perhaps this post is a long-winded way of saying "I agree with Matt that NHBB needs to have its own people to do its own work, and it needs to have a lot more of them with a lot more skills than they currently do," but I think it's slightly deeper than that. There are structural questions to be examined here, long-term considerations about the viability of NHBB as a whole and its place in the academic buzzer game landscape. Obviously, NHBB cannot reinvent itself as a grassroots effort, but I think there are going to need to be significant changes if it wants to be around in ten or twenty years. A lot of these changes, I think, should involve David Madden doing less of nearly everything in order to move from a top-down structure to a more stable bottom-up one. Not a full change-over, but more of a balance.

Unfortunately, I'm just not sure what it would take to make that happen. NHBB started out as David Madden's personal project, and I'm not sure to what extent he'll ever be willing to let go of any part of it. In every conversation I've had with him about it, and in every post I see him make, he grabs after more and more and more. This is the attitude that ultimately soured me on NHBB—I became convinced he just wasn't interested in anything anyone else had to say. Because he has the money to buy his personal vision of the perfect extracurricular, he assumes that everything will work itself out and that his is the only opinion that's worthwhile.

History Bowl seems like a fine activity in itself, but I'm not sure it can withstand David Madden's leadership in the long run.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Milhouse » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:42 am

Matthew J wrote: Bethlehem Central
It should probably be noted that it is surpassingly unlikely that Bethlehem will continue to go to all-subject tournaments once I graduate next year, in large part because most of the people in years below mine mostly care about history and know little and care less about subjects such as literature and science (and also the facts that we're located a convenient three hours from anywhere tournaments are held and that I'm just really bad at convincing people to do things, which are irrelevant). I would guess that a similar subject gap exists with many other History Bowl teams, limiting their ability and desire to get into mainstream quizbowl in the absence of a dedicated generalist like me or Bruce (who I would guess isn't having this problem, actually? It looks like Saratoga has actually brought a plurality of teams to some tournaments).
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:38 am

Kouign Amann wrote:I think something that can help people understand the issues at hand here is to think about the completely opposite ways in which quizbowl and NHBB are organized on a large scale. NHBB is totally top-down. ...All-subject quizbowl, on the other hand, is organized from the bottom up
I don't think it's inherently wrong that NHBB is organized top-down, and I don't believe the History Bowl activity/ies would make any sense under any other organizational structure, given the need to set standards nationwide for local qualifiers, etc. Indeed, the top-down model has (or can have, when managed properly) many advantages over the bottom-up way in which the quizbowl community is organized, which (believe you me) certainly presents its own sets of problems such as lack of standardization, coordination failure, etc. relatively frequently. At the risk of totally strawmanning Aidan, I don't think it's realistic or desirable to hope for a "bottom-up" independent History Bowl circuit with housewritten tournaments and local leagues and the like -- especially if that's a world where competitive History Bowl teams are expected to play 10 all-history tournaments a year rather than 1-3 before competing at nationals. NHBB should nonetheless be willing to learn specific lessons for its top-down model from the way that some of the organizations in our world do things.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:23 am

I live a block away from the NHBB hotel in Arlington and I've made a point to moderate NHBB nationals every year unless it conflicts with ACF Nationals. I've had a lot of conversations with NHBB coaches and parents. One thing that has always struck me is that a lot of the history-only teams speak of "quizbowl" as a totally different activity from history bowl, rather than seeing NHBB as a variant of quizbowl. This is interesting to me and I wonder what can be done to combat this (IMO) very wrong opinion.

I understand that NHBB often markets itself to history teachers at schools, right? The history teacher probably has a strong interest in running an NHBB team but less interest (and less competence) in running a general quizbowl team. Perhaps the impetus to turn NHBB teams into general quizbowl teams needs to rest with players. Maybe elite NHBB players need to say "hey, if I go talk to that girl in my class who is a science whiz, and that guy who is always sitting on the stairs reading novels, then we might be able to win trophies in yet another activity and further pad our college application resumes". I don't know how we can encourage that mindset.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:26 pm

Aiden says that NHBB is coterminous with the activity of "history bowl." Bruce says that history bowl teams largely don't see themselves as quizbowlers and aren't interested in quizbowl; even the teams that have migrated from history bowl to quizbowl appear to be led by a single player and seem unlikely to continue playing quizbowl once that player is done. So regardless of how or why, as presently constituted, it appears that NHBB/history bowl's meaningful relationship with quizbowl is that it pays quizbowlers to write, host, and staff history bowl events. Very little, other than money and the occasional player, appears to flow back to quizbowl from this relationship.

We quizbowlers have developed a very particular set of logistical and writing skills by participating in our own, organically grown activity. Now, an outside organization--coterminous with an activity that, by all empirical evidence, actively competes against quizbowl--is asking a lot of our already strained resources. The weight of that additional strain very nearly broke the entire activity this spring.

Because of the history of "trash capture," we would be very alarmed if something called the "National Pop Culture Bee and Bowl" were taxing our resources this much. Yes, it's true that "history bowl" is something closer to quizbowl (mainly because of the broadly encompassing definition of "history" that was crafted by the quizbowlers called on to produce the sets). But despite what I can only imagine are Dave Madden's best intentions of helping out quizbowl, it's simply the case that quizbowl and history bowl are different activities, and the fact that quizbowl is more general and history bowl more specific makes it much more likely that competitors will flow from quizbowl to history bowl than in the opposite direction. In other words, it makes sense in theory that most players whose gateway into buzzer competition is through history bowl are unlikely to have the skills or desire to succeed in quizbowl, and in practice, that largely appears to be the case; "we do history, not that other stuff" appears to be a very real attitude. So I think "NHBB capture," for want of a better term, is a thing.

In the long term, I acknowledge that we may all benefit from more people (including logistics-oriented folks and potential future coaches, not just players) being interested in buzzer competition. And I also acknowledge that history bowl and quizbowl can exist side by side in a region and at the same school. (My high school did three or four forms of academic competition, with largely the same set of participants participating in all.) These things are certainly worth considering. But it's unclear if these benefits will flow from history bowl to quizbowl, or only in the opposite direction. And right now, quizbowl's only real benefit appears to be the payments that the NHBB writers, staffers, and hosts are receiving, most of which is writing payment that doesn't go back into the quizbowl economy.

To sum up the discussion in this thread, even though NHBB and Dave Madden appear to be well-intentioned, it seems that NHBB's goal is to advance history bowl as an activity, regardless of the strains it places on quizbowl as an activity. To that end, it appears that NHBB will expand and expand, regardless of quizbowl's capacity to sustain both itself and history bowl work. Like Matt, I hold no grudge against NHBB. But I question whether we quizbowlers can even sustain our own game if we attempt to attend to the needs of an ever-expanding NHBB.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by johntait1 » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:37 pm

I'll post a bit about the NHBB-Quizbowl relationship at our school to give everyone an idea of what goes on at the high school level, since some of the posters on the forums may not be too familiar with this aspect. Disclaimer: I'll try to keep it as objective as possible, but I'll come out and say that I'm the founder of the History Bowl club and have been President for two years, while I've only been a regular member of our quizbowl club. I will add that I will have a fairly important position in our quizbowl club in the upcoming year as President of JV Operations(mainly dealing with efforts to expand the club since over the past few years there haven't been too many younger players--our grade has is the last "core" group our school has), so I'll be a lot more knowledgeable after this upcoming year is finished.

Anyways, I'll respond to this first
In fact, at many schools, the separate establishment of History Bowl and Quizbowl teams, often with separate rosters, coaches, and sets of funding, and occasionally (from what I've heard) with inter-team drama and strife, is detracting from the ability of individual schools to do both events harmoniously.
Certainly on the level of individual students, there are a rising number of stories of strife between History Bowl and Quizbowl teams/programs.
At our school, we have separate coaches--that much is true. Our history teacher is more interested in History Bowl, as is expected. Our quizbowl club is sponsored by a science teacher, but she is often too busy to actually coach us at tournaments. The inter-team drama and strife is pretty much the opposite of what happens at our school(I understand you mentioned occasionally; I'll just describe our school). There's a fairly large amount of crossover in the rosters, with most of the top players playing both. While our quizbowl captain didn't play History Bowl at all in his high school career for various reasons, he has directed our last NHBB tournament, played History Bee, come to History Bowl club before, and generally helped our History Bowl team in many ways. Other quizbowl players who don't play NHBB have also helped us by staffing our tournament, occasionally showing up at History Bowl meetings, reading History Bowl packets to help our History Bowl team practice and other things. There's definitely been no strife between our teams and at practices we encourage new players to attend both clubs to practice(we tell History Bowl players to play quizbowl, and our quizbowl captain encourages quizbowl members to play History Bowl). Of course there are players who only participate in one for various reasons--but for the most part it's a lot of cooperation between the two activities. I'll also add that it's not like that for every club in our school--the relationship between our quizbowl and History Bowl club is something special because of the common interest for these two activities. As for funding, I don't really know--it seems both clubs don't get much of it.

NHBB is totally top-down
I think this aspect actually makes History Bowl more appealing at our school. Everyone, from the sponsor to the players, knows who to talk with about things related to History Bowl, and its a lot easier going to tournaments and hosting them. Our school has hosted two History Bowl tournaments because its fairly simple--talk to Dave Madden and he'll coordinate most of the logistics and give us questions to use. We mainly just had to ask other schools to come, and then have our quizbowl president who has been to many tournaments direct the tournament. We've never hosted a quizbowl competition even though I've heard the idea several times. Our quizbowl presidents have admitted that it just takes a lot more work, and its not as easy as simply talking to Dave Madden.

Also, its a lot easier for players to register and go to tournaments with the centralized approach. NHBB has a nice website where tournaments are shown and our players can go on and find a tournament easily. Freshman year I simply googled History Bowl, found the website, read the information, and told our quizbowl President about it, and we decided to go to a tournament. It was fairly easy to coordinate. This year our freshman decided to go to a tournament that I couldn't go to, and it was easy for them to do everything. In contrast, quizbowl has these forums which are a bit harder for newcomers to navigate, and there's several organizations with different roles(NAQT, HSAPQ, PACE, etc) and its really easy to be confused. Local tournaments are also hosted by different people who have different rules, while NHBB is a lot more centralized, with virtually everything being the same at different tournaments. It's a lot easier to handle and players understand what's going on. In quizbowl, the President usually handles everything, which can be problematic if he misses something. For example, our quizbowl team got waitlisted at HSNCT and PACE this year for some reason. Although we made it in at HSNCT, we didn't get up getting to play at PACE. That sort of stuff usually is pretty discouraging for new players to quizbowl. One of the our players going to PACE this year was going to a quizbowl for the first time--he'd played a lot of History Bowl and decided to try quizbowl. I don't think he was too happy about spending money for the flight and hotel and not getting to play(On a side note this does sort of show how History Bowl is leading to quizbowl expansion at our school, since he previously knew about quizbowl and was not interested until after he played a lot of History Bowl). Another thing is that all NHBB tournaments have a JV division, which really encourages our younger players to play. At regular quizbowl tournaments there may not be a JV division, meaning younger players may choose not to participate, or they may get really discouraged if they keep on getting destroyed by older player.

One thing that has always struck me is that a lot of the history-only teams speak of "quizbowl" as a totally different activity from history bowl, rather than seeing NHBB as a variant of quizbowl. This is interesting to me and I wonder what can be done to combat this (IMO) very wrong opinion.
I totally agree that this is a really wrong opinion. At our school the two activities are closely interrelated and we tell new players in both clubs about the other and tell them to join, while we certainly don't do that for math club or stuff. We definitely treat them more as a variants of the same activity.

Perhaps the impetus to turn NHBB teams into general quizbowl teams needs to rest with players. Maybe elite NHBB players need to say "hey, if I go talk to that girl in my class who is a science whiz, and that guy who is always sitting on the stairs reading novels, then we might be able to win trophies in yet another activity and further pad our college application resumes". I don't know how we can encourage that mindset.
I'd like to politely disagree with you on this point. First of all, I don't think that padding college applications/resumes should factor into playing quizbowl and History Bowl too much. I started playing because I love learning about stuff outside of class and all the interconnections of different subjects within quizbowl that we don't talk about in school. I'm fairly certain that it's the case with pretty much all of the top players at our school. The people who do activities to pad resumes or applications at our school go to all the other clubs because that's pretty much why all the other clubs were created. In our clubs you actually have to spend time learning things, while other clubs give you officer positions where you don't actually do anything(math club, science club, etc) so you pad your application while not using up too much time so you can take part in a lot of clubs to pad your application. If we convince people to play quizbowl or History Bowl by using the resume and application pitch, they'll stop coming after one or two meetings because they realize you have to actually spend time outside of club meetings by studying and going to tournaments, time that they could be using to join more clubs and get useless officer positions to pad their applications.

Also, at our school, it'd be extremely difficult to find people in our school to help NHBB players with all-subject quizbowl. My background may be a bit unique, but anyways, I entered high school with a lot of knowledge of History and Religion, which immediately meant I could contribute on our quizbowl team and meant I was pretty good at NHBB. With all the studying I've done, I now cover most of History for our team. But it'd be really hard to find people in our school to help me with science in all subject quizbowl. The reason is I'm pretty much at the top of the science classes I've taken(I'm that Chem wiz who made the highest score on all the AP Chem tests), and it seems like no one in our school is interested in learning outside of school now.

A lot of the problems with NHBB and quizbowl in our school are somewhat inherent in our educational system, administration, etc. I think that I will make a post on that and other problems I've seen in high school quizbowl, but I'll probably wait until after next year to do it. With an officer position in our quizbowl club, I'll probably be a lot more knowledgeable about high school quizbowl, and I'll share my experiences with the community as I leave high school to try and help the quizbowl community through them.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:46 pm

johntait1 wrote:NHBB has a nice website where tournaments are shown and our players can go on and find a tournament easily.
The front page of http://hsquizbowl.org also has a place where you can search for upcoming tournaments in the area.
johntait1 wrote:For example, our quizbowl team got waitlisted at HSNCT and PACE this year for some reason.
That's because the size of both tournaments was capped. Your team literally had four and a half months to register for the NSC before the field filled up.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by jonpin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:55 pm

Harry, judging from the sentence immediately prior to that one, I think he's saying "We had a person whose job it was to handle this stuff. For some reason, it didn't get done in a timely fashion."
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:59 pm

jonpin wrote:Harry, judging from the sentence immediately prior to that one, I think he's saying "We had a person whose job it was to handle this stuff. For some reason, it didn't get done in a timely fashion."
Okay, I see that now. That's what I get for trying to quickly read through the post while at work.

I am curious if it actually is easier to register for NHBB Nationals as opposed to the NSC or HSNCT, or whether it was a case of the History Bowl club being more on the ball than the Quizbowl club.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Milhouse » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:08 pm

Public safety diving wrote: I am curious if it actually is easier to register for NHBB Nationals as opposed to the NSC or HSNCT, or whether it was a case of the History Bowl club being more on the ball than the Quizbowl club.
It is in the sense that there hasn't been a field cap, so you have more time to register. With regards to the actual registration procedure, though, it's more complicated if anything, as you have to know who's participating in all the side events when you register, which can be a pain if you have poor communication or people are indecisive.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by yeah viv talk nah » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:12 pm

johntait1 wrote: ... For example, our quizbowl team got waitlisted at HSNCT and PACE this year for some reason. Although we made it in at HSNCT, we didn't get up getting to play at PACE. That sort of stuff usually is pretty discouraging for new players to quizbowl. One of the our players going to PACE this year was going to a quizbowl for the first time--he'd played a lot of History Bowl and decided to try quizbowl. I don't think he was too happy about spending money for the flight and hotel and not getting to play(On a side note this does sort of show how History Bowl is leading to quizbowl expansion at our school, since he previously knew about quizbowl and was not interested until after he played a lot of History Bowl). ...
To clarify, the student in question was informed ahead of time that there was a very strong chance that our team was not going to play. It was entirely his decision to attend the tournament. His decision to nevertheless attend does, I guess, strengthen the idea that NHBB is somewhat helping to attract more interest to quizbowl.
Public safety diving wrote:
johntait1 wrote:For example, our quizbowl team got waitlisted at HSNCT and PACE this year for some reason.
That's because the size of both tournaments was capped. Your team literally had four and a half months to register for the NSC before the field filled up.
We did register far enough before the deadline. Unfortunately, a few weeks before the tournament began, our school abruptly informed our team that we were not allowed to attend using our school's name (since we had no teacher chaperone accompanying us), and basically made us withdraw. We re-registered under a pseudonym, but since we had given up our original spot through our withdrawal, we were placed on the waitlist.

EDIT: by the time I finished typing this explanation, Harry had already admitted to misunderstanding Daniel's sentence.
Last edited by yeah viv talk nah on Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by gimmedatguudsuccrose » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:24 pm

johntait1 wrote: Also, its a lot easier for players to register and go to tournaments with the centralized approach. NHBB has a nice website where tournaments are shown and our players can go on and find a tournament easily. Freshman year I simply googled History Bowl, found the website, read the information, and told our quizbowl President about it, and we decided to go to a tournament. It was fairly easy to coordinate. This year our freshman decided to go to a tournament that I couldn't go to, and it was easy for them to do everything. In contrast, quizbowl has these forums which are a bit harder for newcomers to navigate, and there's several organizations with different roles(NAQT, HSAPQ, PACE, etc) and its really easy to be confused. Local tournaments are also hosted by different people who have different rules, while NHBB is a lot more centralized, with virtually everything being the same at different tournaments. It's a lot easier to handle and players understand what's going on. In quizbowl, the President usually handles everything, which can be problematic if he misses something. For example, our quizbowl team got waitlisted at HSNCT and PACE this year for some reason. Although we made it in at HSNCT, we didn't get up getting to play at PACE. That sort of stuff usually is pretty discouraging for new players to quizbowl. One of the our players going to PACE this year was going to a quizbowl for the first time--he'd played a lot of History Bowl and decided to try quizbowl. I don't think he was too happy about spending money for the flight and hotel and not getting to play(On a side note this does sort of show how History Bowl is leading to quizbowl expansion at our school, since he previously knew about quizbowl and was not interested until after he played a lot of History Bowl). Another thing is that all NHBB tournaments have a JV division, which really encourages our younger players to play. At regular quizbowl tournaments there may not be a JV division, meaning younger players may choose not to participate, or they may get really discouraged if they keep on getting destroyed by older player.
Speaking as Farragut's quizbowl club president for 2014-2015, the reason that we were on the field at NHBB and on the waitlist at HSNCT and NSC has nothing to do with the ease of registration at these competitions or organizations themselves - rather, is was our school's (Farragut's) administration.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:33 pm

the best reliable source of people I can see for building up that team is by approaching dedicated high school History Bowl players as they graduate.
While I agree with most of Matt's post and agree with this point in principle, I think that NHBB has in the past displayed questionable judgement in its hiring. When I staffed nationals this year, Dave and Will were both reasonable and competent, as are Nick and Eric in the middle school division. However, some (but certainly not all) of the other people who have been hired for writing, outreach, and administrative roles have rather poor reputations in the community and have caused problems when given responsibility at other events or produced mediocre or worse questions, and I think part of the reason for this is a tendency to hire people who have enthusiastically played high school events without further vetting or training - being a good and excited player does not always correlate with being a good writer, logistician, or communicator. An extreme example of this was when Joe Brosch, who was notably unprofessional, flaky, and a poor question writer was hired - obviously I don't think anyone working at NHBB now is a cheat, but there are definitely people who aren't (and shouldn't be) entrusted with roles by other organizations or people.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by ryanrosenberg » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:39 pm

To lend another, less extreme example to Joe's post, Sam Donow and I wrote the vast majority of the inaugural MS National History Bowl when neither of us had much experience writing or any experience editing at any level.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:50 pm

Thanks for the detailed post, Daniel. Your contributions in this thread and in the NHBB general discussions have been quite thoughtful, and I look forward to reading the future posts you might be preparing.

I think Daniel's post gives us an interesting way of flipping Aidan's question backwards: What can quizbowl learn from History Bowl to become better organized? Most conversations on these boards take place largely among people who are well-connected within quizbowl and are thus inured to (or willing to forgive) the worse aspects of how our own community is organized. When the perspective of marginal or confused coaches is taken into account, my and other posts may look much more like the "pot calling the kettle black" than I first imagined. Now, this isn't to say that quizbowl should centralize everything under one roof, but there are definitely more strides we could take in that direction, such as making a universal registration system that local tournament directors can make entries in, developing a common rule set for usage across the country, etc.

Joe N: I agree with you pretty much entirely about NHBB's previous hiring being somewhat scattershot, in that some of their hires (Eric Huff, Nick Clusserath, and Will Mantell in particular) have shown to be excellent while others have ...not. I think there's a pretty clear difference between the "we'll take anybody who happens to raise their hand" approach and dedicated individual reach-out to successful captains of champion or high-finishing teams, Bee finalists, coaches of dominant teams, etc. While of course skill at playing doesn't correlate perfectly with writing skill or any other skill NHBB might need, it's more likely that dedication towards the community in the past, and skill at achieving good outcomes, is indicative of the raw knowledge it takes to produce questions and of the constructive habits of mind it requires to become effective at winning. Any such process should still vet potential hires to make sure they can take directions from above, can supervise sub-projects of their own, and aren't incompetent or incapable of learning skills.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:04 pm

At NHBB's outset, David Madden and co. were simply not capable of putting together a competition that could succeed by its own efforts without our community nurturing his and providing our qualified support as far as we could. At this juncture, the foundations are there, and there is no choice but to expect that NHBB will do much more for itself from here on out. At minimum, it has to be okay from here on out for quizbowl people to decide whether or not they want anything to do with NHBB without the expectation that they're failing quizbowl in some way by standing by. To use yet another overwrought metaphor: NHBB started out as an infant, which we helped to nurse rather than leave it to die in a crib or become a dangerous feral child. But now, it's starting to reach maturity and needs to find its own path, of course knowing that it'll still have the support of many of us in its self-sustaining phase of life.
I agree with what MattJ is saying, and I think this is a good point. To add on, it seems to me from my experience and from talking to others that David assumes that the quizbowl community will bail him out whenever he needs to, without initially providing sufficient instructions to the community. Apparently, trying to hold a regional event this year in Vancouver was a disaster this year, because there wasn't actually a coordinator - oops, there's no quizbowl team to bail him out. Montreal was better, because McGill and Ottawa staffers went. To add onto the metaphor, the NHBB child also needs to listen to the supporting adults that are out there to help. For example, I offered to print the set for Montreal's regionals at no cost because McGill lets me, and I told the Maddens about it, but got no response and on tournament day there was a shipped box of questions from Bunnie in Arizona, which probably wasn't cheap.

Getting staff for the Canadian national tournament was much more laborious than it should have been. I wasn't given the number of teams attending at any point, and had to rely on the website to figure out how many staffers were needed. David told me I had asked enough staffers when there were 8 teams officially signed up, but another 7-9 teams "expressing interest" (which means the field and the staffing needs literally double). Had I not ignored him and asked for more staffers, the tournament would not have run as smoothly as it did. Communication generally sucked probably because the Maddens were too busy with actual NHBB, which was the week beforehand. NHBB could really use more executives to work on their "side projects" or whatever, like Canada, especially if they're so close to the NHBB Nationals day. They could officially outsource staff and other logistics like NAQT does to Joel and Nathan, and not have people assume things need to get done and then do them so that the tournament is well run. The best weekend for Canadian nationals next year, is again, very close to actual NHBB Nationals, and I think someone from NHBB that isn't David Madden should lead the way. Of course, David, like R for NAQT events, would still the "official" director of the tournament and will do opening/closing remarks, awards, etc, but all the behind the scenes stuff is officially outsourced to one or more people, specific tasks and goals outlined, and communication transparent (i.e. when will everyone respond to their emails).
Kouign Amann wrote: History Bowl seems like a fine activity in itself, but I'm not sure it can withstand David Madden's leadership in the long run.
I don't think it's a problem of leadership, but the fact that the fearless leader needs to a) have more subordinates in more powerful roles, and b) listen more to these subordinates.
Beatlefan11 wrote: (I am sorry, but this concept of "all teams must bring a moderator" and trusting those moderators to run a quizbowl style gameroom, and the pace that demands, does not work, has not worked, and never will work)
Yeah, that rule shouldn't exist if there are established high school teams, universities or dinosaurs you can reach out to and should not be stated in any general rules or invitation email for a tournament if it can be avoided. I'm sure in a year or two, the Montreal history bowl team advisers will be able to at least "switch-off" reading at a regional event, but mandating this rule for the Montreal regional was not a good idea.
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johntait1 wrote:For example, our quizbowl team got waitlisted at HSNCT and PACE this year for some reason.
That's because the size of both tournaments was capped. Your team literally had four and a half months to register for the NSC before the field filled up.
I'm pretty sure there's more to the story than that.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Kouign Amann » Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:14 pm

I think Daniel's post about how easy it is to just contact Madden and set things up is actually a big problem and a perfect example of what I'm talking about: top-down makes the short term easy, but I just don't think it's sustainable. Is Madden personally going to oversee every detail of his empire as it expands forever? There has to be a limit somewhere, but I don't have any confidence he's going to recognize when he reaches it.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:47 pm

One thing NHBB does well is get establishment recognition and sponsorship. When NHBB first started out, it got some kind of endorsement from an association of history professors (some old fogey professor sat on its Board of Directors, I think) and had some kind of sponsorship deal with the History Channel. I have no clue if any of these deals are still in place. But it bought Dave Madden credibility with the outside world in the early stages of building his empire. Like, those of us in quizbowl, we know that the History Channel's approval is meaningless and that Matt Bollinger's (or better yet, Tommy's! more of a quizbowl theory purist!) approval is far more meaningful.

But a high school not plugged into the circuit will have heard of the History Channel and see that as meaningful, and won't know who the hell Tommy is. Dave probably sacrificed some of his (or our) ideals to get those endorsements/sponsorship deals, but in the long run it worked out for him. Hardcore ACF/PACE people are less willing to compromise on their ideals.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:01 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:But a high school not plugged into the circuit will have heard of the History Channel and see that as meaningful, and won't know who the hell Tommy is. Dave probably sacrificed some of his (or our) ideals to get those endorsements/sponsorship deals, but in the long run it worked out for him. Hardcore ACF/PACE people are less willing to compromise on their ideals.
I think the fact that NHBB is largely written by "good qb" people means that we don't really have to compromise our ideals to get sponsorships. I hope that doesn't change, and I hope that someone figures out how to bring some corporate money into QB.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Smith » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:50 pm

Just to add my 2 cents as a current competitor.
The "NHBB-to-quizbowl pipeline" really isn't as much of a thing as many people expected it to be. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an utter failure, as some might, as there are certainly high-profile crossovers who used NHBB as a launching pad into all-subject quizbowl success, such as Bethlehem Central and Saratoga, but they're relatively few and far between. Many of the good History Bowl teams that also moved into doing quizbowl seem to be led largely/only by a single star player, such that the team's quizbowl involvement folds when that player moves on.
I think my experiences prove this patently false. NHBB is definitely one of the primary reasons why the New England quizbowl circuit is at where it is today. Of the top 7 teams in New England (MA, NH, VT, CT, ME, RI) on the Morlan Rank (chosen as a rough but no means complete estimation of a team's skill), 6 of them began as purely NHBB teams (Lexington, AMSA, Hingham, Acton Boxborough, Bishop Guertin, Phillips Exeter). After attending some bowls, many of the teams transitioned to fully pyramidal, all subject quiz bowl, something that was rare in New England prior the founding of NHBB. While some of this growth may be attributed to standard quizbowl outreach, the introduction itself of multi-subject quizbowl to these teams is because of History Bowl.
The current Lexington quizbowl team itself owes its beginnings to the History Bowl club created that eventually grew to play quizbowl and even attend at qualify for playoffs at HSNCT. My own origin in the activity stems from a friend of mine (the notorious Devin Shang) suggesting that I come to History Bowl, which I agreed to do because I liked history and thought I would be good at it. If he had advertised quizbowl, I don't think I would have participated. In fact, my first year of membership in the club was marked by an active dislike of quizbowl, which I knew existed and wanted no part of (mostly because I dislike science). Eventually I began to play multi subject quizbowl, but I think my experiences (which are certainly echoed by teams around my region and many of the players on Lexington) show that History Bowl is in fact useful in introducing people to good quizbowl.
If a hypothetical kid like me saw that history bowl exited and joined such a club to play the activity, it wouldn't be hard for he/she to either be passively convinced to play quizbowl, even just as a history specialist. Therefore NHBB is pretty important for at least exposing potential recruits to the activity. Its reasonably likely that History Bowl attracts people who have a higher chance of enjoying quizbowl (history buffs generally like other humanities subjects and have the hunger for knowledge that quizbowl players have) and that people who play history bowl are much more likely to learn that quizbowl exists, it is fun, and then join the activity.
On the point of separate quizbowl and history bowl clubs, even though my signature might make it seem otherwise (just for the college app), our club is one and the same, and even our players who don't enjoy history or aren't history players in quizbowl still attend history bow tournaments.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:08 pm

Smith wrote:Just to add my 2 cents as a current competitor.
I think my experiences prove this patently false. NHBB is definitely one of the primary reasons why the New England quizbowl circuit is at where it is today. Of the top 7 teams in New England (MA, NH, VT, CT, ME, RI) on the Morlan Rank (chosen as a rough but no means complete estimation of a team's skill), 6 of them began as purely NHBB teams (Lexington, AMSA, Hingham, Acton Boxborough, Bishop Guertin, Phillips Exeter). After attending some bowls, many of the teams transitioned to fully pyramidal, all subject quiz bowl, something that was rare in New England prior the founding of NHBB. While some of this growth may be attributed to standard quizbowl outreach, the introduction itself of multi-subject quizbowl to these teams is because of History Bowl.
You're vastly overlooking the impact that people like Stephen Eltinge of MIT, Matt Jackson of Yale, Bob Pirrie at E. O. Smith, the various TDs at Harvard and so forth on New England quiz bowl. These people put a lot of work into recruiting teams, and New England quiz bowl has grown a lot in the past five years because of their work. History Bowl has had an impact as well, but proclaiming the state of the quiz bowl circuit in the region is entirely because of History Bowl is insulting to the various people who have put in lots of work to benefit the game.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:08 pm

Smith wrote:Just to add my 2 cents as a current competitor.
The "NHBB-to-quizbowl pipeline" really isn't as much of a thing as many people expected it to be. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an utter failure, as some might, as there are certainly high-profile crossovers who used NHBB as a launching pad into all-subject quizbowl success, such as Bethlehem Central and Saratoga, but they're relatively few and far between. Many of the good History Bowl teams that also moved into doing quizbowl seem to be led largely/only by a single star player, such that the team's quizbowl involvement folds when that player moves on.
I think my experiences prove this patently false. NHBB is definitely one of the primary reasons why the New England quizbowl circuit is at where it is today. Of the top 7 teams in New England (MA, NH, VT, CT, ME, RI) on the Morlan Rank (chosen as a rough but no means complete estimation of a team's skill), 6 of them began as purely NHBB teams (Lexington, AMSA, Hingham, Acton Boxborough, Bishop Guertin, Phillips Exeter). After attending some bowls, many of the teams transitioned to fully pyramidal, all subject quiz bowl, something that was rare in New England prior the founding of NHBB. While some of this growth may be attributed to standard quizbowl outreach, the introduction itself of multi-subject quizbowl to these teams is because of History Bowl.
While this is certainly true, I'd venture that a lot of people were working on the ground to provide the infrastructure for all-subject quizbowl in New England simultaneously, who should at least share some of the credit here. Among other factors, it seems to me that the expansion of Connecticut Invitational by Coach Robert Pirrie of E.O. Smith, the outreach that Stephen Eltinge and I did as undergrads in the summer of 2012 to all the schools we could find participating in televised quiz shows (WBGH High School Quiz Show, The Challenge, As Schools Match Wits), the installation of the MIT Fall Academic Tournament in September 2012, the reversal of fortunes of Yale's BHSAT, and continued email and in-person conversations with newer coaches and teams were a large part of the impetus for growth on the quizbowl side. If that doesn't feel true, or if the work we took on was largely useless compared to NHBB's concurrent efforts, it'd be good to know so I'm not giving unhelpful or useless advice to people who ask about outreach and circuit development.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by heterodyne » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:10 pm

Smith wrote: I think my experiences prove this patently false.
This is pretty obvious anecdotal evidence, and for History Bowl to have led to you (and several other schools in your specific region) into quizbowl doesn't disprove anyone's larger point, especially since I kind of doubt the idea that the constant qb outreach efforts had nothing to do with the expansion of qb in your area.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by t-bar » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:06 am

Smith wrote:While some of this growth may be attributed to standard quizbowl outreach, the introduction itself of multi-subject quizbowl to these teams is because of History Bowl.
I think you're conflating intra-school dynamics with the bigger picture here. At some schools the formation of the history bowl team may indeed have preceded the formation of the quizbowl team (though I'm not sure the narrative is as unilateral as you claim in all the cases you mention). Relatedly, at some schools--Lexington and Phillips Exeter are two that come to mind immediately--the team is largely or entirely student-run, and spillover from one activity to the other is as easy as an interested history bowl player googling "quizbowl" one afternoon. And it's probably not an accident that many prominent players in the region are primarily or notably history players, as I don't deny that NHBB is quite popular in New England.

However, in my experience, the pattern of history bowl players (or coaches) discovering quizbowl of their own accord is the exception, rather than the rule. With a few notable outliers, almost all of the teams in attendance at MIT's quizbowl tournaments have been recruited by locating the contact information of the High School Quiz Show coach, the principal, or another interested party, and inviting that person to bring a team to our tournaments. Sometimes, that person happened to also be the history bowl coach--but in most cases they would never have been aware of the world of quizbowl if we had not reached out to them and invited them first. This, I think, is an important lesson to take away. NHBB may churn out kids who are excited about buzzer-based competition and who might hypothetically be interested in quizbowl, but actually finding a way to reach those kids has by and large been left up to quizbowl outreach organizers.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Maury Island incident » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:23 am

I think it's important to distinguish "the top teams in New England" from "the New England circuit as a whole." Yes, it is true that 7 of the top 7 New England teams in the Morlan ranks have had significant NHBB experience, in most of those cases starting NHBB before quizbowl. 4 of those said 7 teams are entirely student-run in their good quizbowl/NHBB endeavors. Acton-Boxborough's faculty advisor is active only for High School Quiz Show, and Bishop Guertin's is active only in New Hampshire Auk-Bowl and their TV show. Phillips Exeter and us (Lexington) are for all intents and purposes completely student-run. Though AMSA, Hingham, and Darien are the only 3 of the 7 with strong coaching presences, AMSA also plays NHBB nearly independently, though under their school name, and Darien plays NHBB completely independently under a pseudonym.

Essentially, the top teams in New England are student-run, and can make their own decisions about what to play without much administrative pushback (though this comes with very limited administrative funding.) However, the top teams are not representative of the majority of the circuit. At the average New England quizbowl tournament, most teams do have coaches with them, outside of the top bracket. Brookline and Abby Kelley Foster, for example, have active coaches who staff most tournaments their teams attend, and notably do not play any NHBB. Though the finals at most New England tournaments, NHBB or quizbowl, tend to be Lexington vs. AMSA, with Hingham and Bishop Guertin finishing highly, there is a different middle class at NHBB tournaments. Everett, Quincy, North Quincy, etc. are NHBB-only teams who have not played any quizbowl. These teams also are faculty-led organizations.

The arrival of NHBB was not what caused the New England circuit to have its Big Bang moment, though it did attract some of its most notable teams of today to quizbowl. NHBB's arrival on the New England scene was timed fairly well with the birth of High School Quiz Show, which this year had 120 teams try out for it. Many schools with no kind of academic team before, now had one, making it much easier for New England quizbowl organizers to recruit teams, which they certainly did to great success. Contacting the High School Quiz Show coaches was a fairly effective method of bringing new teams into the quizbowl fold, and at all of the MA schools Duncan listed but us, the High School Quiz Show coaches are the faculty advisors for the quizbowl teams.

At Lexington, High School Quiz Show and History Bowl/Quiz Bowl are two separate clubs with different faculty advisors. We were initially an NHBB-only team and I officially added "Quiz Bowl" to the club name last year after we had been competing at it for two years. In addition, our High School Quiz Show club had a moratorium on NHBB/quizbowl members until a change in student and faculty leadership before last year. Though I think this is the optimal way to operate, we have had some issues with people thinking that quizbowl is High School Quiz Show and thinking they needed to try out to do it, or thinking that quizbowl is somehow less legitimate because it is not on television.

TL;DR When the New England circuit stratified, the student-run teams mostly rose to the top. However, those teams do not make up the majority of the circuit, and the faculty-run teams that do make up the majority of the circuit do not play NHBB, and are mostly a product of NE quizbowl organizers recruiting through High School Quiz Show. The student-run teams that top the standings at New England quizbowl tournaments do the same at New England NHBB events, though in both cases the middle classes of the circuit are different. Student-run teams, I believe, are simply more likely to play NHBB due to their lack of administrative baggage.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Smith » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:50 am

I'll retract some of my earlier statement. I probably overestimate the role that NHBB played in New England because of biases created by my own experiences. I by no means want to discredit the valuable and hard work of the aforementioned people. Outreach and Quiz Show probably play a bigger role than I attributed, yet it still remains true that NHBB has been pretty important up here in New England, which doesn't seem to be mirrored by the rest of the country. The success of Lexington (and hopefully more teams in New England) acts as a counter narrative to what I believe to be overly negative views of the success of NHBB in creating transitions to multi-subject quizbowl.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Strongside » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:42 pm

I wanted to expand on a couple of Matt's points.

Matt said:

"there are many areas of the country that haven't signed on very fully"

"Most areas where there's a decent amount of quizbowl have a decent amount of NHBB"

Minnesota (specifically the Minneapolis-St. Paul area) is the perfect example of a place where there are a lot of teams playing regular quiz bowl, but very few playing History Bowl.

Back in early April I directed a History Bowl tournament in Minnesota that only attracted only 4 teams. The players and teams seemed to enjoy the experience, but it was somewhat disappointing more teams did not attend.

One team was the host school, one was from Michigan, and the other two teams were from Rapid City, South Dakota (almost 600 miles away).

For some background, a tournament on an A set at the same school six weeks earlier drew 63 teams, and a trash tournament at a different Twin Cities high school five weeks earlier drew 48 teams.

I believe that Minnesota might have the most untapped potential when it comes to a specific area having a significant increase in the number of teams that play History Bowl.

The format of History Bowl is actually pretty similar to the local league which attracted over 100 teams in 2014-2015.

One thing I feel that might need emphasis is that NHBB is that 11 of the 26 tossups in the bowl, and 11 of the 30 tossups in the bee are part of the cultural history categories.

Outside of the one tossup on recent history, most if not all of these questions would not be classified as history questions in normal quiz bowl.

From reading this thread, it seems like a lot of people see History Bowl as a somewhat separate entity from quiz bowl.

I see it as normal quiz bowl, with a different distribution, format, etc. I think this is part of the reason it has not caught on in Minnesota.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by cchiego » Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:32 am

I also had high hopes for NHBB as a boon for quizbowl when it first emerged a few years ago. There was a lot of potential for a mutually beneficial outreach effort across the country to bring more quality academic competitions into more schools. But other than a few scattered success stories (which are overrepresented in the responses in this thread), it's been very disappointing to see what ended up happening on the outreach front (at least at the high school level, which is what I'm limiting my comments to here).

Besides the problem of demands on quality questions writers that's been covered in the posts above, I wanted to lay out how NHBB may actually be harming quizbowl outreach in some ways. In various areas around the country, NHBB tournaments have: been poorly run, run on rare and valuable test-free dates, failed to materialize, and/or had minuscule fields. These are all a net harm to outreach for quizbowl by taking up time and resources that could have easily been spent on quizbowl tournaments. What's really frustrating is that in at least some of these cases, basic common sense might have helped the tournaments run better and done more to involve the local quizbowl community in productive ways. Furthermore, as others pointed out earlier in this thread, quizbowlers engaged in a significant amount of cross-promotion and help for these NHBB tournaments and seemed to expect NHBB to reciprocate for quizbowl in ways that never really materialized. I would still love to have NHBB put more effort into growing more circuits rather than just burning through teams and it does seem like NHBB is lurching in that direction with its regional layout for next year, though I still have major doubts about logistical quality control and schedule coordination.

But these are problems that should be a concern for NHBB and not for quizbowl as a whole. If NHBB wants to do outreach presenting itself as a quizbowl-ish activity, it's perfectly within NHBB's perogative to do so. Quizbowlers need to make a distinction here--NHBB is a business and not some kind of pro-quizbowl non-profit. Right now NHBB is benefiting from many quizbowlers projecting their ideals and hopes for it onto it with people promoting NHBB, helping out NHBB, and writing for NHBB out of, in part, some of these ideals. This is misguided. It's clear that NHBB views members of the community not as a volunteers on a mutual cause, but rather as a source of independent contractors who can write more and more questions to benefit NHBB's bottom line. This may seem strange to us in quizbowl, but it's just how a business is run and that seems to be the perspective of NHBB. For instance, I don't think Dave realizes just how bizarre all of his international travel and focus on adding endless new competitions appears to some of us while circuit events in the states fail to materialize or run poorly, but it's his perogative as a businessman to choose where to invest his time and interest. This is disappointing and, I think, going to hurt NHBB in the long run as a business, but we are not his board of advisers and actions speak far louder than words here.

As part of that reality, we need to treat NHBB like any other business. If you consider $4 to be too low for your question-writing time, don't add an extra perceived $3-4 of "well, it's helping children in need get better questions!" in your cost-benefit calculations. When NHBB comes begging the community for 1,000 (!) questions in a couple of weeks, don't feel the need to bail out NHBB for the decisions it made in the past and its lack of communication with the community. When we hear that NHBB is adding another dozen or so events that it wants to write every year, let's let NHBB worry about where the questions are going to come from and in the meantime focus on writing our own events. Teams and coaches can decide if they think the NHBB is worth continuing to patronize with whatever questions NHBB can acquire and every individual writer can decide for him/herself if it's worth writing for NHBB under the terms agreed. But until there's a larger indication that NHBB is actually going to engage in cross-promoting quizbowl, let's drop the perceived "for the good of the game" arguments and not provide corporate welfare in the name of helping quizbowl.

There's still a great deal of potential in NHBB to be a force for good for quizbowl and it may end up doing so overall. I suspect that NHBB's quest for profits may also be responsible for some of its riskier and questionable decisions--like the international expansion efforts--that in some areas could end up paying off in the long run. There's a certain art to just throwing a bunch of things out there and seeing what sticks. But it's up to NHBB to figure out the funding, questions, and staffing supply for these enterprises and the community should respond to whatever incentives NHBB is offering, not out of some perceived obligation.
Chris C.
UGA '09, UCSD '12, UPenn '19
Greater Pennsylvania QuizBowl
http://gpqb.wordpress.com

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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Great Bustard » Mon Jun 22, 2015 4:53 pm

First off, I greatly appreciate the time and thought that everyone has put into this thread, especially Matt Jackson. As Matt mentioned, aside from taking the time to write the NHBB post, he also spent four hours discussing NHBB with me over dinner last month. Combined with his leadership (along with that of Eric Mukherjee) in helping to oversee our High School Nationals set along with the A Set Blitz, Matt has been steadfast in his interest to see NHBB succeed and be an integral part of the community. For that, he has my deepest thanks.

While typically I am very quick to respond to NHBB-related posts, the community will have noted that I have taken my time to respond here. Part of that is due to wanting to see the discussion run its course and let everyone have their say before I jump in and comment from NHBB’s side; part of that is also a reflection that I am extremely busy these days in making preparations for the Olympiad. I may or may not respond to further posts here; I simply do not have the time at present to get involved in an extended discussion about all things NHBB. At the same time, there’s a lot here that I do need to respond to, which I will do so in order of the posts that were made.

On Matt’s original post:

1. I agree that from the outset, there was an implicit compact of sorts. However, as Matt implies, the compact was implicit – which means that different people may have read different things into it at different times with all sorts of assumptions that may not have been entirely realistic. I think that it was obvious that I was interested in a constructive relationship with the community from the outset, as repeated attempts to improve our questions, cut ties with Questions Unlimited, and incorporate good advice showed. For what it’s worth, I don’t disagree with any of the 5 points Matt raises as what the compact consisted of.

2. Calling the way things have turned out “checkered at best” is something I take real issue with though. If we’ve run into issues with question production in the wake of Weinergate, we were far from the only ones, and no one saw that coming. The consequences of this have been addressed elsewhere, and there’s no reason to need to do so again here, other than to emphasize that those who did help us with the Blitz, our Nationals sets, and now the Olympiad, are getting compensated at rates far higher than what anybody could have anticipated for writing comparable questions just a few years ago. I’m not denying NHBB’s dependence on the community here, but this process is far more symbiotic to the writers than I think has been addressed. And at the same time, we were able to pull off the Blitz, the Nationals, and are in the process of pulling off the Olympiad sets, and from July 23 on, we will have a much easier time of question production in general (Brad will have more info on that later). I also don’t see why it’s at all an issue we have “thuh-ree” regional question sets. Each of the three question sets was played by over 70 teams this year within a 50 mile radius of New York City, by over 30 teams in South Florida, and by at least 12 teams in the DC Area, Northern California, Greater Boston, Northern Georgia, and the Pacific Northwest. There’s very clear demand for 3 regionals sets here. NHBB will be making many strides to encourage new writers to write (by conducting a question writing clinic at the Olympiad among other things), but even this year, under the most challenging of circumstances, we have been able to fulfill all of our writing commitments, and have given dozens of writers worthwhile part-time jobs in the process which no doubt they have then used to help attend tournaments themselves. I really don’t see this as a major problem, and to the extent there is a problem, it’s one that will be fixed certainly in time for 2015-16. In any case, it’s not even remotely close to being “utterly unmanageable”.

3. To correct an inaccuracy, Ladue played NHBB every single year from 2011-2014, at the regional level, and in 2014, Ben Zhang both staffed the National History Bowl and competed in the National History Bee. Both he and Max Schindler have also directed NHBB tournaments since they graduated, and we thank them for that. Certainly we would have welcomed Ladue teams at Nationals, but saying that Ladue was inactive in NHBB is simply not true. In fact, the overwhelming majority of teams in the top 25 in Fred’s rankings this year played NHBB. Clearly, they enjoy playing NHBB events, which as Matt states, use good quizbowl questions, and should be construed as part of the community. I really object to the notion that somehow that just because NHBB events are history-focused or use a different format or whatever, that they should be seen as in competition with quiz bowl. I agree with Brendan Byrne in his assessment of NHBB as quiz bowl. I know at some level this is a semantic argument, but too much is being made here, particularly by people who are not themselves affiliated with any high school team, of the notion that NHBB is somehow in competition with quiz bowl. It’s a part of the game, enough said. We’re not interested in increasing from 3 regional sets at any time in the foreseeable future, and if there are roughly 30 tournaments a team can (given logistical constraints) play in any year, only 4 of those (not including the Olympiad and the USHB/USGO regional sets which are largely played by NHBB only teams) are NHBB. That’s hardly flooding the schedule. Beyond that, there are very few regions where the schedule is anywhere close to being maxed out, and in some of those (like Greater NYC) there are a number of options to play the various NHBB sets, so if they conflict with another quiz bowl event, it’s usually not that big a deal since teams can schedule accordingly.

4. On the matter of Questions Unlimited, there’s not much more to be said here other than that the attitude that people like Maggie Larkin and Will Mantell (who notably only ever played QU, and never assisted Chip in any staffing role) have “to make up for their past affiliation” is one that is totally counterproductive and makes the community seem hostile to those who still play QU and who we should be welcoming and not shaming.

5. On the matter of NHBB doing outreach “to bring many new teams into its events” since Day 1, I have driven well over 200,000 miles, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, run over 30 tournaments on all-nighters, and worked an uncountable number of 100 hour weeks, all with the goal of increasing NHBB participation at quality events. Sure, in areas I would have loved to have seen it happen more, but I think the optimistic projections some people had were rather unrealistic.

I also think that it’s unfair to dismiss regions with 4-8 teams at events. Sure, it would be more enjoyable for all if these were better attended, but in many cases, there’s very little to work with. And in many of these regions (Upper Hudson, Western New York, Hawaii, Kansas, and Colorado all come to mind immediately – there are others), the percentage of qualified teams from these events who go on to Nationals is over 50%! Many other regions that are now drawing consistently 12+ teams on multiple sets also started small. In other regions, we’ll increase our outreach efforts next year, or in years to come. But saying these aren’t successes or getting a sinking feeling is entirely unwarranted – very few, if any, of those 4-8 team events are ones that in retrospect shouldn’t have happened.

As for the expansion from teams in remote regions into all-subject quiz bowl, we’ve always encouraged that, but at the same time, thinking that NHBB was going to do the heavy lifting for all-subject quiz bowl outreach when we’re already lifting copious weights in nearly every state and over 20 countries for our own events was unrealistic (especially as many of the new NHBB teams are coached by history teachers who have no interest in coaching an activity that would eat up more than 2-4 weekends a year). We will always support the transition of teams to all-subject quiz bowl and the growth of all-subject quiz bowl (cf. the National Quiz Bowl Awards, links on our website, announcements at our tournaments, my logistical support of Ridgewood’s team, etc.) but beyond this and our initial outreach efforts directed for NHBB, it’s up to the community to reach out to us to help facilitate the continued transition into all-subject quiz bowl. As Matt mentions later in his post, NHBB will always be first concerned about attracting teams to NHBB events (and there really is nothing wrong with that).

6. Matt’s characterization of the international efforts, though, is wildly inaccurate. First off, I am not going to get into the financial side of things too much here, but it’s enough for the US community to know that the international tournaments are themselves more than sustainable on their own, have had meteoric growth in Asia, steady growth in Europe, launched in Australia and New Zealand just this year (so it’s way too soon to pass judgment there) and provided 17 teams with the first-ever good quiz bowl Nationals on Canadian soil for Canadian teams in year 1 of IHBB Canada. How is this a dud?! And the international division provides the justification for the Olympiad, which itself is attracting 100 students in year 1 too. Moreover, there are now 2 people beyond myself working full time on IHBB (my wife Nolwenn and a new hire, Robert Byrne, who is based in Thailand), so IHBB will continue to grow for decades to come and not be a drain on NHBB while doing so. And in conclusion on this, I have a major league problem with Matt’s notion that somehow the events in the US aren’t “actually functional”. Each year, the quality of our events has improved (particularly as we’ve been able to hire more and better staff for events, even if it means flying them in). Across the world this year, NHBB/IHBB ran over 200 events. I was only unhappy with the way two of them went – in Southern New Jersey, we asked too much of a novice director (who did as good a job he could have been expected to do on a day when our other area directors were all busy), and in Vancouver (which still allowed a student to qualify for Canadian Nationals which he then flew to in Ottawa the following weekend!). I have no idea what the success rate is for tournaments in all-subject quiz bowl, but I doubt it’s 99%. Note that I’m not saying that there weren’t things that couldn’t have been improved on elsewhere, but insinuating, as a number of posters are, that NHBB events are not well-run, by and large, is patently false. And for what it’s worth, with more trained staff and resources at our disposal for next year, I fully expect the quality of our events to continue to improve.

7. The other major issue I have with Matt’s post is his description of us having “hella money”. Now granted, I don’t doubt that NHBB is far better capitalized at this point than some other organizations within the community. But from Day 1, every dollar that comes in has gone right back out to growing and improving our tournaments. Whether that is outreach, website development, spending for Nationals, flying experienced directors in to launch new circuits, paying writers good rates or whatever, we’re investing in the future of NHBB as much as is possible. But somehow thinking that NHBB is made of money or that that alone is why we’ve had what success we’ve had is ludicrous as well. At the risk of oversharing, all that the community needs to know here is that we’re sustainable, growing, and improving our operations each year, and that’s all that matters.

8. Saying that I often dismiss criticism with a knee-jerk reflex is not true, though I may have strong disagreements with many people who have posted about NHBB. I only do that on very rare occasions, like the post Matt linked to – the notion that we should ax the US History Bee is indeed a ludicrous one that should be dismissed out of hand.

9. In terms of oversharing, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place here. Some might consider the length of this post oversharing. Fine. But if the attitude of some in the community is to think NHBB is “unraveling at the edges”, or insinuating that our tournaments aren’t “actually functional”, then I will usually go the route of explaining as much as I can to instill whatever confidence in our operations is needed. If people didn’t make as many inaccurate characterizations of our operations, this wouldn’t be needed.

10. In terms of my being unreachable, with very few exceptions, I am very quick to respond to emails, including almost all that are time-sensitive / on pressing matters. Matt, while I appreciate your taking the time to talk, had talking from midnight to 3am been a major inconvenience for you, I easily enough could have rescheduled that either earlier that night or later the next day. For what it’s worth, that won’t be the case next time something happens on the question front, since Brad Fischer and I will handle that (and we’ve been chatting frequently while I’ve been in Asia these past 2 weeks without major issues).

11. In terms of unreasonable expectations, the cookie baking stuff was ages ago, and that was totally optional and there as a way for Ridgewood to help fund their Nationals trip. There wasn’t anything bad about that. As for question writers, most of that stems from Weinergate, and we’ve gone over that already. I do not see this as a major issue.

12. As for delegating, yes, this is a constant challenge, but this is not easy for anyone to do, and I am trying in numerous ways to do more of this. At the same time, the fact that I do final editing on all NHBB’s sets for quality control (and have done so since day 1) should show up the canard that I “don’t care about question quality”. And for what it’s worth, with the example of the parent you cite, I had tried to delegate that to the protest committee and others, but they called me in. The parent in question argued in my presence for all of 30 seconds, not minutes, until I had ascertained what the issue was to my satisfaction, concluded that this was senseless, and instructed Will Mantell to give the OK to the next rounds to begin.

13. On the matter of burning bridges, here again, the opinion that’s referenced has little basis in fact. I would welcome anyone’s help, as long as they bring a respectful attitude and do not have a reputation for flaking out on commitments. At the same time, we’re reaching out, as you mention, both within and beyond the community and finding willing partners at all levels all over the world. We’re hardly hurting here, and with each passing year, it’s been easier to find nationals staff, writers, directors, and other people eager to help, often for good compensation, too.

14. Where is this notion coming from that we have no gratitude? We have awards for coaches of the year and outstanding service to NHBB; good compensation; numerous thank yous on our Facebook page, website, in emails, and on the forums; opportunities for people interested in helping us out to travel the USA and the world; expenses of well over $500 for the NASAT banquet which many community leaders benefit from; and much more? If people really think this, I’m not sure the problem at all lies with NHBB. Yes, I get that there have been significant question writing needs with Weiner flaking out. But those people have been thanked repeatedly, compensated well, and told explicitly that we’re not looking for people to be writing solely from a sense of obligation while maintaining the right to be annoyed with us for giving them a job.

15. As for NHBB being “parasitic” again, I just don’t follow. I do think that we need to do more in the way of finding our own writers (though we’ve barely had time to do so since Weiner left), and that it makes sense for writers to primarily affiliate with one major organization. But again, basing this solely off of the consequences of Weiner leaving isn’t an accurate depiction of the state of affairs, particularly when I’ve shown very clearly in hiring Brad (while at the same time making it clear that he is not expected to do all or even most of the writing himself) that we’re moving in the right direction. Also, I’ve just agreed for a major effort to be made in terms of constructing an NHBB question submission and maintenance database that will suit our needs in time for the 2015-16 to begin. That will further make these easier on writers, editors, and the whole question production process.

16. The notion that question quality only matters for the top 32 teams at Nationals is ridiculous and disrespectful. In terms of differentiating, maybe. I have no doubt that Saratoga would beat almost anyone on bad history questions with hoses, cliffs, and whatever other dross were there. But I guarantee you that the other 214 teams at our Nationals appreciate good questions too. There’s more to a National Championship than just determining the National Champion, which realistically, only about 10 of the teams at NHBB, HSNCT, or NSC had any shot at. Again, people who think these things should stop and think for a moment if they are being fair. I have been fiercely committed to question quality since Day 1 and always will be.

17. In rereading Matt’s post, at times it’s been hard for me to tell how much of this is Matt’s personal opinion, and how much Matt is simply trying to convey opinions that may be widespread within the community, however inaccurate they may be. I will say in closing to Matt’s post that I agree with him 100% on both his advice to NHBB and to the community in regards to us. I think there’s a lot there for everyone to come to a consensus on. For what it’s worth, on the matter of encouraging high school players to take a more proactive role, beyond simply question writing, we’re going to be moving to a new Regional Coordination system next year. I myself will only be responsible for coordinating New Jersey, Hawaii, and Guam. NHBB veterans Niki Peters and Eric Xu will take on the Northwest and the WV/VA/KY/NC areas respectively. More later on how this will work in practice, but this will lead to a far more sustainable and logistically smoother approach to Tournament Coordination. I will be devoting much of my August to launching this system in practice. As for the administrative assistant, the funds aren’t there for that just yet (we don’t have hella money for secretaries…) but hopefully within a few years we may be able to go that route, at least on a part time basis. For now, beginning in August, many of the emails that come to me will get forwarded immediately to the respective Regional Coordinator.

On Ben’s post

1. The tournament in question ended on time, and even by Missy Doll, often one of my toughest critics, was a success. There’s nothing impossible in what we’re doing, and the fact that even internationally, where we are basically building circuits entirely from scratch without any previously trained staff, is testament to that. I recognize that the notion of untrained readers reading slowly is not ideal and that’s not how most college players would ever want to play. But literally thousands of people vote with their repeated registrations that this approach is better than no NHBB/IHBB at all, which is the only other option: in many regions, there just are no community people to call on even if we wanted to. The “all teams must bring a moderator” approach is highly successful in practice (and the only way we can make regionals work at all) and to the extent we can supplement that by bringing in trained readers like yourself, we will gladly do so.

2. Are you honestly suggesting here in saying NATIONAL twice that we shouldn’t hold regionals? To put it mildly, there are tens of thousands of people who would take issue with that.

3. As for the Olympiad, you do realize that having the Olympiad helps make all of our operations sustainable right? For those who think it’s expensive, yes, compared with many other competitions of course it is. But in comparison to many summer sport camps or other enrichment activities, it’s comparably priced and a way for students to excel on an international stage. Remember, this is year one: the event will certainly grow in size, prestige, exclusivity, and program options in subsequent years. Finally, just a point here: if you are interested in competing in the Olympiad and can write just one question a day over the coming year, you will cover your entry fees, and become a much better player in the process. And that is well within the range of almost anyone who is capable of qualifying for the Olympiad.

On Aidan’s post

1. Aidan, in the year 2015 (not 2010), which quiz bowl skills necessary for running NHBB do I lack? Yes, there was a learning curve for me at the start – hence my eagerness to work with HSAPQ, other experienced directors, and listen to advice from all corners, including you. But today? I’ll admit, gladly, that there are many people in the community more qualified than I am to do specific skills. But I take issue with your characterization that somehow I lack the skills needed to oversee NHBB and that it’s just a matter of throwing money at people who do have skills. And to the extent I do hire competent people, isn’t that what you yourself are saying I should do more of? You seem to be arguing two sides of the same coin here.

2. As Matt J. mentions, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a top-down model. And there are many, many aspects of things that run on a day to day basis without my direct oversight – the burgeoning Middle and Elementary School Bee which is almost entirely run by Eric Huff and Nick Clusserath, being just the most obvious of these. Nolwenn handles 80-90% of the international work. Bunnie will handle almost all of the middle school Bowl work in the coming year, and the Regional Coordinators will handle much of the high school side of things. So, to a large extent, I think we’re moving in exactly the direction you’re suggesting.

For what it’s worth, in ten years, I’d prefer to solely be in a “Chairman of the Board” role as opposed to a “Chief Executive Officer” role. I love NHBB and envision having a role in its general direction for the rest of my life. But ultimately, I do not foresee myself working even 20, let alone 80+ hours a week for it, and numerous decisions I make in the coming years will help us get to that point. At the same time, my ultimate goal for NHBB/IHBB is for it to be played in a majority of the world’s schools, and I truly believe that can happen too. Thus I’ll do what it takes to make sure we are able to grow sustainably for decades to come.

On Andrew’s post

1. I don’t necessarily think that inherently it’s more likely for quiz bowl players to play history bowl than the other way around, aside from the fact that more quiz bowl coaches seem to be interested in history bowl than history teachers who are now coaching NHBB teams are interested in crossing over into quizbowl.
But there’s a flip side to this argument, which is that precisely because of this specific nature (and because of NHBB/IHBB’s commitment to outreach from here to Sri Lanka), it’s easier for us to bring in new teams. The process of crossover is going to take a long time, but as long as the community puts in a bit of an effort, we’ll help that process along.

2. Do you have any empirical evidence that the writing payments don’t go back into the quiz bowl economy when the overwhelming number of writers for NHBB at present are in fact quiz bowl players?

On Eric W’s post
1. Just to clarify, it is permitted to register the teams for NHBB Nationals and then go back and submit the individual registrations at a later date (or have those individuals do that on their own), if that helps.

On Joe N.'s post

1. I’d be the first to say that Greg Bossick and Matt Weiner aren’t hiring decisions I look back with fondness on. But Joe Brosch aside and that was years ago (who I don’t think ever did much other than staff a few events; I don’t believe he ever directed once for us – and obviously was also writing for NAQT), who else has been so problematic? Or more helpfully, who, in your opinion, who is currently working for NHBB in any capacity is unqualified to be doing so? Feel free to email me here – if you think certain people haven’t been doing a good job, I’d like to know that. But by and large, everyone who helped out – sans Weiner – in a major capacity for NHBB/IHBB this year, was someone whom I believe and still believe was qualified to do so.
In a related vein, in many instances, I had a relatively small pool of interested people in various jobs, and an even smaller pool of interested people who were qualified to do those jobs. Thankfully, though, this problem is getting far less of an issue with each passing year.

On Ryan’s post

1. True, but I made a final editing pass on all of that set, and was happy with the way that set turned out. Both you and Sam were knowledgeable players and your questions were by and large fine.

On Joe S.’s post

1. Having Canada staffers staff our Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa events isn’t “bailing me out” any more than hiring anyone to do any job is bailing someone out. People seemed very eager to help, which we’re grateful for, but this didn’t seem like it was putting a strain on anyone. As for sending paperwork along, sometimes that’s just easier – in any case, it worked out in the case you referenced. As for next year’s Nationals, I would be happy to delegate someone but for this first year, by necessity, things largely needed to run through me and/or Nolwenn.

On Aidan’s second post

1. Right, it is easy to contact me unlike what Matt was saying. For now, that has been the case of necessity; eventually, there will be more people who serve as intermediaries (beginning with the Regional Coordinators), which will make my life easier. At the same time, I’m still happy to respond as soon as I can to help students, coaches, and other people out if I’m able to. This will change over time to the point where I’ll be more behind the scenes, but for now, things are fine on this front – there’s no real problem here.

On Eric M’s post

1. I agree – sponsorships and good quiz bowl are not mutually exclusive. We’re continuing to pursue various agreements here where it makes sense to do so.

On Brendan’s post

1. We’ll be working on Minnesota as a specific outreach target area for this coming year.

On Chris’s post

1. Your points about how NHBB is harming quizbowl outreach blows things way out of proportion, particularly on where we are now, which is an important distinction to make. You’re making the point here that NHBB is not quiz bowl, which I’ve already stated I disagree with from an ontological standpoint. If you consider NHBB to be quiz bowl (since virtually any NHBB question could come up in an all-subject tournament and its questions are well-written) then is having 90+ more NHBB tournaments around the USA really a bad thing for quiz bowl players? Almost all events were run well last year, and we’ll continue making logistical improvements where needed. I haven’t heard from any quiz bowl coach that NHBB is hogging dates – again, we have a max of 3 events in a region in a given year – there’s plenty of room. As for the relationship between NHBB and its writers, how is that different from NAQT? Why is this a problem for anyone? At the same time, I agree that people should be writing questions primarily because they a) like doing it b) view it as a way to improve c) need the money far more than d) out of a sense of obligation which gives them the right to complain about feeling overworked.

2. On the specific matter of some events not running that get scheduled, I’ll admit that these are frustrating for us, but in many instances, again, it’s hard to predict where we’ll get demand. If there’s no demand, there’s not much harm in having tried, especially from the point of the host school, who in many of these cases wants to host. If there’s even low demand (even just 4 teams) we can often run an event that would be better than no event at all. As our capacity grows, we’ll continue to do outreach and make this work in more regions. As a final point, we actually had fewer regional events this year than last - 92 compared to 94 – at the high school level in the US. But overall, far more teams attended, and at Nationals, we went from 216 to 246. That’s both sustainable, and for an organization still in it’s 5th year, not too bad, I think.
David Madden
Ridgewood (NJ) '99, Princeton '03
Founder and Director: International History Bee and Bowl, National History Bee and Bowl (High School Division), International History Olympiad, United States Geography Olympiad, US History Bee, US Academic Bee and Bowl, National Humanities Bee, National Science Bee, International Academic Bowl.
Adviser and former head coach for Team USA at the International Geography Olympiad

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Everything in the Whole Wide World
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Mon Jun 22, 2015 7:54 pm

Great Bustard wrote: 2. Are you honestly suggesting here in saying NATIONAL twice that we shouldn’t hold regionals? To put it mildly, there are tens of thousands of people who would take issue with that.
To clarify, regionals feed into the Bee and Bowl, thus are part of completing the mission of a National Bee and Bowl, either domestically or internationally. Running regionals of those events seems logical and reasonable. My concerns pertain to USGO, the history exams, the Olympiad, the entertainment bee, etc, etc.
Ben Herman
Henderson High School (2007-2011) [West Chester, PA]
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Penn State University (2015-Present)
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Victor Prieto » Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:52 pm

I’d like to address a couple of points that I think warrant further examination, and I’m going to exclusively draw on my own experiences rather than relate other people’s experiences.

In point 6:
Great Bustard wrote:And in conclusion on this, I have a major league problem with Matt’s notion that somehow the events in the US aren’t “actually functional”. Each year, the quality of our events has improved (particularly as we’ve been able to hire more and better staff for events, even if it means flying them in)…
In February, Rice ran the first NHBB regional event ever in Houston, with six teams in attendance. It went just fine, although it probably helped that there was a very handleable number of teams present, and that I have a lot of directing experience. Preparing for the changed format and all the rules took some time, but we just basically ran scrimmages in practice on an old NHBB regional set (both bee and bowl) and made out just fine. Explaining the format to teams in attendance was also pretty straightforward, because I just simply read the rules, took a couple notes for the opening meeting, and asked teams ahead of time to read the rules (they had never played NHBB before).

However, running the regional was still the most troubling event I’ve directed in four years. First, the registration process was kind of annoying, it really doesn’t make any sense why teams don’t just register directly with the host. Having it related second-hand to me in real-time in the days preceding the tournament was kind of weird. Second, the process to report stats is really, really annoying. I don't know how to improve the process, but it took me a long time to input a pretty small number of games into the spreadsheet properly. Third, I was shocked to learn after the tournament that every team’s entire registration fee goes to NHBB, even the $50 penalty for teams who didn’t bring staffers with them (which is obviously a burden on the host). We were compensated with a fee for directing the tournament, but the money we got from it was really not very much compared to the total income. I mistakenly assumed that the hosts automatically get a large portion of the registration fees, which is the case for both NAQT and ACF hosts, and pretty much every single other quizbowl tournament out there. The proportions of the split were much more heavily shifted towards NHBB compared to other tournaments Rice had hosted (usually at least half going to the host). I’m sorry to say this, but frankly, I really don’t think it was worth my time to run the event. Unlike my future Penn State compatriot Ben, I think running Regionals all over the country (even with new to buzzer teams) is feasible, but it’s adequate compensation (financial and outreach wise) that I have a problem with. The Rice club will have to make their own decision next year whether its worth their time, but in the future, I think my time will be better devoted to other things.

In point 8:
Great Bustard wrote:The notion that we should ax the US History Bee is indeed a ludicrous one that should be dismissed out of hand.
This doesn’t seem to me a ludicrous notion that should be dismissed out of hand. To me, there’s actually a very good case for excluding USHB in future years. First and foremost, it’s entirely redundant with the regular bee, unlike the USGO. Second, every event added to NHBB weekend downgrades the prestige of the main event(s). In another thread, you called each event "legimate National Championships." From my perspective: History Bowl is the team national championship, History Bee is the individual national championship, USGO is the geography championship, and US History Bee is…? If you’re telling me it’s the individual national championship in a subset of one of the other national championships, see point one. Third, although the charge has been levelled at bad quizbowl nationals that they don’t provide enough guaranteed matches, I think there is merit to not packing in an insane amount of competition for three days straight.

In point 13:
Great Bustard wrote: On the matter of burning bridges, here again, the opinion that’s referenced has little basis in fact…
You’re not really addressing Matt’s point here, just dismissed it as not being based in fact. Matt said that a number of people in the quizbowl community worked for/interacted with NHBB, had a negative experience, and decided not to repeat the experience, and that if that’s true, this is a very bad situation for NHBB to be in. Matt specifically named Greg Bossick, HSAPQ, Matt Weiner, Sean Phillips, and Cody Voight as people who would never work with NHBB again. In case 2, I was in HSAPQ at the time, and I think there was just a general sentiment that the myriad sets were a drag to write, at least among that group of writers. In cases 1 and 3, sure, those people kind of screwed you over by jumping ship very suddenly, but to say that there was nothing you could have done to prevent those people from flaking out would be presumptuous. I have no idea what happened with Sean and Cody, so I can’t speak about that. In your response, you say that NHBB is finding good people. You don’t speak to if you’ve changed any of your policies to try and change this phenomenon that Matt describes, and instead, immediately dismiss it as having "little basis in fact."

Finally, I want to talk about the last point of Ben’s post (the first one, not the second one).
Beatlefan11 wrote: Unless NHBB gets a serious focused mission with realistic goals, and then executes that mission, I don't see how it can sustain productive growth.
I agree that that NHBB has unrealistic goals right now, but I disagree with the productive growth thing. They’re going to continue to grow at the ridiculous, breakneck, foolhardy speed they are doing now. I think that NHBB runs a serious risk of suffering regular disasters with how thinly it is stretched (either at regionals or at nationals), and that could ruin their reputation (either at regionals or at nationals). But, they’re a business, so if they want to use rapid methods that carry a lot of risk, that’s their prerogative. I just don’t want it to hurt other outreach efforts.

Also,
Great Bustard wrote:8. Saying that I often dismiss criticism with a knee-jerk reflex is not true
You, uh, kind of just dismissed that piece of criticism in a, uh, certain type of way.

EDIT: added links to both NAQT and ACF hosting guidelines.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:38 pm

Victor Prieto wrote: However, running the regional was still the most troubling event I’ve directed in four years. First, the registration process was kind of annoying, it really doesn’t make any sense why teams don’t just register directly with the host. Having it related second-hand to me in real-time in the days preceding the tournament was kind of weird. Second, the process to report stats is really, really annoying. I don't know how to improve the process, but it took me a long time to input a pretty small number of games into the spreadsheet properly. Third, I was shocked to learn after the tournament that every team’s entire registration fee goes to NHBB, even the $50 penalty for teams who didn’t bring staffers with them (which is obviously a burden on the host). We were compensated with a fee for directing the tournament, but the money we got from it was really not very much compared to the total income. I mistakenly assumed that the hosts automatically get a large portion of the registration fees, which is the case for both NAQT and ACF hosts, and pretty much every single other quizbowl tournament out there. The proportions of the split were much more heavily shifted towards NHBB compared to other tournaments Rice had hosted (usually at least half going to the host). I’m sorry to say this, but frankly, I really don’t think it was worth my time to run the event. Unlike my future Penn State compatriot Ben, I think running Regionals all over the country (even with new to buzzer teams) is feasible, but it’s adequate compensation (financial and outreach wise) that I have a problem with. The Rice club will have to make their own decision next year whether its worth their time, but in the future, I think my time will be better devoted to other things.
It should be noted that Rice was one of maybe two or three out of the 90 or so tournaments we had last year that was not a school that was also playing with up to six teams in the bowl for free.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:54 pm

Great Bustard wrote: 8. Saying that I often dismiss criticism with a knee-jerk reflex is not true
lol
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by fett0001 » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:55 pm

Angry Babies in Love wrote:
It should be noted that Rice was one of maybe two or three out of the 90 or so tournaments we had last year that was not a school that was also playing with up to six teams in the bowl for free.
I think that you'd have better run events if you paid more and did not encourage host schools to field 6 teams.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:59 pm

fett0001 wrote:
Angry Babies in Love wrote:
It should be noted that Rice was one of maybe two or three out of the 90 or so tournaments we had last year that was not a school that was also playing with up to six teams in the bowl for free.
I think that you'd have better run events if you paid more and did not encourage host schools to field 6 teams.
Indeed, wouldn't it be nice to have an abundant supply of good student moderators, the way that other quizbowl events do? On the premise you advocate they are almost the same activity, I'm confused as to why the staff situation is handled so differently and contrary to accepted quizbowl logic. If there was just one regional event per circuit I would see why some kids would want to play but with a choice of dates, this is a little less necessary.
Last edited by Everything in the Whole Wide World on Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:15 am

Let me be the first to say I really appreciate the time you've taken, David, to address the many concerns and thoughts people have brought up here. Like David, I am going to make this one last post and then I'll have to more or less leave this thread alone for time-management reasons. Hopefully this post will be maximally clear.

How much of my first post was me?

I think it's most important for me to answer the 17th point Madden asked me, which is roughly "How much of what I reported is me and how much is other people?" To start with, everything in the "My view" section is the most succinct expression of the parts of my view that I think are relatively unique to me, in that I think I'm much more positive about the NHBB enterprise than the other established quizbowl personalities who have posted in this thread. It's also true that I would be dishonest if I said I weren't seriously concerned about the state of NHBB right now -- both that it seems to have taken on far more than it can realistically sustain, and that its relationship with quizbowl seems pretty strained. Surrounding that, I think every other large section except for the "Frustrations" section represents the way I actually see things and not an attempt to report secondhand; within the "Frustrations" section, I think I've felt all of those frustrations except for the last one, which is not something I personally believe at all. Of course, as stated elsewhere, my frustrations with NHBB have done far less to dampen my overall attitude towards the activity than similar frustrations have for others.

It also seems clear to me that Dave Madden is a true believer in the power of academic competition to change lives for the better -- there are a million things you could be doing instead if you weren't, which would be much easier and just as lucrative. I don't know as much about the rest of NHBB staff, but I definitely believe that of Eric Huff and Nick Clusserath as well, and wouldn't malign any of those people for "only caring about money" or anything similarly incorrect.

Errors/apologies

I apologize for the inaccurate statements I made about Ladue's participation in NHBB events and about the cookies. My view of NHBB's finances is not complete and the amount that I'm able to know isn't the full picture; my characterization of NHBB as having "hella money" was more or less entirely comparative to the baseline that other quizbowl organizations are used to working with, and was not meant to imply that NHBB hoards or mismanages the financial assets it does have at its disposal.

Delegation / a lot of stuff being in Madden's personal hands

I am glad to see that the plans for both the immediate and long-term future of NHBB involve more delegation and concentration of specific duties in specific hands. That is an important part of the picture of ensuring that the whole apparatus runs smoothly.

It seems to me that the Regional Coordinator model is a more sound one than has existed in the past, and has promise to help with addressing a lot of the problems that had previously existed (with delegation, with finding TDs, with scheduling local events given the hodgepodge of local academic competition schedules, etc.) I hope it works well.

Local logistics

I haven't attended an NHBB regional event since the one I co-directed in 2012. As such, I can't speak to the logistical experiences others have seen at regional tournaments (or the expectations they had going in about efficiency, or NHBB's internal expectations about same) before or since then. As such, I leave it to others to continue discussing that topic as they see fit, since I have nothing to share.

I am curious what NHBB's standards for a well-run round in each of its game formats is, with answers given in units of minutes of time, and how long it expects a weekend meet to last from start to end. Without a better understanding of what "run well" means from NHBB's perspective, and whether circuit people mean the same thing when they say "run well", I think the whole local-logistics discussion is missing a lot of valuable information. It may well be that you guys are talking past each other.

International stuff

I'm very excited to hear that IHBB has a new hire based in Asia to handle international stuff, where 30-40 teams are playing the championships. I wish Robert the best of luck.

To be a bit more succinct about my overall attitude re: international stuff: I think there's a relatively common perception in the States that efforts spent on expanding things internationally are in more or less direct tradeoff with efforts to make events in the United States as well-run or well-attended as they can be. This is more or less a corollary of the observation that any person's time and attention span is finite. If that turns out to be wrong in the long run, and History Bowl does manage to take off both internationally and domestically, that's great. But I have a hard time believing that time spent on expensive multi-hour flights, taking international visits to dozens of schools, etc. doesn't have some effect, at least right now, elsewhere in the NHBB ecosystem.

I don't really know what "sustainable" means in the way that Dave is using it in this thread. If it's just "more teams each year than the year before, with enough staff to handle each increase as it happens," I think that's an incomplete understanding of what it takes to sustain things. But again, it seems like the goal is to move in the right direction, so we'll just have to see.


Question quality

I'm very glad to hear that a much larger-than-anticipated swath of the teams in attendance at NHBB Nationals cares about question quality. I'm very glad to hear that good question-writing principles have seeped in as the norm among teams that play NHBB, and that teams of all skill levels (which might be good picks for introduction to the wider world of all-subject quizbowl!) have already internalized strong standards for what kinds of questions they find rewarding. That's a pleasant surprise for me. And even if there were zero overlap between people who played quizbowl and people who played NHBB (which is not the truth at present), I'd (again) be happy that our community has managed to impart the experience of playing good questions to lots of people who otherwise wouldn't have it.

I wish the best of luck to Brad and the rest of the 2015-16 writing team, which I trust will try its utmost to uphold the question quality that NHBB has had thus far. I suspect that they'll be developing internal quality, difficulty, and style guidelines which they can retain from year to year to make it easier. I once again suspect that drawing on top players as they graduate (who are the most likely to have internalized what NHBB questions look like and how they'd like to write them) is the best way to continue to expand the writing team as time goes by.

"Gratitude"

I think my claim about gratitude was a bit misread. I didn't mean to say "NHBB doesn't verbally thank people enough for what they do," and I didn't even really mean to say "NHBB doesn't pay people enough," which is definitely untrue comparatively speaking.

I meant only to make one very narrow and relatively precise point, which is this: While I was in HSAPQ, it was hard to accept gratitude for performing a large set of writing tasks when that gratitude was quickly followed up by the expectation that the set of writing tasks for next year would be even larger and largely dumped on the same set of people. The addition of extra competitions each year felt like it cancelled out the gratitude for the previous year, even though it certainly wasn't intended that way. Now that it's not HSAPQ or Matt Weiner or the ragtag bunch from March-April 2015 doing this anymore, and NHBB is developing its own writing corps on a more permanent basis which isn't also doing a bunch of other things, I suspect that this very narrow point will become moot in short order.

Things that aren't the Bee and Bowl proper

I agree with Victor in full about the US History Bee. From the perspective of having to write it, it doesn't seem like a unique or worthwhile enough event in contrast to the full Bee to be worth keeping in future years. And I don't think "but 150 people played it" is in itself a refutation of Victor's claims.

I do think that the Geography Olympiad, despite being much more difficult to write well than any other tossup-based event I've ever taken part in writing, is a unique and worthwhile enough event to be continued in future years.

I don't think I've ever had an opinion about the Sports and Entertainment Bee besides "burn it," or more charitably "turn it into an entirely unofficial side event with no institutional backing and no plaques". Dave Madden knows that I hold this view; when I expressed it to him earlier this month, if I remember correctly, he disagreed largely on the grounds that it helps with retention -- if some kid gets a plaque saying he won at Sports and Entertainment Bee, he's more likely to come back and bring his team for the full weekend next year, or similar. I am not swayed by that line of reasoning.

To Mike Cheyne:

I am responsible for much of the "we have to do this for the kids" messaging that went out to the writing team of this year's NHBB High School Championships. Given the clock we were on, it seemed like that's part of what Eric and I had to do to ensure that the set got done. I can see why that was dispiriting for you, especially when you had so many other writing obligations on your plate. My hope and expectation from here on out is that nobody (especially not Mike Cheyne, whose volume-writing efforts can only be described as "heroic") has to fall prey to appeals of the "think of the children" sort about NHBB anymore, as stable writing teams will exist for it and for quizbowl events so as to preclude any crisis as major as this year's.

I certainly don't think that "there was financial compensation for it" explains all of why Mike or Eric or I took on the tasks we took on. I also said "we have to do this for the kids" because I believed, in the midst of the crisis, that that was actually true at least of myself. The thing that changes from here on out, now that that gaping 2000-question hole in the universe has been filled, is that whoever wants to do this for the kids can do this for the kids, and whoever wants to do this for pay can do this for pay, or not, and it's all fine.

"Is History Bowl a type of quizbowl"

I'm a bit rusty on my ontology, recovering philosophy major that I am, but: I suspect that this is just a case of how you want to define your terms. Throughout my original post I tried to use "NHBB [the organization]" and "[the] quizbowl [community]" to refer to distinct sets of organizational apparatuses and competitive events -- the one top-down, the other bottom-up, etc. etc. I think this separation is real and relatively visible, even if it's a blurry border rather than a sharp one. Of course the basic game mechanics of "History-Bowl-the-game" and "quizbowl-the-game" are pretty much the same, so if you want to call History-Bowl-the-game "a kind of quizbowl," you certainly could. But I think that's sidestepping, rather than addressing, the substance of Andrew Hart's issue, which is how much the organizations doing each "kind of quizbowl" are or should be helping each other.

It's worth thinking of this in terms of "speciation", perhaps. Andrew Hart seems to think of History Bowl as a different "species" of competition in the overall "genus" of Academic-buzzer-competition; the process by which History Bowl reproduces itself & survives across time is isolated from the process by which all-subject good quizbowl tournaments reproduce and survive across time, and there isn't much "interbreeding" between the two populations anymore as the populations get more and more distinct.

It's definitely clear, at least if the testimonies posted here are to be believed, that many competing teams see these activities as more separate events than Dave Madden does. Those perspectives matter a lot in figuring out how closely related the activity of history-question-answering should be to the activity of across-the-academic-spectrum-question-answering in the future.

Summary

I suspect that many people will look at Dave Madden's big post above and go "what a load of hogwash; if I wasn't done helping this guy out before, I'm definitely done now". Others might be convinced that NHBB is now on a much more stable track and be impelled to do more than they otherwise would. After many years of various fumbles and stumbles, a lot of people (both pro- and anti-) are still very skeptical of NHBB and are reluctant to take it at its word when it says that it's got it all figured out this time. That's all okay.

It is definitely true, as both Dave Madden and I pointed out, that the implicit "compact" understanding of what NHBB and the (non-NHBB, all-subject, good-questions) quizbowl community would do for each other was never expressly written out, and that circumstances have forced us to change our expectations. (A lot of it no longer matters since it was about startup, and NHBB is now well past startup.) The biggest and most lasting change in implicit understanding from here on out is this:

If you like History Bowl and/or want to do stuff for it, do stuff for it (and do what you say you'll do). If you don't, don't (with no need to feel guilty).

Everybody from the most devoted supporter (Dave Madden himself) to the most vocal detractor seems to be able to agree on that much.

As both NHBB and the all-subject quizbowl community grow and change in the future, I think there will be far less angst if everybody just keeps the above in mind. Neither NHBB nor (the rest of) the (all-subject) quizbowl community is going to be a magic bullet for promoting the other. But we'll live and we'll coexist, and many people will want to do both.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:06 am

Yeah, I think Matt is more or less saying what I've come to believe, although I know very little about what goes on at regional or national sites since I have never been to one. As much as I have loudly carped about NHBB writing, I really don't mind doing it, i like writing NHBB questions, it pays well, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I can write pretty well.

What irritated me, of course, was when NHBB writing messily overlapped with mainstream quizbowl experiences. This included the first stint with HSAPQ, in which people who didn't want to write history questions frequently didn't, leaving an unsustainable work load. It also felt like Dave...took a rather reactive approach to questions, frequently micromanaging question difficulty, question placement, etc. (I won't go into a lot of detail here, but I think a lot of HSAPQ writers in this period have unpleasant memories of this).

The second stint was the Miracle of the House of Mukherjee during the push to finish NHBB, in which an insane work load and pace were dumped on hapless volunteers. Yes. I know we were volunteers, well-paid volunteers at that. But again at the risk of being combative, I will say that we (the quizbowl community) and Dave (and others, including a notable detractor of Dave) have a different perspective of NHBB--we, the writers, enjoyed being paid (I bought a navy surplus submarine), but we also were motivated by a sense of responsibility, a sense of doing what's "right" to, as Matt Jackson put it, help the kids because its failure (and let's be honest, it would have been a bigger bust than Heaven's Gate if we hadn't bailed it out) would have been a huge blow to the quizbowl community and high school academic competitions in general. So it felt like we were talking about cross-purposes; Madden was grateful in that he was giving thanks and money but I don't think he recognized (or recognizes) that our concern with his operations is that we feel it has a ripple effect on quizbowl as a whole. Many of his counter-arguments are about the popular demand and how successful his tournaments are going, which from his perspective, I guess is a valid argument, but from ours, seems an incomplete one.

Now, really despite my frustrations, I've made my peace with NHBB and mainstream HS quizbowl as two different things (not that NHBB isn't quizbowl). Matt is right in that in our post-HSAPQ era, our post-Weinergate era, we are now at the point where NHBB has assembled its own writing staff and the ball is in its court. I might write for it if i have time, I might not. My biggest concerns are that NHBB/Dave/Brad manage to recruit and mentor high quality writers/editors because question writing ain't beanbag; it will take a lot of work to make sure questions, especially from inexperienced writers, are of the high quality that NHBB participants have been accustomed to.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Great Bustard » Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:42 pm

Okay, one last post from me on this thread, since I had some time today to address some things here:

On Ben’s post

For the US Geography Olympiad, unless Nationals is going to be a free for all with numerous unqualified students, we need to have a qualification process for it. The exams do that very well, and also give us a much needed metric for which to seed the quiz bowl field for that at Nationals.
In terms of doing exams for both that and the US History Bee at lunch of regionals, yes, this may lead to a rather abbreviated lunch if students do both exams and take the allotted 20 minutes for each (very few do, though). In most cases, though, students can eat a lunch while they take the exams. Next year, we’ll recommend that anyone who plans on doing both bring a lunch or plan on having someone bring a lunch for them. But with that caveat, we’d prefer to leave it up to students to decide what plan of attack is best for them: no one is forced to do any event. Beyond that, most students can take the qualifying exam at their high school if necessary.

On Victor’s post

Much of your criticism here is largely because it is simply outside the mold of the way that quiz bowl events often run. Yes, we don’t use SQBS (primarily because it’s often difficult to explain to novice directors compared to sending them an excel template and a completed version to follow as a pattern). I don’t know why it should have taken you more than 15 minutes to fill out all the Bowl stats for a 6 team tournament – there’s simply not that much to enter. As for compensation, if you don’t feel it was fair to have been paid $100 to direct a small event, then that’s your prerogative, though plenty of other people don’t seem to mind. At certain times and places, we offer more if needed, but that’s largely a function of the tournament size and other factors. Also, comparing NAQT with NHBB here also misses the point, because the two organizations work on totally different models. NAQT during the regionals season is primarily a question writing company – they’re obviously not keeping the same percentage of fees since they’re just providing questions. NHBB is a tournament organizer. We handle outreach, coordination, communication with teams, and much more. That’s where much of that payment goes. Whatever’s left typically goes into yet more outreach.

In terms of your comment on burning bridges, what I was specifically referencing was the stated opinion that if people feel as if they have had negative experiences, then they’re not worth working with anyway. That’s not what I believe, unless, as I mentioned, they’ve flaked out on us or have displayed an attitude that shows me that they are not the sort of people I want to have associated with NHBB in the first place. I don’t know really how to “change our policies” here, since I don’t really know who these people are. I am sure that numerous people have worked with numerous organizations and concluded that it’s not for them, both within quiz bowl and outside it. That’s ok too (as Matt J. says). Some people may think that $100 to direct a small tournament isn’t worth their while; some people will. Some people will want to write questions given a particular set of conditions, some people won’t. There’s no hard feelings on my end if people say it’s not for them; we can’t accommodate everyone at all times to state the obvious. The set of conditions you are describing would be far more of an issue if we were having more trouble finding people to handle the jobs we need done. But even with a very challenging set of circumstances these past few months, we’ve done what’s been needed to make it work. From here on, it should continue to get easier. I’ve never been as confident in our staff, both in a full-time, part-time, and contracting role, than I am now.

Finally, almost everyone who has objected to the existence of the US History Bee here is not someone who is playing it, could play it, or a coach. There is a huge demand for this – it grew to nearly 200 participating students in just its second year! – and featured many of the best players in the country including Bruce Lou and Sam Blizzard in the final. And again, no one, including at Nationals, is being forced to do USHB. If people decide they don’t want that much competition on a weekend, that’s their prerogative. But hundreds of people do, and I’m not about to pull the plug on an event that has grown quicker than just about anything in the world of quiz bowl over the past two years. Dismissing this notion out of hand seems like common sense to me, but if others disagree, fine – at a minimum, I don’t think that its continued existence is hurting anyone. Beyond that, a lot of other points of criticism are things that I have given a lot of thought to and am not further interested in constantly having to go over, even if people keep bringing them up and presenting them as problems. I don’t mean to come across as disrespectful, but sometimes I am prepared to agree to disagree even if people keep offering up advice I don’t think is helpful.

On Mike’s and Ben’s second post

What you’re proposing here would hugely curtail our ability to find hosts. And in numerous areas, the host school students aren’t in a position to be experienced readers. How on earth could we run a tournament in Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota, pretty much anywhere internationally, etc. with what you are proposing? What about borderline regions or host schools that are able to provide the facilities in areas with eager teams but don’t have star players interested in reading? Why should anyone host if they can’t play? So they keep the money? Then what’s the incentive for NHBB to run a tournament there? We still need to do all the coordination – Victor’s suggestion that this somehow should run through the hosts directly would lead to massive logistical problems and is totally untenable. Our model is not without its issues, but it’s largely working just fine; we would be hearing it from coaches if it weren’t. Our goal is not perfection in directing; our goal is well-run tournaments that people enjoy and are worth our while for us to oversee. We’re doing already quite well with that, and I’m sure next year, like all years since the first, will continue to get even better.

On Matt’s post

There’s not much at all here I really take any issue with, but to answer Matt’s point about what it means for a tournament to run well by NHBB standards, I would say that:
-It runs on time as per the schedule listed on the website
-Participants enjoy themselves and find a welcoming environment to compete in
-The rules are clearly explained and followed
-If and when issues come up, they are dealt with properly and quickly

I don’t think there’s much to argue with there, but I will add that due to the fact that the NHBB format is a bit more complicated than standard quiz bowl, the fact that we’re running multiple events in a day, and that we’re by necessity often dealing with readers and teams new to the events, things sometimes take longer to go through at the start / there’s more time spent in meetings than at a usual event. But – I at least feel that there are good reasons for why all those things are in place, and that if we changed any of those policies, our tournaments would be poorer for it. One final point: speeding through rounds at a rapid reading pace is often exactly what newer teams complain to us about. As we bring in new teams, it takes them a while to adjust to a fast pace, and it’s better if readers save that in many cases until the playoff rounds, or at least know to adjust their reading speed. No one is saying that rounds should be read at a plodding pace or that teams should talk between questions or anything like that – just that many experienced readers need to keep this in mind, especially at NHBB events.
As an aside, for what it’s worth, 49 teams competed at our Asian Championships this year.

And a very important point on Matt and Mike’s posts (and others too)

I think the hardest thing for me personally to understand here has been the notion that the increase in needed questions is an undesirable thing from a writer’s point of view. From my end, it looked like I was giving more work to people who wanted it, and insofar as the labor pool was small, that just served to drive prices up which benefitted those who did want to write in the first place.
I think there are two other things at play here, which are related to each other. As far as HSAPQ goes, I made contracts with HSAPQ to get the sets done. When HSAPQ agreed to take on those commitments, it was then up to them to do that. If the HSAPQ writers had issues with their required commitments, that was an internal issue for HSAPQ. The biting off more than it could chew approach here may have been partly Weiner’s doing; certainly, he was the one with whom I signed the HSAPQ contracts. Then, once a lot of the writers finally thought they had turned the corner with Weiner handling the sets on his own, things returned in 3 tsunamis, namely the A Set Blitz, the Nationals Blitz, and the Olympiad Blitz. All of which stems from Weiner reneging on his contract, but which won’t happen again for the reasons I’ve already made clear.
So, I hope the community can see where I’m coming from in that it was never my intention to burden writers who were concerned about the good of the game. I know that line of reasoning was used at times this spring, and I think that was okay to a certain extent, but should be retired now. I am grateful that the community is so committed to the good of the game that the obligation aspect is what really first came to mind. But I think for everyone’s sanity we’re past that now and can move on to a more realistic and productive basis for question production and for everyone who’s involved in it. I can guarantee though that our commitment to high caliber questions isn’t going to change, and I’m sure Brad as an experienced player, editor, and coach feels the same way.

I do not expect to have time to make further comments on this thread. I feel that I’ve given a robust rebuttal of the criticisms that have been leveled at NHBB here, while at the same time, it’s been instructive for me in many cases to hear some other views. I do appreciate the advice people are giving, and realize that they are doing so in the hope that NHBB will succeed. However, I do urge community members to consider the advice that Matt J stated in that many things that NHBB does are different than the way they are done elsewhere in quiz bowl. But just because they’re different doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a lot of thought that’s gone into them, or that ipse facto, those approaches are somehow suboptimal. We will continue to improve where we need to, but the community needs to recognize that we might just see things differently at times, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
David Madden
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Founder and Director: International History Bee and Bowl, National History Bee and Bowl (High School Division), International History Olympiad, United States Geography Olympiad, US History Bee, US Academic Bee and Bowl, National Humanities Bee, National Science Bee, International Academic Bowl.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:36 pm

Great Bustard wrote:I think the hardest thing for me personally to understand here has been the notion that the increase in needed questions is an undesirable thing from a writer’s point of view. From my end, it looked like I was giving more work to people who wanted it, and insofar as the labor pool was small, that just served to drive prices up which benefitted those who did want to write in the first place.
You have to understand the way quizbowl writers view NHBB. It's not "giving more work to people who want it"; if a given quizbowler WANTS to write questions, they'll write a housewrite, a packet-sub event, a side event, something head-edited by another quizbowler (like NSC or ACF nationals) etc, etc - something self-generated. You can see those announcements littering the board. When we see you walking into quizbowl, asking for 2000 questions, the feeling isn't that you're generously offering us a job or an opportunity - we see it as something that has to get done, and that you're asking us for help in finishing it without asking us whether it's a good idea. This is compounded by the fact that the number of NHBB events seem to be exploding, and we feel like you're relying on us to finish them without asking us whether the burden would be too much.

Quizbowl understands that we don't have much say in what events you want to run. That's fine. But you should also understand that quizbowlers, as a collective, aren't your employees, and even if we were, you should have some empathy for the work that's required to write questions. Your description of why the USBee is necessary is a classic lack of empathy, and a huge misunderstanding about the nature of quizbowl demand. It's very difficult for us to write a fourth set on top of the others, and the argument that people enjoyed playing it and can opt out isn't a good one. Quizbowl tends to follow Say's law, that supply creates it's own demand - you could probably pack 20 more events into that weekend and have people showing up. But that's not an argument for doing so, and it's not an argument for keeping the Bee as is. You need to think more holistically about what function each of your events is serving, whether they are necessary, and whether they are feasible, both from a production and logistics standpoint.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by jonpin » Tue Jun 23, 2015 10:24 pm

Great Bustard wrote:Then, once a lot of the writers finally thought they had turned the corner with Weiner handling the sets on his own, things returned in 3 tsunamis, namely the A Set Blitz, the Nationals Blitz, and the Olympiad Blitz. All of which stems from Weiner reneging on his contract, but which won’t happen again for the reasons I’ve already made clear.
So, I hope the community can see where I’m coming from in that it was never my intention to burden writers who were concerned when rhe resource about the good of the game. I know that line of reasoning was used at times this spring, and I think that was okay to a certain extent, but should be retired now. I am grateful that the community is so committed to the good of the game that the obligation aspect is what really first came to mind. But I think for everyone’s sanity we’re past that now and can move on to a more realistic and productive basis for question production and for everyone who’s involved in it. I can guarantee though that our commitment to high caliber questions isn’t going to change, and I’m sure Brad as an experienced player, editor, and coach feels the same way.
If the 2015-16 season passes without any emergency appeals for questions and without a drop in question quality, I think it's fair to say that the "overwhelming the quiz bowl question writing resource" line of argument will not return. Conversely, if there IS, for whatever reason, a thread come January or March or June 2016 about how many hundreds of questions NHBB needs, you're going to get a hell of a lot less sympathy.

I understand your view of "people have free will to take work from me or not and if I need to, I'll raise my rates" but a domino effect from that could be that other tournaments which can't afford such rates have trouble finding writers. If, say, Ike Blaine says "I can spend my time writing for NHBB or HSAPQ. NHBB is paying $5 for a four-line first-quarter tossup, and HSAPQ is paying $3.50 for a seven-line NASAT tossup*..." and this happens repeatedly, then HSAPQ has a hard time getting NASAT written at its necessary quality. And you could say "But by raising rates, we get more people to spend more time writing questions" but the pool of quality writers and their available time is finite. You could also say "HSAPQ writing NASAT is their problem, not mine" and you're free to think that, but you can't do that and say that you're independent of the quiz bowl market.

*-I AM MAKING THESE NUMBERS UP. I have not been in the question writing business more than a token amount at any time, and not at all this past year.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Cody » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:00 pm

HSAPQ's rates for last year were $5 / tossup and ACF bonus.

With respect to Dave Madden's latest post...well, by golly, Charlie Dees said it best when he said "You behave like other people don't exist to you other than as a means to an end."
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Ndg » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:17 pm

Great Bustard wrote:
On Victor’s post

Much of your criticism here is largely because it is simply outside the mold of the way that quiz bowl events often run. Yes, we don’t use SQBS (primarily because it’s often difficult to explain to novice directors compared to sending them an excel template and a completed version to follow as a pattern). I don’t know why it should have taken you more than 15 minutes to fill out all the Bowl stats for a 6 team tournament – there’s simply not that much to enter.
I'm curious to hear what anyone is finding difficult about the stats spreadsheets. They seem about as simple as possible, and in my experience it's possible to enter scores tournaments as large as 20 teams without getting behind.
Great Bustard wrote:
Finally, almost everyone who has objected to the existence of the US History Bee here is not someone who is playing it, could play it, or a coach. There is a huge demand for this – it grew to nearly 200 participating students in just its second year! – and featured many of the best players in the country including Bruce Lou and Sam Blizzard in the final. And again, no one, including at Nationals, is being forced to do USHB. If people decide they don’t want that much competition on a weekend, that’s their prerogative. But hundreds of people do, and I’m not about to pull the plug on an event that has grown quicker than just about anything in the world of quiz bowl over the past two years. Dismissing this notion out of hand seems like common sense to me, but if others disagree, fine – at a minimum, I don’t think that its continued existence is hurting anyone. Beyond that, a lot of other points of criticism are things that I have given a lot of thought to and am not further interested in constantly having to go over, even if people keep bringing them up and presenting them as problems. I don’t mean to come across as disrespectful, but sometimes I am prepared to agree to disagree even if people keep offering up advice I don’t think is helpful.
The question to which I haven't seen a real answer is: What does the US History Bee offer that isn't offered by any of the other events, given that the regular bee also includes US history. I hope 'a third chance for Bruce and Sam to win something' isn't the only answer. How many students is the US History Bee attracting who are only interested in US History and who wouldn't otherwise compete at all? Have you been successful in reaching out to US History teachers who wouldn't otherwise have had any interest in promoting NHBB at their schools?
jonpin wrote:
If the 2015-16 season passes without any emergency appeals for questions and without a drop in question quality, I think it's fair to say that the "overwhelming the quiz bowl question writing resource" line of argument will not return. Conversely, if there IS, for whatever reason, a thread come January or March or June 2016 about how many hundreds of questions NHBB needs, you're going to get a hell of a lot less sympathy.

I understand your view of "people have free will to take work from me or not and if I need to, I'll raise my rates" but a domino effect from that could be that other tournaments which can't afford such rates have trouble finding writers. If, say, Ike Blaine says "I can spend my time writing for NHBB or HSAPQ. NHBB is paying $5 for a four-line first-quarter tossup, and HSAPQ is paying $3.50 for a seven-line NASAT tossup*..." and this happens repeatedly, then HSAPQ has a hard time getting NASAT written at its necessary quality. And you could say "But by raising rates, we get more people to spend more time writing questions" but the pool of quality writers and their available time is finite. You could also say "HSAPQ writing NASAT is their problem, not mine" and you're free to think that, but you can't do that and say that you're independent of the quiz bowl market.
I'm hoping that, during the next year, all writers will remember Matt Jackson's advice (the one in giant font size). If NHBB is asking too much of the writers in this community, make that known not by complaining here, but by not writing. If NHBB raises its rates so high as to leave other (all-subject) sets without enough writers, then NHBB will have to reevaluate what role it wants to play in encouraging all-subject quiz bowl. (Hopefully, NHBB is making enough of an effort to raise its own exclusive group of writers that this won't be an issue.)
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:49 pm

Eric is spot on about why you, Dave, have gotten the reactions to stuff like the US History Bee that you have. Players aren't objecting, because most good/interested players will play anything and it's not a significant extra time investment for them, but writers are objecting, because for them it is yet another timesink that, as others have expressed, doesn't really have a clear raison d'etre. It seems like this is the crucial perspective you somehow continually miss when you add new events: they take time to produce, in some cases quite a lot of time, and in the specific case of the USHB it complicates the writing of the Bee/Bowl sets as well because of the repeat policy.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:52 pm

Auks Ran Ova wrote:because of the repeat policy.
A quick factual clarification: The writing team for this year's NHBB nationals sets was given an explicit reprieve from the no-clue-repeats-across-sets policy for the US History Bee only (i.e. it was permitted to have a clue which appeared both in the US History Bee and at most one of the other three sets; it was not permitted for any clues to repeat across {Geo Olympiad, National Bee, National Bowl}). The US History Bee was written first of the four sets, and writers were nonetheless discouraged from writing any questions for the other three sets which very closely resembled a question already in USHB. And the need to write the 230 questions for USHB was a decidedly non-trivial effort.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 4 of 6]: The Quizbowl-NHBB Relationship

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:10 am

My original understanding of U.S. History Bee was that it was meant to reflect more of the content on the AP exam (I wrote most of the questions the first year while using an official AP study guide) and that it could be marketed as such to high school teachers. I'm pretty sure this idea has not been stressed in recent iterations, although this year's crisis mode may have precluded any grand vision.
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