Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

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Adventure Temple Trail
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Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Jul 05, 2015 6:35 pm

The subject of this post is "How we treat each other." I include it in this series because this topic was a pretty large elephant in the room for as long as Matt Weiner was an active quizbowl participant. I think it's fair to say without unduly maligning anyone that Mattw was a person whose default mode of engagement was often controversial, even frustrating, to many. I think it's also fair to say, as many people in the Praise Song II thread already noted, that no appraisal of Matt Weiner's legacy would be complete without mentioning that fact. If we're going to figure out how to guide our future without his leadership, it is worth it to address a cluster of more general issues regarding interpersonal engagement without being unduly backward-looking.

A Word About the Obvious

So, as is no mystery to anyone, this post took me the longest to write of any that I was originally planning. That's because it's been the hardest to get right. (Originally, I was intending to write the whole thing in one go and post all the threads simultaneously; eventually it became clear that it was better not to do things that way and cause a huge holdup.) While I do not apologize for this, a few explanations for why this post took a long time to write are below.

For one thing, I was about to write this long post about how to make sure quizbowl people shouldn't act so much worse than people in other analogous activities and pursuits. But then I stopped for a second and thought: Is that actually right? There's an assumption that quizbowl is really noticeably worse on the whole than the rest of the (high school/college/young adult) world, which I'm not sure is entirely accurate. Nonetheless, there certainly are specific problems that quizbowl has which other similar activities don't necessarily have – i.e. gender parity. Are there concrete ways in which the quizbowl community is falling behind the typical norms of human communication and behavior? Or was I largely planning to complain that humans happen to be acting in typically flawed human ways? Is this whole conversation just an exercise in "why can't we just all get along" style wishful thinking? I'm not sure I have the sorts of empirical evidence and testimony needed to judge (but see below for more on that).

For another, the prospect of writing this post felt to some extent like an act of symbolic patricide. I wouldn't be where I am today if Matt Weiner hadn't believed in putting this world together right as I was entering it, and I wouldn't have made nearly as many inroads into community leadership if he hadn't believed I belonged there as a contributor and informed voice. To turn around and merely excoriate him for his imperfections would hardly be gracious, especially if a day comes when he does return here to read all this. And it wouldn't be particularly helpful moving forward if this post just consisted of "Don't be that guy, except do be that guy in a bunch of other ways." I should know (better than most!) that it's not possible to see anyone completely in black and white -- at several steps along the way I've been nurtured and trained by people who developed a reputation (deservedly or not) for obnoxiousness, and have had to develop a nuanced view of that reality. In any case, I had to figure out a way to write this which was of maximal general use and extended beyond the specific person who inspired the post series. As such, I had to take the time to write things in a maximally general way about problems I've seen across many people and spaces. Indeed, many of the things below have nothing to do with Matt Weiner in particular at all.

Lastly, and somewhat hypocritically, it's worth noting that if the goal of this post is to discuss treating people well, I'm not exactly qualified to write it. Look, folks: I'm no saint when it comes to any of this. I've said incredibly insulting things about people behind their backs before. I'm not proud of everything I've said or the way I've said it. I haven't been the best about reaching out to or befriending newer players outside my own team(s). I don't even trust myself to say I'm above average in this regard or any other. I can only say that I'm one person among many who has lived in, and contributed to, the environment of the game we all play. If it's better that I not say anything at all due to some past slight, then so be it. But I think I can venture some observations from my vantage point as a real, flawed person, which are nonetheless valid despite my own character.

So here they are. Enjoy.

"Center(s)" of Discussion and the people around the edges

One thing I hear a lot (and which I largely agree with) in discussions of how the quizbowl community works is that the most involved participants can often be an insular group unto themselves (a "center") within the much larger set of people who are involved across the country/world. Overwhelmingly, most people just attends tournaments with their school's team, maybe make friends with their teammates, and go home, and that's it. And of course, that's 100% fine. What I don't want is for there to be barriers, real or perceived, for people who do want to do more and expand their quizbowl social connections out to other teams & circuits.
As I've written about elsewhere, I definitely felt in my early high school days that a rather insular clique of high school players in the class year or two above me was judging acceptance largely by one's skill at the game. I resent this even now, long after I've greatly surpassed all of those people in skill.

It takes a lot of effort to "break in" to the group of maybe 80 to 100 people whose friendships and discussions sit at the center of the quizbowl community at any given time. Not everybody does this by becoming an extremely skilled player, though that's of course one way to do it. Empirically, it's quite possible to just kind of show up and be present until one becomes a voice at the center of things. Nonetheless, a lot of people don't really know how to get more connected with their quizbowl peers. And others still (even among the set of skilled editors and players) have little desire to do things like come on IRC or whatever (which is also 100% fine), though it's hard to say how much of that is due to something repellent or off-putting about the nature of discussions at the center of the community. To put my cards on the table: I'd like for there to be more openness and fewer barriers in all of this.

How many prospective members of the "peripheral" community actually finds the quizbowl community to be insufferable enough that they don't want to be part of the game at all? Is there anything we should do or is the problem entirely with them? From that point onward, how many people would like to become more central to the game but feel dissuaded from doing so? And of that group, how many were merely disinterested versus directly put off by the way quizbowlers interact? It's extremely important to get some voices in here which we don't normally hear – the high school friend who thought about joining quizbowl and then decided against it, the talented players who choose to drop away before the end of their time as students, the fourth-scorer on a title contending team, etc. etc.

One thing I've noticed among some elite players is a sort of snarky, dismissive, or judgmental attitude towards people who aren't as skilled as themselves, or who play quizbowl without being as invested in it. This is utterly toxic and I recommend strongly against having it. For one thing, this sort of scorn is a very easy way to cut off promising future writers, players, teams, and organizers, by making them feel unwanted rather than welcome to try taking on something new. For another, you have no idea who's going to emerge out of the pack out of spite that you overlooked them, and become impossible to ignore (because they're crushing you in-game).

It's also possible to find a pretty high barrier to entry due to the large amounts of inside jokes and big "cast of characters" in the channels where important discussion happens; what's more, that set of people is mostly talking to each other in familiar terms because, well, they know each other already. Because in some sense this is inevitable in any human community, it's not like this is a "problem" that can be readily "solved" beyond increasing the general level of openness toward meeting new people and a willingness to explaining what's going on to newer people. But it's definitely something I felt when I was making this transition (late high school and early college) and it's worth pointing out here to see if others have felt the same.

The Internet

For longer than many other activities, quizbowl has been locked into an Internet-centric model of community. Most teams play pretty much only in one local geographic region, and few are able to attend tournaments very far from where their school is located until nationals roll around. As such, many people who come to be great friends across regions see each other only a single-digit number of times a year "IRL". The major quizbowl organizations also have rely on digital communications to organize themselves across large distances. Now, the Internet is really really great – no need to add to or modify that sentiment here – but I think its centrality to the community has had some warping effects on the way people act, both on the web and in reality.

At the risk of sounding like a bad elementary school PSA, it's worth saying some obvious things at tis juncture: An unfortunate truth of the Internet is that everything you say on the Internet exists more or less permanently. The things you type can easily be pasted or saved or taken out of context. Especially given how small the community of dedicated quizbowl people is, it's often unclear in places like Facebook groups, the IRC channel, or even these forums, when a person is just venting "off the record" versus when they're speaking officially for one or more of the organizations they represent. Your demeanor in a private chatroom may well have serious effects on how people interact with you in person in public. What's more, people are often willing to say things behind a computer screen that they aren't (as) willing to say in person. This means that attempts to be two-faced with people usually fail, because both of your faces are going to be blatantly visible in short order. I'm not sure what else to say on this level besides "we all, myself included, should be more conscious of all of the above," so I guess I'll just say that.

This is more of a nuisance than a serious problem, but worth noting nonetheless: Because many people act mostly over the Internet while only meeting each other in person a single-digit number of times a year, it's easy to interact with another person as though they're a bundle of HSQuizbowl posts and tired memes rather than, well, a person. I've had a few relatively strange encounters over the years where somebody has referred to an online in-joke about me or somebody else without actually having met me before. And I tend to find that being put in a box where I have to play a self-parody version of myself is very awful -- it's a pretty serious barrier to more human forms of interaction and feels pretty off-putting. Some of this weirdness may also be inevitable so long as we interact largely on the Web, but I guess it's worth thinking about when it makes sense to reference that tired in-joke from eight years ago and when it doesn't.

There's also a problem now that people can just brag about themselves (or someone else) on the Internet to create an undeserved and self-perpetuating public perception. Because most people won't be able to check in and verify claims like "x-and-such is the best statkeeper in the game" or "you're a big fiend if you don't acknowledge my teammate as the best science player in the game" very readily, some number of reputations that grow on the Internet are in fact based on nothing. It's important to try and ensure that claims, particularly superlatives or self-promotional claims, are backed up by real evidence wherever possible, or are contested as unverified or untrue.

"Civility" Re-Revisited

One rift which existed while Matt Weiner was a prominent quizbowl leader was the proper attitude towards "civility" in discussion with people whose ideas or effects on the community were bad. On one side, the idea went that attempts to be "civil" with bad influences was, in effect, giving them a free pass for their bad behavior and denying that anything was wrong. On the other, it seemed clear that it was possible to dissociate the tone or style of one's criticisms from the criticism being made, and that it'd be long-term unsustainable to rush to invective.

There are two questions still worth asking about this, I think. Is there any barrier between dismissing bad quizbowl practices and bad people? (It often seemed like Matt Weiner's side of this debate answered this question with "no" -- or at least, assumed that people who didn't quickly work to shed their bad quizbowl ties after conversation are bad people who could only stick with bad things because of some underlying psychological flaw.) Secondly, is there a barrier between rightly denouncing a person for their bad conduct and insulting their character "as a person"? (These two John Lawrence posts are both quite good on this topic, so I don't think I need to rehash all of the past debates about this here.)

However we answer the above from here on out, we have to be able to be honest and direct with each other about our track records as contributors to the game. If somebody whose tournament direction and circuit-expansion efforts have all ended in failure opines publicly about the best way to direct tournaments or expand a circuit, for example, it is definitely incumbent upon people who know better to point out that somebody's record of failures, so they aren't taken seriously. (For this reason, "all opinions are equally valid" isn't and can't be the standard we use in discussing issues of importance. And if attempts to be polite are causing bad advice and harmful personalities to proliferate unchecked, it is a serious issue.)

And let's be real: there are often people who are so awful for the game's health that they must be exposed and driven out. Anyone who has been found cheating must be expelled immediately, as cheating is an existential threat to the fairness of the game. Below that, there are people who do have horrible ethical records or bad behaviors that they won't apologize for or admit to, which need to be discussed publicly. Even before his cheating was exposed, Andy Watkins was regarded by many as a pernicious influence – and it's in part due to people throwing up "civility" in his defense that he was able to keep protecting his reputation all the way through many months of NAQT membership. We need to be able to talk honestly about when someone is beyond the pale in ways that work. (And much of this might not be suitable for these forums – it might make more sense to go directly to organizational leadership by private message, for example, if someone was behaving unacceptably in an official capacity.) I think we're doing better at this than we were in 2011, but it's still worth checking in about.

It's entirely predictable that people will get offended when they feel they're being insulted or attacked. Some amount of that will happen in any sort of controversial discussion about anything. Nonetheless, I think as a merely tactical matter that it's often ill-advised to leap out there in arguing with someone and ascribe some hidden motivation to them. More often than not, this will result in fervent denial (regardless of whether the motivation is actually there) and a lack of willingness to cooperate or change in the future. Sometimes that's helpful, when a person wouldn't do that anyway, but there's some risk of driving people further out of orbit who would otherwise be more conciliatory.

"Siege mentality"

I have noticed that a mindset has developed among many organizers of this game after dealing with years of threats from Chip Beall, CBI, etc. that good quizbowl is a fragile and precarious activity which is always "under siege" by nefarious forces. For a long time, this was earnestly and visibly true in a way that younger players today might never appreciate or understand. Progress was piecemeal and bad quizbowl organizations and bad people were in fact trying to destroy it at every stage. But good quizbowl has developed as an institution greatly (due in large part to the very people who held this "siege" mentality) over the past decade and more. And that mindset may not be applicable as often (or as universally) anymore. For the most part, the level of distance in "badness" between the sides of arguments on these boards that I support and the side that I oppose has shrunk VASTLY in the 8 years I've been doing this. But the tenor of rhetoric has often remained at the same height. While there certainly are areas where there is much work to do to even get most teams out of the clutches of corrupt or awful-quality question organizations, places like "the top bracket of ACF Nationals" surely aren't in the same situation.

As a side-effect, I worry that an attitude of constant threat-detection might spill over into suspicion towards newcomers, or toward people who started off playing bad formats but earnestly seek change. I wonder if this has negative effects on recruiting or expansion.

Effects of Quizbowl-Induced Stress (or: "What is it like to be a Matt?")

With the exception of this post, I have been more free of quizbowl responsibilities during the past month than I had been in any of the preceding seven years. During a few weeks of decompression, I've been able to think back on the game's effect on my overall well-being, both during the most ridiculous period of intensity thus far (March through June this past year) and overall.

While doing a million things this spring, I could feel my patience with other people starting to deteriorate – it was hard to deal with people who were frustrating me or else run the risk of yelling at them / being quite short with them. I felt my sense of long-term planning, and thoughts of my future outside the game, start to dwindle away, as there were too many projects in the immediate present which needed to be handled now-now-now for anything broader to matter seriously. I felt more temptation than usual to think in grandiose or self-aggrandizing terms about my own role in the community (thoughts that I had "saved" quizbowl) coupled with a complete unwillingness to acknowledge them publicly due largely to the hard work of other people also busting their butts under the same amount of stress. Many of my other social obligations fell by the wayside. And this transition was quite rapid, over the course of just two or three months. I have a much easier time imagining, now, what it'd be like to live that way for the sake of quizbowl for years, or almost a decade.

Of course, it's also the case that being a high-stakes competitive player can bring its own stresses and sources of unpleasantness if one doesn't possess unreal amounts of poise. I've been on both sides of frustration-induced outbursts after a game didn't go the way I wanted it to, and I've been on three sides of a serious push towards competitive success (i.e. I've been pushed by others, I've pushed others, and I've pushed myself), which can often feel quite awful when it starts being a chore. When I wasn't careful, that was also a pretty major source of irascibility, though perhaps one which was more readily comprehensible from the outside.

But all the above symptoms/effects are contingent -- there are a lot of steps along the slide into stresspocalypse where a person can arrest some of their mental subroutines to retain (or gain back) perspective. As I've written about elsewhere, adding some variation to one's plate (doing a weird fun game format in practice instead of a standard match, writing a bunch of easy questions to offset a long string of writing hard questions, what have you) can keep the game fun. Judiciousness regarding one's commitments (as I've beaten the drum for elsewhere in this series) can also help. Sometimes, just being conscious of the need to beat back one's inner frustrations and remaining outwardly polite becomes easier the more one does it. I'm sure people do all kinds of things to manage stress and stress-related proneness to frustration, and I don't want to comb through the whole Internet for reliable ways of doing so, but perhaps people who have been around for a long time can speak to what has worked for them.

This segment has two lessons. The first is that the level of organizational overburden in this community (how many people exist, what they're doing, whether anyone is overburdened, etc.) has a correlation with how people usually treat one another across the board. Of course, there are people who contribute a ton who don't fall into this trap – I don't think I've ever seen Seth Teitler or Jeff Hoppes be angry about anything, ever -- but perhaps it's worth saying that undue amounts of qbstress are a risk factor for irascibility.

The second lesson is that taking care of yourself is an important part of ensuring that you can treat other people well. I can't speak to exactly what has been going on with Mattw, and this may well not be applicable to his situation. And the scope of the crisis this spring probably isn't a situation from which general principles about self-care can be reasonably derived. But: people need time off, people need breaks, even the most dedicated people need another outlet sometimes instead of being in 24/7 quizbowl mode. Don't let yourself get destroyed over quizbowl -- as important as it is to many of us, it is at heart something we do because we expect it will be fulfilling and entertaining. (After all, there's no prize money at the end of the day.) If it's not doing that, either temporarily or permanently, it's worth taking a look into what you can do for yourself instead of soldiering on as if nothing's wrong.

On emotions / emotionality

I've gotten the sense since very early on that there is often something of a damper on sharing (or having) emotionally-meaningful personal experiences while around quizbowlers, as they're just sort of dismissed most of the time. But maybe that's changing, and maybe it ought to. I was really heartened to see the posts that Eric and Ike made in the wake of ACF Nationals. And I did what I could to do more than the usual pro forma messages at the NHBB Opening Ceremony this year and again in the President's Message section of the NSC Team Handbook this year. Perhaps we got more teary than usual because we were working to the bone over the past few months and our minds were all out of whack, or perhaps people just are more emotional than they ever let on. Or perhaps I'm just projecting. But it certainly seems lately like a lot of us have figured out how to express our positive feelings in a way that we hadn't before. Either way, it's been good to see people do a little more to let their positive feelings out, even if it involves shedding a tear or two. I have a much greater sense that we're here for each other.

One thing I regret about this community is that there's often a lack of joy in it as you go up the levels. People who exult when something they've been waiting for finally comes up are often mocked. Designing a creative new question and sharing it with people is often a joyful experience, but it often gets lost in the shuffle of nit-picking negativity during set discussion. Certainly the "eureka" moment along the lines of "wait, I can write a six-line linguistics tossup on zero" is one that very few other people in the wider world will understand. I'd like to see more awareness of all of the good feelings this game can bring in the discussions we have about it.

Miscellaneous thoughts

I think it'd be unrealistic if I argued here that everybody should "just be nice to each other" or any similar platitude. There is wide variation in personality type among quizbowlers. Some people are naturally more shy, or more prickly, or whatever. Nonetheless I think there are some things everyone can do to make this community a warmer and better-functioning one overall:
  • Thank people for the work they do. It's amazing how far a simple "Thank you" can go towards making someone feel as though they're a valued contributor rather than a nobody.
  • Be attentive when things seem to be going wrong for somebody, and care about perspectives other than your own (ESPECIALLY if your perspective is "extremely skilled player on an elite team" -- it's likely that you're not often forced to think about what's good for people outside your standpoint, incl. things that would result in more players reaching your level).
  • Don't be fake with people you dislike. Sometimes it's better to just not engage at all, or to engage for "strictly business" purposes (emails about hosting, joining up as co-editors or teammates at open tournaments, etc.), than to assume that you have to pretend to be all buddy-buddy.
    • At the same time, don't just ignore people whom you think you're better than, or else other people can reasonably draw the inference that you're a huge jackass.
    • Unless the outreach/expansion situation changes drastically soon, there just aren't that many people in this game, so it's important to interact as best you can with the ones who are here.
  • Ascribing motivations to other people which they're unwilling to agree that they have (or don't admit to having) is a great way of getting said other people very mad at you. This is probably the single tendency which Matt Weiner had which I found most frustrating to see; even when his ascriptions were accurate, the conversation never went anywhere good after this happened.
  • People remember how you treat them. Reputations stick. And in the end, your reputation is the only thing that matters. There are no prizes in this game – we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't have some intrinsic reason to keep coming back. While people still remember you, what do you want them to say? And how do you plan to impel them to say that, as opposed to things you hope they don't say? Keeping that question in mind is an imperfect, but helpful, heuristic.
Leaving gracefully (it's part of treating other people well)

There's also no norm for departing from the quizbowl community (in part because of folk awareness of Weiner's Law #2). The assumption is that everyone will stay around forever, and to some extent that people who choose to quit are defective in some way for making that choice. It's okay to not do quizbowl forever. But we have got to learn to do that in ways that aren't destructive, or which don't leave the remaining community scrambling.

I had a teammate who showed a lot of promise, who decided to quit after only two and a half years of quizbowl participation. Said teammate was intensely devoted to becoming a university professor in a very specialized subject, and ultimately made the call that there was no way to continue on that path and do activities which weren't either (a) directly contributing to admission to graduate school or (b) a way of rejuvenating one's mental, physical, and emotional health. Since quizbowl fell into neither category for this teammate, it had to go. I was certainly sad to see this person leave, and suspect that this person could have gone on to great things in the game with more dedication to it. But I couldn't let myself begrudge this person their choice. In fact, we're still very close friends and I suspect we will be for years yet. While it's not the way I had wanted things to be, it's a situation I was able to learn to live with without hard feelings. I wonder how often that happens more broadly.

What's more, it's possible to turn down quizbowl responsibilities if they'll be too much for you -- in advance. At the club level, I'm obviously a big fan of requirements of the form "This is the tournament that makes us the money we use to attend events; if you don't staff, you don't get to go to any events this semester/year". I'm talking about the level above that – joining up to write sets, becoming an officer of an organization, or what have you. For example: I turned down a spot on the editing team for ACF Regionals 2013, and I don't regret it, given the amount of high school writing I was doing, the expectations of my first year as team captain, and the like. And I've nonetheless worked on Regionals twice (once as head editor, even!). But I turned the position down in August 2012, months before the first packet came in.

Ultimately, there's no perfection here – it's often the case that unforeseen :capybara: comes up out of nowhere and people do have to resign mid-task. But that should be the exception and not the rule. We really ought to change the default time for disengaging from "in the middle of an important responsibility, which gets abandoned as a consequence" to "at a reasonable breaking point between responsibilities, so the things currently being done still get finished even if some future things have to get reassigned."

At some level this is probably going to fall on deaf ears, because the people who would be willing to disappear without contacting their co-writers / teammates are the exact people who aren't going to be bothering to read the many thousands of words in this post. But perhaps my writing it will help influence norms in a better direction, even if most people don't read it here.

Conclusion

As the "Praise Song II" thread confirmed, the final appraisal of Matt Weiner's contributions to quizbowl will always be tinged with some amount of frustration with (and worry about) him, even among his most devoted collaborators and proteges. On one level, this is par for the course in appraising anybody. I don't believe there are any saints, and even if others do, it's certainly the case that virtually all people have both great strengths and profound flaws. If you disliked the way Matt Weiner did things, his way is just one among many of doing things while still remaining completely under the good quizbowl aegis. It need not be the default.

Ultimately, human interaction isn't an analytically solvable problem. There will always be jerks. There will always be interpersonal conflict. People are complicated, and it's often hard to predict how they'll react or what they'll be motivated by. Nonetheless, I think it's worth thinking a little more about ensuring that our community is optimized for being, well, a community, and making sure our defaults and institutions aren't set in a way that's needlessly off-putting, rude, or personally destructive. We owe ourselves, and each other, that much.

Your thoughts?

That said, I am only one person among many. Perhaps this is because I've been around for so long, and have weathered so many crises where others decided they'd had enough (interpersonally and otherwise). It seems like this was a topic many people want to get their thoughts out about -- I am very interested in hearing what others have to say on the broad topic of "how to make the community surrounding quizbowl a more pleasant place to inhabit". Even if it doesn't relate directly to anything I've said above, and especially if there's something in this broad sphere that I neglected to mention.
Matt J.
ex-Georgetown Day HS, ex-Yale
member emeritus, ACF

Sailing away on my copper boat

acrosby1861
Lulu
Posts: 54
Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2015 10:09 pm

Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by acrosby1861 » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:31 pm

Matthew J wrote: Don't let yourself get destroyed over quizbowl -- as important as it is to many of us, it is at heart something we do because we expect it will be fulfilling and entertaining. (After all, there's no prize money at the end of the day.) If it's not doing that, either temporarily or permanently, it's worth taking a look into what you can do for yourself instead of soldiering on as if nothing's wrong.
I've been asked so many times if I enjoy quizbowl. Over and over and over and over. I've said yes, I enjoy it. Over and over and over and over. But the thing is, quizbowl stresses me out. I don't know if this is because getting stuff wrong gets to my head, or being expected to step up in a clutch situation and not doing anything...I will grudgingly admit this, but I'm ambitious to the point it'll be my downfall.

Once, me and my teammates went to a tournament in November, and we didn't do as well as I hoped. I was heartbroken for about a month afterward, but my teammates were notably less so. They went on like nothing ever happened. The guy running the team (we don't use positions like "team captain", and I don't know why), I told him all the quizbowl related stuff I've ever learned over the years--I started out with middle school History Bee and slowly went into quizbowl--but he wouldn't listen. I nitpicked, I pestered, I emailed, I got angry, I wrote about my feelings. Yet he still didn't listen. So I took a two month hiatus in the middle of my sophomore year until I went to NHBB Nationals that April.

I've been asked on a couple occasions if I would be returning to quizbowl in my junior year, both occasions by the same person, the guy who's leading next year's team. Even though I've submitted my application for team leadership, I'm looking back and wondering why I submitted the application in the first place.

I'm grudgingly admitting this too, but I take quizbowl more seriously than my teammates. I'm afraid that this will not only destroy my sanity, but the team as well. I think it's the "We vs. Me" mentality that keeps me going. That mentality is everywhere at my school. I see the girls basketball team with shirts that say "We > Me". At least once a week over the PA system, someone says, "Come out and support [insert sport here] at [insert venue here] at [insert time here] because [insert reason to come here]. There will be food."

I think that's one of the good aspects of quiz bowl. It may not be a sport, but the "We vs. Me" concept is still going around. I'm sure there are people like me who nitpick and go on and on about stuff that was supposed to happen but didn't, but still keep going because of the "We > Me" keeping them going. I don't know what other people do to keep them going in quizbowl, when things go bad for them. What keeps them going? Surely they have a reason like mine or another one. Surely they know how to deal with personality conflicts better than I do.
Matthew J wrote: I had a teammate who showed a lot of promise, who decided to quit after only two and a half years of quizbowl participation. Said teammate was intensely devoted to becoming a university professor in a very specialized subject, and ultimately made the call that there was no way to continue on that path and do activities which weren't either (a) directly contributing to admission to graduate school or (b) a way of rejuvenating one's mental, physical, and emotional health. Since quizbowl fell into neither category for this teammate, it had to go. I was certainly sad to see this person leave, and suspect that this person could have gone on to great things in the game with more dedication to it. But I couldn't let myself begrudge this person their choice. In fact, we're still very close friends and I suspect we will be for years yet. While it's not the way I had wanted things to be, it's a situation I was able to learn to live with without hard feelings. I wonder how often that happens more broadly.
When I was on the team in my sophomore year, there were about ten or twelve dedicated people, two of whom I trusted entirely. When I went on hiatus, I told one of the two I trusted to go tell the others. Later, I found out from the second of the two that everyone was making up theories about why I left. None of those theories came even remotely close to the real reason why I left. I took a hiatus because a) I was the second youngest on the team and the age gap between me and everyone else was too big for me to handle; and b) I wasn't being taken seriously. I had hard feelings about the teammates that I wasn't really close to, but I needed to wonder how everyone else was feeling, regardless of whether I was close to them or not. But I talked to some of my teammates, and they act like I never went on hiatus at all. They were able to go on without me.

I have to wonder how my teammates could go on like that, without not letting my absence bother them. I don't regret taking a hiatus--as one of my teammates put it, "You were just clearing your head"--but I don't know what it's like on the other end. When someone leaves, what goes on in their teammates' head? Do they regret not knowing, or if they know, do they regret knowing?

This is my longest post to date, sorry about that, but to close this up, I'm just going to repeat the questions I asked earlier.

When someone leaves, what goes on in their teammates' head? Do they regret not knowing, or if they know, do they regret knowing? Does anyone else have the "We > Me" mindset?
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by a bird » Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:52 pm

Matthew J wrote:
  • Thank people for the work they do. It's amazing how far a simple "Thank you" can go towards making someone feel as though they're a valued contributor rather than a nobody.
To build on this point, I want to mention my experience with our submission from this year's ACF Nationals. The Monday after I submitted our packet, Ike sent me an email thanking the Kenyon team for submitting a well done packet, and praising some of the questions we'd submitted. I was very glad to have my work on the packet validated, as were my teammates. Furthermore it was great to see some validation and to know we were on the right track in terms of writing good questions.

This was a small gesture, but it had an good effect on me as a writer and the Kenyon program as a whole. Matt's recommendation is spot-on.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:04 pm

Matt, you bring up some absolutely fantastic points, many of which resonate with me such that I want to elaborate. To come clean for all: I am posting this as someone who, (at least I think, and could be misperceiving my own place) “just kind of showed up and was present until one becomes a voice at the center of things” as Matt described. I talk to a lot of the people at the top on the IRC, and have come to consider many of them friends, even if I haven’t ever met them in person. I also post this as someone who deals with fringe people in the community on a frequent basis, and hears a whole lot of resentment to that center. I was never a great player, writer, or editor. Make of that what you will.
Matthew J wrote:
One thing I've noticed among some elite players is a sort of snarky, dismissive, or judgmental attitude towards people who aren't as skilled as themselves, or who play quizbowl without being as invested in it. [emphasis is my own] This is utterly toxic and I recommend strongly against having it. For one thing, this sort of scorn is a very easy way to cut off promising future writers, players, teams, and organizers, by making them feel unwanted rather than welcome to try taking on something new. For another, you have no idea who's going to emerge out of the pack out of spite that you overlooked them, and become impossible to ignore (because they're crushing you in-game).
This is a very real and very pernicious thing at almost every level of quizbowl (perhaps not Middle School?) It’s a sad fact that national contender teams often look down on average to below average teams, and will snicker and pooh-pooh them under their breath without even making much of an effort to hide this behavior. Please understand that QUIZBOWL IS HARD. Most of the “stock” topics we ask about at the high school difficulty are not things most high schoolers encounter. Most of the stock topics we ask in college quizbowl are not something even intelligent, reasonably cultured adults necessarily know about. It takes a ton of time and effort to go out and learn these things.

To get to my more specific point, we all love quizbowl here. It’s probably a very important part of all of our lives if we are spending time to read thousand word posts on the subject. I think this clouds the fact that quizbowl IS NOT an inherently better use of one’s time than any other activity, studying for class, or spending time with family and non-quizbowl friends. To get good, you have to give up a hell of a lot of time you could be spending doing something else. Not everyone (in fact probably more people than not) will sacrifice that. Yet, there is still so much one could gain (learn a few facts, make some friends, have fun, get a good travel disaster story for the grandkids someday) from playing quizbowl without ever studying or getting good. Thus, as a community, we need to do a much better job of sympathizing with people who don’t study for quizbowl, don't play more than a couple times a year, or just want to read tournaments. They are approaching the game in an equally valid way. Playing casually should be encouraged, not dismissed.
Nonetheless, I think as a merely tactical matter that it's often ill-advised to leap out there in arguing with someone and ascribe some hidden motivation to them. More often than not, this will result in fervent denial (regardless of whether the motivation is actually there) and a lack of willingness to cooperate or change in the future.
I've seen this too, and it's not good. Too many people in quizbowl are afraid to make even the slightest error because they could be jumped on and have the community hold it over their head to kingdom come. I do think we are getting better about this, but I still think this is worth emphasizing. Most people don't write questions that are too hard just to see how clever they are. Most people don't host bad tournaments with the intent to be running at 6:00. Help these people out. Give them second and third chances. Don't give them tenth chances, that's when public service announcements need to happen. All of this applies especially to the "not 80 to 100" at the heart of the quizbowl hierarchy.
I have noticed that a mindset has developed among many organizers of this game after dealing with years of threats from Chip Beall, CBI, etc. that good quizbowl is a fragile and precarious activity which is always "under siege" by nefarious forces. For a long time, this was earnestly and visibly true in a way that younger players today might never appreciate or understand. Progress was piecemeal and bad quizbowl organizations and bad people were in fact trying to destroy it at every stage. But good quizbowl has developed as an institution greatly (due in large part to the very people who held this "siege" mentality) over the past decade and more. And that mindset may not be applicable as often (or as universally) anymore. For the most part, the level of distance in "badness" between the sides of arguments on these boards that I support and the side that I oppose has shrunk VASTLY in the 8 years I've been doing this. But the tenor of rhetoric has often remained at the same height. While there certainly are areas where there is much work to do to even get most teams out of the clutches of corrupt or awful-quality question organizations, places like "the top bracket of ACF Nationals" surely aren't in the same situation.

As a side-effect, I worry that an attitude of constant threat-detection might spill over into suspicion towards newcomers, or toward people who started off playing bad formats but earnestly seek change. I wonder if this has negative effects on recruiting or expansion.
This will come from an isolated case of Pennsylvania’s bad state format, and it would be great if other people weighed in with their experiences in other places. For more about that if you don’t know, please read this.

The reason that the state format had fended off any inroads from an increasingly large number of people calling for reform is that they have a stake to loose in this. The CCIU, which runs the state level tournament, is affiliated with just one County for all its other functions and activates. This county has won the competition the last six years running and an undo share of all total tournaments since the start. They use the same format for their counties and for the states, and thus the local teams are the only ones used to their style of question and have an unfair advantage. Wouldn’t you want to keep that advantage for local teams? Additionally, would you give up $2000 of income you get for running the competition, serving in a “communications director” or “events coordinator” or “judge” role that good quiz bowl would obsolete?

Bad quizbowl people have reasons to defend their formats, even if they are not good ones. It could be fiscal, personal emotional investment in questions they themselves wrote, bureaucratic, or whatever. They're likely to see us as a threat, just the way we see them as a threat. This is not to say we should throw up our hands and give up trying to convert bad quizbowl practices, au contraire. Being dismissive of them is going to get us nowhere; the stand-off will continue. People can be stubborn, but if enough of us band together and ask for change in a diplomatic manner, eventually we may change some minds. But, I think we should perceive bad quizbowl defenders as misinformed people who can be taught and who could perhaps change their attitude with time, instead of barbarians who hate all things good with the world, as was the typical MattW response.

--

A last more general point: I seriously considered quitting quizbowl no less than three times in my collegiate career. I felt pressure, primarily from this board, for not really studying, for not wanting to write questions, and for not raising a fit when we read a trash packet in practice. It felt like my less dedicated approach was supposedly illegitimate, and this was frustrating. Later, I discovered other ways to be involved with the game, like outreach, which have reinvigorated me. This is mainly aimed at new people: Don't feel like you have to put up all star scores or write immaculate questions to be a valuable member of this community. It may seem like those are the only things people care about, and on bad days, I still admittedly slip into that kind of thinking. But, it is not true. If you're out there talking to a new high school and encouraging them, you are valuable. If you are out there fixing your school's broken buzzer, you are valuable. If you're out there getting one question a day, making your teammates laugh, talking to them about pop music or pokémon on the way home, and smiling as you walk through the door at night, you are valuable. Do not let anyone's behavior or attitude convince you otherwise.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Sun Jul 05, 2015 9:20 pm

I'll probably attempt to post a more detailed response at some point, but for now I want to mention one specific example that comes to mind:
Matthew J wrote:How many prospective members of the "peripheral" community actually finds the quizbowl community to be insufferable enough that they don't want to be part of the game at all? Is there anything we should do or is the problem entirely with them? From that point onward, how many people would like to become more central to the game but feel dissuaded from doing so? And of that group, how many were merely disinterested versus directly put off by the way quizbowlers interact?
There is a problem with the way people in Quizbowl treat those in the "periphery". For Tricon 2.5, one question per packet was "A history question involving a famous serial killer or incident of murder, in which all factual details are otherwise accurate but all names of victims are replaced with the name 'Kirk Jing'". It doesn't matter that there were some issues with Kirk's Modern World tournament about a month prior; it's still extremely disrespectful, unprofessional, serves zero constructive purpose, and gives the air that Quizbowl is designed to be enjoyed by a specific "inner circle" rather than high schoolers and college students all across the country.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by acrosby1861 » Sun Jul 05, 2015 11:30 pm

Beatlefan11 wrote:
Matthew J wrote:
One thing I've noticed among some elite players is a sort of snarky, dismissive, or judgmental attitude towards people who aren't as skilled as themselves, or who play quizbowl without being as invested in it. [emphasis is my own] This is utterly toxic and I recommend strongly against having it. For one thing, this sort of scorn is a very easy way to cut off promising future writers, players, teams, and organizers, by making them feel unwanted rather than welcome to try taking on something new. For another, you have no idea who's going to emerge out of the pack out of spite that you overlooked them, and become impossible to ignore (because they're crushing you in-game).
This is a very real and very pernicious thing at almost every level of quizbowl (perhaps not Middle School?) It’s a sad fact that national contender teams often look down on average to below average teams, and will snicker and pooh-pooh them under their breath without even making much of an effort to hide this behavior. Please understand that QUIZBOWL IS HARD. Most of the “stock” topics we ask about at the high school difficulty are not things most high schoolers encounter. Most of the stock topics we ask in college quizbowl are not something even intelligent, reasonably cultured adults necessarily know about. It takes a ton of time and effort to go out and learn these things.

To get to my more specific point, we all love quizbowl here. It’s probably a very important part of all of our lives if we are spending time to read thousand word posts on the subject. I think this clouds the fact that quizbowl IS NOT an inherently better use of one’s time than any other activity, studying for class, or spending time with family and non-quizbowl friends. To get good, you have to give up a hell of a lot of time you could be spending doing something else. Not everyone (in fact probably more people than not) will sacrifice that. Yet, there is still so much one could gain (learn a few facts, make some friends, have fun, get a good travel disaster story for the grandkids someday) from playing quizbowl without ever studying or getting good. Thus, as a community, we need to do a much better job of sympathizing with people who don’t study for quizbowl, don't play more than a couple times a year, or just want to read tournaments. They are approaching the game in an equally valid way. Playing casually should be encouraged, not dismissed.
Personally I've never seen this phenomenon happen (maybe this is because I haven't been to many tournaments?) but at the last couple tournaments I went to, I noticed that everyone knew everyone, or at least could connect a name and a face. And I was just awkwardly standing in the corner watching everybody talk to each other. It's not that I didn't know anyone--there were some people I ran into in the past--but quizbowl has its cliques. At a NHBB tournament once, I noticed that everyone grouped themselves by school. All the Arcadia kids situated themselves in one corner, all the Whitney kids situated themselves in another, and everyone else formed their own little circles in the area in between. And the only bits of interaction I really saw came from matches and the attempts I made at trying to talk to people. (I was a one person team, I really had no teammates to circle up with.) I didn't want to be known as the kid who marches up to people while they're in the middle of a conversation and asks what their names are.

I think that's one of the reasons why newcomers don't really come much. They are less likely to come to events where the people who go form cliques and don't really make an effort to talk to them. I've been guilty of staying with a group, not really reaching out to anyone. One of my teammates saw a guy who moderated for us once and pointed him out to me ("Hey, see that guy by the door? Wasn't he one of our moderators?"), but didn't go over to say hi.

I might sound really weird when I say that doing five to ten minute icebreakers during opening meetings sounds like a good idea. It would offer any newcomers (there's bound to be at least some newcomers) a chance to meet people, and all the regulars to meet the newcomers. I know that icebreakers at really large tournaments would be super tedious, and I've sat through enough youth group events to know that trying to do an icebreaker with high school age people usually ends in nobody wanting to say or do anything. But maybe having icebreakers right before a round starts, when the statkeeper's taking down names or something, would be a better idea because there would be a shortened amount of time and everyone needs to move along a bit faster. Feel free to agree or disagree with me on this one.

The parts about quiz bowl being hard. One of my friends asked me about quizbowl once, and he seemed super interested--more interested than most people, to be honest. I told him, "Go join it, you know people already. You know me, you know Mark, you know that one guy who's name I can't remember..." I was going on and on, showing him the stats for Los Al. And I think I freaked him out a little bit, but he was still open to the quizbowl idea despite the initial shock.

My thoughts on this one. For recruitment, what I've done is print up easier difficulty questions and ask maybe the last couple sentences of the question and see if the people interested can answer it. Then when they join, I continue to do the easier questions until I feel that they are ready for the harder ones. Give them questions they can answer and then slowly give them harder questions. Baby steps.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:09 am

Speaking with regards to the community's reaction to the Modern World Tournament, I'd actually cite that as (apart from the rather hateful vitriol that people proceeded to spit at my friend, which sank to rather appalling depths) one of the experiences that bolstered my faith in the quizbowl community. Keep in mind that the fiasco related to that tournament came after [what felt like to me] a lukewarm reception for the Cane Ridge Revival, our third-bracket finish at ICT after being totally screwed by the worst prelim brackets ever, my sleep deprivation-induced spat of shitty behavior at History Bowl, and our team's decision not to show up to play the second day of ACF Nationals (after putting up our best performance ever). People realized I had tried to produce a set in good faith and worked rather hard on it, and weren't particularly hard on me in-person as the event went on. Heck, I was even allowed to sign on to do a substantial amount of quizbowl writing for two of the premiere regular-difficulty sets of the fall, and invited on board to bail out the third!

I don't think this had much to do with my abilities at the game then, since I was a second scorer on a not particularly respected team (not that I'm any better off competitively these days - on the contrary!). Rather, it showed to me that dedication to the game, honesty, and hard work get recognized. Sure, it still can sometimes feel like the weight of a person's opinion is as much based on their PPG and their team's success as anything else, but meeting those baselines guarantees you a foot in the door, if not necessarily an apotheosis to the level of quizbowl godhood.

With regards to the attitudes about more "casual" players of the game, I'm totally on board with what people have been saying. I got the quizbowl fever my freshman year and it sort of got me to develop a bit of a condescending attitude towards people who went to tournaments but didn't work to improve like I did, and this is an attitude I've worked hard to kick. At the few tournaments I've played this past year, it's helped my enjoyment of the game a lot to focus on the whole "Awesome, you knew that! Great work!" aspect of the game and interaction with teammates along these lines. Being a better person in the community for me really started with having an improved, more relaxed attitude towards my own and others' abilities and to try to make the game about enjoyment of its raw content again, as much as it was when I started playing. Writing lots of questions has made me appreciate this even more.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:33 am

I don't have a lot to add to Matt's pretty comprehensive post; I will say this:

Quizbowl (and I am including myself in it) has a problem more so than other group activities I have been involved in which "being rude/brusque" is confused quite frequently with "getting things done," almost as if there's a feeling that if you aren't being rude, you're not managing a tournament as powerfully as you could be. At several tournaments that I have staffed or worked on, I have felt like tournament directors or staffers spoke rather condescendingly or brusquely to me (a non exhaustive list would include various HSNCTs, this year's ACF Nationals, and the post-Weiner NHBB bailout--and to their credit, in almost every instance, the person extended an apology ex post facto). Of course, then, I thought about the times when I directed tournaments and I was pretty rude to my staffers too, so I know that this can happen quite easily. It's something I want to correct in me and that I think we can all choose to work on.

At the vast majority of tournaments, the vast majority of staffers sincerely wish to produce a quality experience. While we might think that being rude or condescending to staffers will "keep them in line," in many cases I think this has a negative effect. I need to work on this in my own work with others in all aspects of quizbowl--editing, tournament directing, and playing. I have the utmost respect for people who can organized yet respectful in working with others--people like Nathan Murphy and Sarah Angelo, for example, are great examples to me anyway of how a staffing director's careful respect can make everyone else work harder, whereas the times I was talked down to or rudely did not make me wish to work harder. Yeah, at some level, there's the "suck it up and stop being sensitive," but there are better ways to do this.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Guile Island » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:49 am

Here are a few stray thoughts on this topic: while I've always been incredibly interested in the social dynamics of the quizbowl community, I'm not the best at expressing those thoughts into a good post on the matter, so I may expand this post over time when more things come to me in a coherent manner.

One thing I've found out about the quizbowl community over these last few years getting to know everybody is that even the biggest personalities on the forums are a lot more approachable and good-natured in real life than one may believe from just reading their forum posts. In particular, I think the idea that "you have to be good at quizbowl to have any social clout in the community" is an incredibly toxic one that people need to stop complaining about, as it's been demonstrated to be untrue time after time and should be apparent to anybody who has set foot in a room with a bunch of quizbowlers: while we may be a bit cliquey sometimes, and while we still have quite a ways to go, I have always found the quizbowl community to be much more inviting and accepting in person than its reputation sometimes suggests.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Urech hydantoin synthesis » Mon Jul 06, 2015 3:19 am

Beatlefan11 wrote: Thus, as a community, we need to do a much better job of sympathizing with people who don’t study for quizbowl, don't play more than a couple times a year, or just want to read tournaments. They are approaching the game in an equally valid way. Playing casually should be encouraged, not dismissed.
I don't want to direct this thread to a topic that has already been discussed, but I think that one of the first steps in better sympathizing with casual players is lowering the difficulty of more regular season tournaments. Sure, there's ACF Fall, and MUT in the spring to keep hangers-on around, but what I've noticed is that the majority of tournaments are simply not very fun to play outside of maybe 4-8 people, even in a club that may have ~20 people through first semester. "But [insert X very good player or team] won't play if the difficulty is lowered" is a very callous argument towards the much more numerous players who show up to Regionals, get <10 PPB, and then decide that quizbowl wasn't in fact worth their time in college.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Dominator » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:29 am

Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts wrote:In particular, I think the idea that "you have to be good at quizbowl to have any social clout in the community" is an incredibly toxic one that people need to stop complaining about, as it's been demonstrated to be untrue time after time and should be apparent to anybody who has set foot in a room with a bunch of quizbowlers
At the risk of telling someone how to post...

Dylan, I think your heart is in the right place, but your rhetoric comes off as "The only people who hold this viewpoint are ones who haven't done enough to dispel it", which I believe is part of the problem, not the solution. If you'd like to help relieve people of this opinion, you could offer a few specific examples that perhaps not everyone is familiar with to demonstrate your conclusion (rather than simple pronounce it).
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:29 am

Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts wrote: One thing I've found out about the quizbowl community over these last few years getting to know everybody is that even the biggest personalities on the forums are a lot more approachable and good-natured in real life than one may believe from just reading their forum posts.
Matt Weiner was an extremely notable example of this: the guy was downright friendly in person, even to people he despised. Internet Matt Weiner was full of vitriol, but IRL Matt Weiner didn't just have an absence of vitriol, he had a presence of friendliness. There's a lot of stuff on the internet talking about how the internet brings out the worst in people because of the distance and semi-anonymity, and perhaps this ties in with what Matt Jackson said about quizbowl being mostly online being a thing we should be cognizant of.

Anyway, I was never much a fan of Matt Weiner's shaming-based approach to promoting good quizbowl. Every piece of research, every "how to motivate your coworkers" book, etc., that I've ever read preaches the merits of positive reinforcement rather than shaming or yelling at people. In theory, Matt Weiner's approach to managing the quizbowl community should have resulted in its collapse and contraction. But it didn't. Matt Weiner was able to shape quizbowl in his own image, cast out demons, etc., and during his time in power the game actually grew and you had more teams at ACF Nationals than ever before.

That shouldn't have happened. But it did. And it haunts me every now and then, that maybe Matt was on to something.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:05 am

I don't know per se if Matt was "onto something" or not; it's not like he was the only person behind good quizbowl during the last few years and many other folks, including those with less confrontational styles, did great work in expanding quizbowl as well. I think one good thing about Matt's aggressive style was that it helped to eliminate vestiges of the laissez-faire "any quizbowl is good quizbowl" beliefs that perpetuated the game when I was in high school.

Anyway, Matt was excellent at promoting quizbowl; that was never his issue. Frankly, Matt always seemed (sometimes unnecessarily) more antagonistic with people who were already good quizbowl supporters. I think what a lot of Matt Jackson is saying doesn't necessarily apply to Person X is hurting the spread of good quizbowl but rather Person X is offending or alienating people already on board with good quizbowl.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:43 am

I have a few observations to make about this topic:

1) Quizbowl is perhaps the most civil and well-behaved internet community that I've ever been a part of. We have specific issues to work on when it comes to how we treat each other (and I will address some of them in this post), but I want to start out by pointing out how well we're already doing. I don't think HSQB is a daunting environment for new people to enter, and I have confidence that if that were true, people with the power to change it would attempt to do so.

2) Part of the reason that I can make the first point is because the discussion climate has improved significantly in the last five years. There are fewer personal attacks, the discussion stays closer to quizbowl topics, and community members make an effort to think about the implications of what they and others are saying. The moderation staff should be commended for that, but perhaps there are other reasons why the discussion has changed. At least some of the credit should go to people who attempted to reign in some of the nastiness, but I'll also note that some of the more notorious posters have either mellowed out or stopped posting much. Another thing that has happened is reduced advocacy for bad quizbowl on these forums, which brings me to my next point.

3) Bad quizbowl advocates are perhaps some of the first to violate the rules of civility, and we should do well to remember this. Sometimes there are nice people involved who just have differing opinions, and you can politely reason with them. But you can't nice your way to victory with some of these people: they are set in their ways and do not want to change. They will lash out at you on these boards and elsewhere, pass rules and restrictions as punishment for making them mad, and demean good quizbowl in any way they can. They will make up lies about you if they have to, or use intellectually dishonest arguments (things like "this is our tradition" or "this is how we do it around here") to poison the reputation of good quizbowl and its advocates among coaches and players. College Bowl did these things, Questions Unlimited did these things, Bryce Avery did these things, and state organizations in Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, and countless other states have behaved in a belligerent manner for decades in an attempt to squash reforms and competition. These fights are part of our history, our present, and will be part of our future. If you want to spread good quizbowl, it's a good idea to know these things and be prepared for what will come your way.

4) Not everybody who is on the good quizbowl side of the argument is a good person. Don't take it easy on people who behave unethically or belligerently just because they like pyramidal questions: if they screw up, call them out on it! This post is a good example of warning people about the bad behaviors of others.

5) Be aware of the problems associated with tone policing. Telling people to take a more polite tone is not a rebuttal to their argument, and should not be treated as such. We can all believe that striving for politeness is a positive goal, and most of the rest of my post will stem from this ideal. But my point here is that it is not the ultimate goal of the discussions on this board, and that there is a place for being blunt with people when they are being difficult. There's a line that should not be crossed (don't make really personal attacks, don't use bigoted language, etc.) but just saying that somebody is incompetent or bad for quizbowl when their actions are clearly incompetent or bad for quizbowl is sometimes a necessary argument to make. Push for improvement in cases where it can be made, but when a certain coach from Maryland argues that It's Academic is better than good quizbowl for the 100th time, your response should just be to remind the community that he's simply a bad quizbowl bozo who should be ignored.

With all this said, quizbowl still has a lot of work to do. I did not come here only to pat the quizbowl community on the back and completely embrace the status quo.

6) We have yet to develop resources to properly explain our arguments for why quizbowl is what it is, and when new people come to the community they are essentially punished for not knowing the norms of quizbowl in the modern age. Newcomers should be alerted immediately about what is considered "good quizbowl" and pointed to good arguments supporting practices like pyramidal questions and round robin playoffs, with a special discussion of how quizbowl has evolved and give a historical perspective for why quizbowl looks different in 2015 than 2005 or 1995, and why that's a good thing.

7) Don't get caught up in regionalism. While working to improve college quizbowl in the Southeast over the last few years, I noticed a lot of people in the region felt that quizbowlers in other regions were dismissive towards them. I've heard comments that implied the Southeast was "half a region" or that nobody there likes good quizbowl, and that's just not backed up by the amount of teams playing good tournaments and qualifying for ICT. Some of this was born in not realizing that the region had improved from a nadir that happened sometime around 2010, but it certainly made people worry that there were personal issues rooted in stereotypes at play. This kind of attitude feeds resentment, and can be especially damaging in areas that might need the most goodwill at times they are down in terms of infrastructure or competitiveness. It causes people to not want to make connections to how quizbowl is played in other regions, because why bother if they would never like us? That's something to avoid whether you're talking about a whole region of the country, or the rural part of your state that isn't as active on good questions yet. Criticize when specific people and practices need to be criticized, but eagerly work with those who will work with you. Don't let bad quizbowl advocates kneecap your argument by making people think you're simply an outsider who doesn't understand or respect your audience!

8) Quizbowl needs to acknowledge its lack of diversity: the game is played mostly by affluent people, has made few inroads into minority communities, and the gender ratio is somewhat staggeringly imbalanced. These are actual issues that should be addressed, and the future expansion of the game will rely on cultivating relationships with people who are underrepresented in quizbowl right now. This means being sensitive when it comes to discussing money issues, because too often assumptions are made that teams and players will have resources that many poorly-funded schools do not. This means being culturally competent in how you deal with students, parents, coaches, and administrators when you do reach out to them, figuring out why these imbalances exists from the people who are left out, and working to make changes to our community that solve these imbalances. The community does a (mostly) good job of not tolerating racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or other forms of bigotry from individuals, and we should build upon this to make sure our game does not reinforce institutional forms of these problems.

9) Those of us with established ties to the community should build relationships and friendships with people who are less connected to the community, especially people who are new to the game. Charles Meigs once posted about befriending Chris Chiego as a means of getting to know people from the South in quizbowl, and it's a practice that I think has potential to make this a stronger and more friendly community. Whether it's hanging out with someone new at a national tournament, having dinner with other teams who are attending a regional tournament, or simply making sure to be friendly during and between games at any tournament, it's important to build relationships with people to sustain the community going forward. And the responsibility is on people with more current investment in the game, not those who are new and perhaps don't know what they can say to who.

10) At the end of day, we should remember two somewhat contradictory things: a) Quizbowl is just a game, and you don't have to prioritize it unless you want to. b) Quizbowl is very serious to some people, and there is nothing wrong with that. People are all going to engage with quizbowl in different ways, and this might be to different degrees of involvement or perhaps different attitudes about how seriously to take quizbowl discussions. This is completely fine! We shouldn't be flippant towards people who make serious, impassioned arguments about their views on the game simply because we think their tone is too serious, but we should also acknowledge that other people just play quizbowl for fun and aren't interested in hearing your in-depth rant to the moderator about why some bonus didn't have a true middle part. There are more than enough people in both camps to allow for discussion about different aspects of the game among people who focus on those things, while not damaging the overall community of people who have one important thing in common: we all enjoy quizbowl.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:51 pm

I have a lot of things to say, but sentences are hard to construct.
Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts wrote:Here are a few stray thoughts on this topic: while I've always been incredibly interested in the social dynamics of the quizbowl community, I'm not the best at expressing those thoughts into a good post on the matter, so I may expand this post over time when more things come to me in a coherent manner.

One thing I've found out about the quizbowl community over these last few years getting to know everybody is that even the biggest personalities on the forums are a lot more approachable and good-natured in real life than one may believe from just reading their forum posts. In particular, I think the idea that "you have to be good at quizbowl to have any social clout in the community" is an incredibly toxic one that people need to stop complaining about, as it's been demonstrated to be untrue time after time and should be apparent to anybody who has set foot in a room with a bunch of quizbowlers: while we may be a bit cliquey sometimes, and while we still have quite a ways to go, I have always found the quizbowl community to be much more inviting and accepting in person than its reputation sometimes suggests.
I agree with Dylan here, but it still means that quizbowlers in general need to improve their online image. I had a not-so-positive image of the "elite circle" of quizbowlers before I met y'all at CO 2013. "You have to be good at quizbowl to have any social clout in the community" is not a thing, and most people inside the community know it isn't, but it isn't the same to new quizbolwers.
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:
Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts wrote: One thing I've found out about the quizbowl community over these last few years getting to know everybody is that even the biggest personalities on the forums are a lot more approachable and good-natured in real life than one may believe from just reading their forum posts.
Matt Weiner was an extremely notable example of this: the guy was downright friendly in person, even to people he despised. Internet Matt Weiner was full of vitriol, but IRL Matt Weiner didn't just have an absence of vitriol, he had a presence of friendliness. There's a lot of stuff on the internet talking about how the internet brings out the worst in people because of the distance and semi-anonymity, and perhaps this ties in with what Matt Jackson said about quizbowl being mostly online being a thing we should be cognizant of.

Anyway, I was never much a fan of Matt Weiner's shaming-based approach to promoting good quizbowl. Every piece of research, every "how to motivate your coworkers" book, etc., that I've ever read preaches the merits of positive reinforcement rather than shaming or yelling at people. In theory, Matt Weiner's approach to managing the quizbowl community should have resulted in its collapse and contraction. But it didn't. Matt Weiner was able to shape quizbowl in his own image, cast out demons, etc., and during his time in power the game actually grew and you had more teams at ACF Nationals than ever before.

That shouldn't have happened. But it did. And it haunts me every now and then, that maybe Matt was on to something.
Bruce's first point is definitely true, even though Matt had the same harsh stance on eliminating bad quizbowl when I have spoken to him in person, it came out as much less aggressive and his rhetoric made sense. However, I don't think you can attribute more ACF Nationals teams, or more HSNCT teams, or whatever to Matt Weiner. He absolutely did not influence McGill's decision to attend our first ACF Nationals.
7) Don't get caught up in regionalism. While working to improve college quizbowl in the Southeast over the last few years, I noticed a lot of people in the region felt that quizbowlers in other regions were dismissive towards them. I've heard comments that implied the Southeast was "half a region" or that nobody there likes good quizbowl, and that's just not backed up by the amount of teams playing good tournaments and qualifying for ICT. Some of this was born in not realizing that the region had improved from a nadir that happened sometime around 2010, but it certainly made people worry that there were personal issues rooted in stereotypes at play. This kind of attitude feeds resentment, and can be especially damaging in areas that might need the most goodwill at times they are down in terms of infrastructure or competitiveness. It causes people to not want to make connections to how quizbowl is played in other regions, because why bother if they would never like us? That's something to avoid whether you're talking about a whole region of the country, or the rural part of your state that isn't as active on good questions yet. Criticize when specific people and practices need to be criticized, but eagerly work with those who will work with you. Don't let bad quizbowl advocates kneecap your argument by making people think you're simply an outsider who doesn't understand or respect your audience!
This is pretty much the same situation as Canada is in. For example, it baffles me why Tricon passes as a vanity tournament, but McMaster Vanity, or VETO doesn't, even though most of the writers who would write for such a Canadian vanity event could submit a decent packet for Tricon.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:20 pm

One thing that hasn't been brought up anywhere but is still an issue is that quite a few people in Quizbowl have an inflated sense of ego, to the point where it almost seems that they believe that Quizbowl only exists to serve themselves. I've heard of issues in several past HSNCTs where people would choose to skip reading scrimmage rounds to hang out with friends, even though by signing up to staff, they were committing both Saturday and Sunday. People on IRC were talking about the reason why people were afraid to post on the forums was because they're "starstruck" of people like the chatroom regulars. The college game keeps running into issues where tournaments are too hard and there are too few options for those who are new to the scene or who don't put up awesome statlines. At the moment there are zero housewritten regular-difficulty mACF tournaments announced while there are two such "regionals+" tournaments on the schedule. I'm sure people enjoy writing harder stuff more, but it only serves to hinder fledgling clubs that lack good Quizbowl-playing opportunities.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by vinteuil » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:29 pm

Public safety diving wrote:At the moment there are zero housewritten regular-difficulty mACF tournaments announced.
"STIMPY II" definitely fits this description. I can't speak for everyone else, but I'm not a big fan of _only_ having hard-ish tournaments.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by 1.82 » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:32 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Public safety diving wrote:At the moment there are zero housewritten regular-difficulty mACF tournaments announced.
"STIMPY II" definitely fits this description. I can't speak for everyone else, but I'm not a big fan of _only_ having hard-ish tournaments.
The correct term, I believe, is "STIIMPY".
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Auroni » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:50 pm

Public safety diving wrote:At the moment there are zero housewritten regular-difficulty mACF tournaments announced while there are two such "regionals+" tournaments on the schedule. I'm sure people enjoy writing harder stuff more, but it only serves to hinder fledgling clubs that lack good Quizbowl-playing opportunities.
Although I have deliberately avoided using the debased term "regular difficulty" to characterize it, MLK will have several tossups of ACF Fall answerline difficulty per packet, and strict enforcement of real, actual easy parts.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Jul 06, 2015 3:04 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Public safety diving wrote:At the moment there are zero housewritten regular-difficulty mACF tournaments announced.
"STIMPY II" definitely fits this description. I can't speak for everyone else, but I'm not a big fan of _only_ having hard-ish tournaments.
Glad to see. I must have missed it when I was going through the scheduling discussion thread.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:00 pm

Cheynem wrote:I don't have a lot to add to Matt's pretty comprehensive post; I will say this:

Quizbowl (and I am including myself in it) has a problem more so than other group activities I have been involved in which "being rude/brusque" is confused quite frequently with "getting things done," almost as if there's a feeling that if you aren't being rude, you're not managing a tournament as powerfully as you could be. At several tournaments that I have staffed or worked on, I have felt like tournament directors or staffers spoke rather condescendingly or brusquely to me (a non exhaustive list would include various HSNCTs, this year's ACF Nationals, and the post-Weiner NHBB bailout--and to their credit, in almost every instance, the person extended an apology ex post facto). Of course, then, I thought about the times when I directed tournaments and I was pretty rude to my staffers too, so I know that this can happen quite easily. It's something I want to correct in me and that I think we can all choose to work on.

At the vast majority of tournaments, the vast majority of staffers sincerely wish to produce a quality experience. While we might think that being rude or condescending to staffers will "keep them in line," in many cases I think this has a negative effect. I need to work on this in my own work with others in all aspects of quizbowl--editing, tournament directing, and playing. I have the utmost respect for people who can organized yet respectful in working with others--people like Nathan Murphy and Sarah Angelo, for example, are great examples to me anyway of how a staffing director's careful respect can make everyone else work harder, whereas the times I was talked down to or rudely did not make me wish to work harder. Yeah, at some level, there's the "suck it up and stop being sensitive," but there are better ways to do this.
I think this post kind of got lost in the shuffle, but I strongly endorse it. In nearly every situation when you're trying to get someone to do something, you can either ask them politely ("Hey guys, we're busy trying to enter stats here - could you please eat lunch next door instead?") or rudely ("Get out of here, this is the stats room, not the lunch room!"). I think lots of people tend to default to the latter, and lots of quizbowl people in particular. Whether in quizbowl or real life-like situations such as work, you will nearly always have better results by asking people nicely and saying please before you ask rudely. Now, if you ask people nicely and they ignore you, obviously if it's important you need to escalate it. But many people, including prominent community members, people posting in this thread, and myself, tend to default to the former just because it's easy. All of us could make people feel more appreciated and valued if we took a moment to pause and come up with a polite, friendly way to ask them to do something the first time.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Vainamoinen » Tue Jul 07, 2015 12:16 am

One thing that has been rather overlooked in my opinion is the "how we treat each other" with respect to high schoolers and college students/recent graduates in the game. Between my team's proclivity for playing college tournaments, lurking on the IRC, and BONGOS, I've experienced a wide range of treatment. I think an important thing to note is that the true age difference between the two groups can be as low as a year or two and probably around 4-6 on average. In real life terms, that's not much of a difference at all.

I want to offer some personal experiences, primarily from BONGOS, as a means to analyze this relationship. I heard a number of people say things along the lines of "eww it's written by high schoolers" or "can we really expect high schoolers to produce a quality set at this difficulty?" while I was lurking, unbeknownst to them, on the IRC. While I think that this is justified skepticism, it still felt like a punch to the gut. Additionally, the running of the event itself at HSNCT wasn't as fun of an experience as I hoped it would be. I made an error in the scheduling that resulted in a number of teams unnecessarily playing each other twice, and I apologize for this. However, it felt like the main things Farah and I were hearing the entire time we're complaints about the scheduling and complaints about references to specific papers in the questions. I think this is natural in the course of an event, even a side event; I know I've complained about questions far more than I've praised them during a tournament. However, there was a notable difference to me in that the high school players playing the event (e.g. Kevin Wang) had relatively far more positive things to say than some of the college players. Perhaps this is because college players "know better" as to how things could have been done? Regardless, some of the criticism felt more like flat out criticism rather than constructive criticism. (I definitely do not mean the majority of the people who played the event, people were nice/helpful/encouraging for the most part, especially Ben Zhang and Seth/Selene)

I think there's an ingrained attitude that you pass to a different tier of qb society or something when you enter college, and that with that transformation you gain increased freedom in how you can act. Some of this change is of course justified considering that college students constitute the organizations that make the game possible for us, and some level of professionalism and "aboveness" is inherent to that. I'm just saying that I've sometime felt the vibe that you aren't really a part of quizbowl until you're a part of it as a college player. (This certainly isn't the case most of the time though)

I guess my point is that I don't think there should be as big of a divide as I've sometimes felt there is between the high school and college games and the people involved. "How we treat each other" shouldn't vary as much as it does just because our ages may vary by 5 years.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Dominator » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:05 am

I actually completely disagree with Will. The difference may by "only five years", but those are an important five years. It is because those five years are important that we must be especially careful in how we treat each other across gaps. I find that a lot of problems develop when high school quizbowlers are treated like miniature college students.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:33 am

I agree with Will's point of new writers having really high expectations plus the community assuming the set will be bad. However, I don't think it's really a collegiate versus high school problem as it is a general "are you well known/are you a reputable writer" problem. For example, COTTAGE bowl was the first set written by a group of new collegiate writers, and received a lot of rightly deserved criticism, but it wasn't as constructive as it could have been.

To add onto Will's point, a lot of what lingers after a quizbowl tournament is the stuff that stank - one outlier hard bonus, one misleading first clue, one silly mistake, and other small things. I'm definitely guilty of being vocally crazy over small things the day of tournaments and then the next day forgetting about why I was mad after a good day of quizbowl. I'm sure others may in similar situations too, especially if it leads to a bad neg or a loss. I've seen and heard about perfectly normal quizbowlers acting like four year olds after a bad tossup or a bad game.

Andrew Hart discusses this topic here.
Of course, then, I thought about the times when I directed tournaments and I was pretty rude to my staffers too, so I know that this can happen quite easily. It's something I want to correct in me and that I think we can all choose to work on.
Once, a staffer who I was comfortable joking around with was quite behind after round 1 of a (thankfully, collegiate) tournament and I knew he could do better, so I told him in a friendly-offensive way to hurry up. He was cool with it, but one of the players was not. I later deeply regretted what I said. Being rude to staffers can also give the players a bad impression. As Mike also mentions, the staff directors of HSNCT and NSC and other large events definitely deserve a lot of praise for being able to keep calm in super intense situations.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Vainamoinen » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:47 am

Dominator wrote:I find that a lot of problems develop when high school quizbowlers are treated like miniature college students.
What are some examples of these problems?
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage » Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:12 am

Public safety diving wrote:People on IRC were talking about the reason why people were afraid to post on the forums was because they're "starstruck" of people like the chatroom regulars.
As the person who made this comment in the IRC (unless someone else used the same words), I'd like to clarify this a little bit, because it's kind of being misrepresented.

When joining any community, you want to make a good first impression. Therefore, you're more likely to be guarded about expressing your (maybe horribly wrong!) opinion on a thread where there are a lot of really experienced people. I don't think that's a quiz bowl problem: in fact, I don't even think that's really a problem. Part of the reason the boards are as high quality as they are is because it's so encouraged to make thoughtful posts - and ultimately it's a lot harder to make well backed-up and thoughtful posts if you only have a month of experience playing the game. There are places on the forums (the theory section, the more casual sections) where I never felt "star-struck" or "scared to post" or anything like that, so I think the forums are fine on that front.

will's comments on college / high school
I actually see both sides of this. On one hand, there have been a massive amount of college students in quiz bowl that have mentored me, spoken to me as an equal, and there a lot of college students I've become good friends with. Now that I'm technically a college student, I haven't noticed any increase in respect or anything (mostly because I've never had a problem with not being respected, I guess!). However, I have definitely noticed comments from college players about being "over high school quiz bowl drama" or whatever - but I think that you're always going to have some disconnect when you have a significant age / lifestyle gap.

Will, I'm honestly kind of surprised to hear that the reception from high school students was more than college; that was kind of the opposite for me. I produced around 75 questions for an informal skype reading this spring, and while everyone was appreciative and listened, it was the college students+ who gave me feedback and asked questions and helped me make stuff better.

I'm probably not the best authority on this because all of my experiences with quiz bowl at large have been at a point where I'm a high school senior who is public about where they're going to college - not a good example of the high school population overall. However, a lot of my underclassmen friends seem to be similarly respected and engaged with college students.

Finally, I'd like to repeat / paraphrase some comments I made on IRC about my impression of the "ease of penetration" into quiz bowl. Out of all the communities, online or otherwise, that I've been a part of, quiz bowl was actually the most penetrable; there are so many ways to get in contact with the top players, and people aren't stingy with advice or help at all. As a gay quiz bowl player, I've felt very accepted and comfortable with only a few individual exceptions of intolerance. I'm not saying that we're flawless, but I also think quiz bowl deserves some credit for being as approachable as it is - anyone truly motivated to play the game in its fullest will be able to access all the resources they need pretty quickly.

EDIT: spelled quizbowl three different ways, so i had to fix that
Last edited by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage on Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Ike » Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:45 am

Vainamoinen wrote:Stuff about BONGOS...I guess my point is that I don't think there should be as big of a divide as I've sometimes felt there is between the high school and college games and the people involved. "How we treat each other" shouldn't vary as much as it does just because our ages may vary by 5 years.
So I have a lot to say about this topic that applies mostly to collegiate quizbowl, but this is one aspect of high school quizbowl that I will talk about.

I have moderated at a lot of events and have met a lot of goofball high schoolers. Hell, I was one of these high schoolers - in my day, I looked up to the collegiate game's greats and was probably weirder than omst. I think I have become more mellow over the years, but I try to be nice to high school students - especially ones with odd personality traits because a lot of quizbowl is about learning how to tone them down, become a member of a community, and thus a bit more normal. I think we as a community should try be more tolerant of odd behavior with the hope that one day, people will eventually get it.

As to your point about BONGOS - Will, I love your enthusiasm - I still remember the enthusiasm I had when I wrote my first tournament in 2008-09. I am glad that you took the time to write a science tournament. One of the reasons why I decided to play the tournament last minute was that I realized it would probably mean something to you (and your writers) if I showed I was having a good time on the set - (and I really did have a good time on the set! and it turned out much better than what I was expecting!) I hope you are encouraged to continue writing science - and I will be more than willing to provide feedback if you PM me.

I am somewhat incensed and heartbroken that collegiate students were complaining, even offhandedly, about your tournament Will. I mean seriously, were they expecting Eric Mukherjee and Billy Busse quality writing from the set? Part of my collegiate response to Matt Jackson's post will discuss the "culture of complaining" that seems to pervade all collegiate quizbowl which I think is the most toxic part of our quizbowl ecosystem. If there's one thing I think the quizbowl community can get better at, it's providing dispassionate feedback and figuring out a way to be less toxic when a "question sucks" - especially since most of the time, it's the player who sucks.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by theMoMA » Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:33 am

I was one of the people who made unfortunate comments about BONGOS. All I knew about the tournament was that it was some high schoolers' attempt to write college-level science, and I made a flippant remark about the folly of such an endeavor after someone complained about a lead in or something of that nature. It was unkind and not based on any particular knowledge of the set or its authors; I have apologized and now do so again. I confess that, in a pre-BONGOS world, my mental image of a "college science tournament by high schoolers" involved a rambling series of "associated withs" cobbled together for the purpose of studying eponymous things for HSNCT. I've since heard several of the BONGOS packets, and that's not the case at all. The set so far has been enjoyable and well-written. It's good to see people who, though not necessarily experts, have can-do attitude toward writing science questions and enough skill as writers to pull it off. But regardless of the set's quality, it was uncharitable of me to disparage it on the sole basis that it was written by high schoolers, and I'm sorry for doing it.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by at your pleasure » Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:08 pm

Dominator wrote:I actually completely disagree with Will. The difference may by "only five years", but those are an important five years. It is because those five years are important that we must be especially careful in how we treat each other across gaps. I find that a lot of problems develop when high school quizbowlers are treated like miniature college students.
I think what he means is more unwarranted condescending or snobbish behavior not e.g. assume h.s. students should do all the exact same things college students do.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:14 pm

theMoMA wrote:It's good to see people who, though not necessarily experts, have can-do attitude toward writing science questions and enough skill as writers to pull it off.
At the very least, the math questions at the tournament were written extremely well and demonstrated as great a level of expertise (if not more) as I expect and get from college writers most of the time (this is including the one question that I complained rather vociferously about—sorry Will!). Part of what Will is trying to argue, I think, is in fact that it is possible for high schoolers to have "college-level expertise" (if not necessarily writing and quizbowl experience), a position I wholeheartedly endorse.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen » Tue Jul 07, 2015 6:10 pm

I've been one of these "fringe" members for many years now (more active at some times than at others), and I would agree that it's not easy to break into the community (which I would define, in super-vague terms, as being mutually acquainted with a decent number of quizbowlers who don't go to your own school).

I found myself nodding through most of Arianne's second post. The sort of default way people function at tournaments isn't exactly conducive to getting to know new people -- most of the day is spent interacting only with one's own team (especially if everyone goes to lunch separately), and what little interaction there is with other teams tends to be while playing against them, making it that much more potentially awkward. Coming from Cornell, a school which could only send a team of 5 or 6 people to 3 or 4 tournaments a year (at least at the time), I didn't get many chances to meet people from elsewhere. I recognized frequent opponents by sight, but that was it. And I was reading the boards as well, so I was in an "I know who you are but you don't know who I am" situation with a lot of people -- so when I finally did actually talk to some of those people in real life, the foremost thing on my mind was "oh god, I hope I'm not coming off as creepy".

If we were to see a cultural shift to the point where it becomes more normal for teams to mingle a bit more, that would probably be a healthy thing. Though I suspect that trying to do it by taking some official action (e.g. instituting icebreakers) would seem awkward and fake. It's just something to be mindful of, especially on the part of "higher-status" people for whom introducing themselves to someone new is less risky.

In my limited experience, probably the best way to make connections is to work on projects with people. So it's made me happy to observe how, over the past couple of years, there's been a shift toward soliciting applications from potential writers and editors -- in my undergrad days, you usually had to be "tapped" for things of this sort. So if you were at a place like Cornell and nobody knew who you were, you were basically out of luck if you had an interest in writing above and beyond the usual packet submissions. (Everything I was ever involved in, I joined by responding to a call for random volunteers, which used to be very much the exception.) These days, there are "writers seeking projects" and "projects seeking writers" threads on these very boards; I see that as a step in the right direction, in terms of "in-crowd" or "old boys' club" phenomena.

I have some thoughts on other things, but I'll stop here for now.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by vinteuil » Tue Jul 07, 2015 7:11 pm

Urban Jarnik wrote: If we were to see a cultural shift to the point where it becomes more normal for teams to mingle a bit more, that would probably be a healthy thing.
I haven't had any particular trouble doing this (in particular, we had a lovely set of meals with the Oxford at nats), but I have noticed that this isn't a common thing, especially among teams that don't know each other, and that's a real shame. I guess I would just say that teams can and should just mingle.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by johntait1 » Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:31 pm

I'll post some of my thoughts as part of the high school community since I thought it might be nice to show a high schooler perspective. I'll divide this post into two main parts: 1.My place within the high school community and 2. Experiences I've had at tournaments interacting with other members of the community. This post will contain a lot more of my personal opinions than the other one I made about quizbowl-NHBB relationship because I think that interactions are inherently fairly subjective. I'll also add that I'll be using experiences both at regular quizbowl and NHBB tournaments because I feel like they are pretty much the same community, although there are players who are only involved in one.

1. My place within the high school community.
I'm honestly not sure what place I've had and currently have in the community really. I certainly think that what position a player thinks they have may be very different than what others think they have, but since people don't really talk too much about what place they think I have, I'll have to write what I think my position is. Anyways, entering freshman year I was obviously unknown to others outside of my school. I specialized in religion and military history because I loved to read about these things. As I knew more about quizbowl I started studying history pretty hard, and we went to NHBB Nationals. At Nationals my team and I were completely unknown I think, since Farragut never played History Bowl before and we weren't known as a quizbowl powerhouse(at least then, I'd be interested to know what people think now). At Nationals we met a few people but I think we were still pretty unknown going into sophomore year. Sophomore year I picked up a lot of mythology and art from taking Art History and Latin, and I started scoring more for our team. I think our quizbowl team started to gain a tiny bit of reputation due to our high scores at regional tournaments, but not too much and I don't think too many people knew about us still. I think going into NHBB Nationals we were still pretty unknown, but I think people started to hear about us as the weekend went on from our top stats in JV and eventual high finish. I think that in JV a fair number of people knew about me; not sure about varsity. Going into PACE I think some players knew me a bit but not too much, and I think everyone was pretty surprised when Farragut finished eighth(at least we were for sure). After sophomore year I think we were pretty well known: at NHBB Nationals a decent amount of people seemed to know me(some I didn't know) and our 5th place finish was pretty good--a lot higher than I personally expected at least. I think that after consistently having good performances over the past few years Farragut is pretty well known.

Now, what our team label is a a bit tricky. I'm not sure we're elite in the quizbowl community since other than our 8th place finish at PACE last year we've only finished 53rd twice and 50th once at HSNCT over the past three years. On the other hand, our NHBB finishes have been a bit higher at 2nd, 5th, and 9th over the past three years. While NHBB and quizbowl are different, the top teams in both are somewhat similar, so I'm not exactly sure what we're regarded as.

My individual place is also a bit murky. I'm certainly not the top player on our quizbowl team, and I'm not exactly sure if I'm second scorer? Numerically I put up the second highest number of points at PACE last year, but another person on our team is the second backup on most categories--I'm first option on history and religion, decent at art and mythology, and don't get any lit or science. History Bowl I'm top scorer, but I'm not sure what place within history players either: good history player? very good history player? Compared to many others I've played I'm certainly not elite, but then again the people I played last year in JV History Bee may think so. The main conclusion I want to draw from all this is that I think maybe part of what makes the community confusing for newcomers is that different players may carry different labels with different people, and that these labels may change quickly over time.

2. My experiences at different tournaments
In this part I'll elaborate a bit on what I've felt at the various tournaments I've been too, showing the things I've experienced as a result of the changes as a player I've described above.

First Tournament I played my first tournament during freshman year at a local tournament. I really didn't know much about quizbowl and sort of just stuck with the quizbowlers at our school. I didn't talk much to other players since I've always been a pretty shy person who doesn't talk much if I don't know too much. Our JV team finished first, which I wasn't too surprised about since I'd heard there weren't too many good teams in the area. I think that our team defeating most of the other teams by a large margin probably made me a bit arrogant and made me want to talk to my teammates mostly. An interesting thing is that I actually didn't know my teammates too well. Some of my really good friends before quizbowl currently play on my team, which I've felt may be a reason why I interact more with my team than other teams, but reflecting on this has made me feel that maybe we inherently stick with others from our own school, since I stuck with my teammates even though I didn't know them that well.

Freshman year NHBB State This tournament is memorable because our team played a lot of varsity teams here and absolutely got stomped. This is the only tournament I've been too were our team got destroyed, and it reminds me that players often don't like talking too much when getting stomped in the prelims. Usually if it's playoffs or something then they are more willing to talk since they feel they've at least done well, but getting stomped at the beginning is really discouraging. I'm still not really sure what to say to teams after we destroy them other than its happened to us before and I point at this tournament. I'm curious how other people try to interact after being stomped or stomping another team, because our team has talked about how hard it is several times and we don't really have any answers.

Subsequent NHBB and Quizbowl regional/state tournaments I've lumped these all together because my experience at all of these have been pretty similar. Our team has always been one of the top teams and I've always had really good friends on my team(either from playing quizbowl or they were one of the people I knew who joined quizbowl with me). One thing I've realized that our team has certainly performed many antics for fun that in retrospect seem incredibly rude to our opponents. I think that when you're the best team by far you sometimes do things for fun without realizing that it can really hurt other teams who feel disrespected after being destroyed by you. I won't go into particulars, but I'll just say that not showing up for a match is incredibly disrespectful. I think at the start I sort of went along with my friends since I wasn't that good at quizbowl and liked to have fun at tournaments, but I've tried to encourage them to stop these things later. Our team has gotten much better with this stuff, but I'm not sure if it was due to 1). My words 2). Everyone growing older and being more mature 3). Our team getting better 4). Words of older players on our varsity team or some combination of these things. I think we still have a lot more fun at tournaments while annoying our opponents a lot less. One thing I'll also add is that local/regional teams don't talk much to us; I'm not sure if its the antics, us beating them repeatedly, or a combination of these things, since some teams certainly haven't seen as many antics as others, but I'm not sure if they dislike us less or not. I have tried to talk to opponents a lot a regional/state tournaments, and in general they don't seem to like to talk a lot, although I have made really good friends. I do think that on the whole the local teams aren't as committed to quizbowl/NHBB as the teams at Nationals, which may be part of why they are not as interested about discussing quizbowl, but I'm not entirely sure about that.

Freshman Year NHBB Nationals After getting stomped at NHBB state we didn't think we'd do too well, but we also studied a lot and we weren't really sure what would happen. I remember that most of the teams were pretty cordial, but we were sort of afraid of talking to other teams because we knew Farragut wasn't well known, and with few teams from the southeast region didn't really know anyone else. I do recall that some teams were pretty nice and talked to us before the games or even said good buzz during matches and stuff which was sort of encouraging. Most of the teams didn't talk to us much(as is the case at most tournaments I've been to), but I do remember that I didn't really like teams that just talked amongst themselves about how they should have gotten questions and disregarded us; same thing with players who just talked to each other with inside jokes and ignored everyone else. I think that they didn't mean to be rude or anything because they just felt more comfortable talking with people they knew well, and I think that our team has certainly behaved similarly in the past as well, probably forgetting the discomfort(or maybe it was only me and my teammates didn't care). I think it might be nice for people to talk to everyone cordially and maybe explain inside jokes when possible. I try to do that when I can remember, but its really easy to forget this.

Sophomore and Junior Year NHBB Nationals, Sophomore Year PACE I've lumped these together because our team has interacted with other "top" teams and players a lot more at these Nationals. The thing I'm interested in the most is what the exact cause is. Is it that since we know we're a better team so we're bolder in interacting with other "top" teams? Is it that other "top" teams are more willing to interact with us because we played better? Is it because I've changed as a person and am willing to talk to people more in general? Is it because our team's reputation? Is it simply due to playing more top teams with our better placings? Is it some combination of these(likely); and if so, what proportion does each cause occupy? I honestly don't know about this and I would be interested to know what others think. I will say that in talking with many top players virtually all of them have been very friendly. Some will say a few cordial words, while others will actually talk a lot about things in general. I've met some before I played really well at Nationals and others afterwards, and I'll say that I don't think there's a huge difference in the way those people act, but those that regard you as a "good player do seem on the whole to be a little more open, but there's been plenty of exceptions both ways. Personally I love to talk to all types of different players, but I do find that "top" players are willing to talk more often. Whether that's due to their view of me or me treating different level players differently I'm not sure. I do think that people inherently seem to like talking to the "best" players even if they are not better people than other players(like how everyone wants to talk to the president but fewer want to talk to random people on the street). I do hope that players become more willing to talk to everyone in general instead of huddling with their teammates, which happens a lot with my team at least.

Anyways I think I'm rambling a bit too much and I'll end this post. I'll try to make another post when my mind is a bit clearer responding to some interesting thoughts I've seen. Hopefully my post is helpful in gaining a high schooler perspective on what goes on in the community.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:00 pm

Will, as someone who made comments about the set beforehand, I think the general perception is that there's a lot of high schoolers writing questions who aren't prepared to write questions, especially in technical areas like science and math, and especially at higher difficulties. I do think this perception is generally valid - every year we get lots of questionable high school housewrites, and I'll defend questioning the skills of a person who at the time I, and most community members, didn't know very much about. The first time I posted an announcement for a tournament I was editing, I was immediately greeted with a rather rudely blunt question asking if I was qualified, so I don't think you should interpret concerns as a personal slight.

I think that Joe Su correctly noted that quizbowlers love to complain about things, and nowhere is this phenomenon more noticeable than during tournaments. I certainly am prone to that, like nearly everyone else, because, let's face it, it's easier! The fifth time you hear a clue about Smith et al stands out a lot more than the tenth reasonable, well-chosen clue. While I certainly understand how in-tournament complaints can be disheartening, you can learn to ignore the chaff (all the people who complained to me that my NSC tossup on the Glass family was too hard: you're wrong! It was fine!) while turning to the post-tournament thread to get a more accurate gauge of people's actual thoughts, divorced from the moment and the heat of the competition. I think the BONGOS thread actually did a good job of what those threads should do: people like Joe Su and Shan succinctly pointed out the flaws in the set, while still offering their thanks for having written it and praising the things it did well.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Vainamoinen » Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:58 am

I didn't expect my post to garner this much of a response, and I really appreciate everything you all have said. I don't want to derail this thread too far into a specific case when I imagine a lot of other people have their own experiences to share, but I feel I should respond to some of these posts.
Ike wrote: As to your point about BONGOS - Will, I love your enthusiasm - I still remember the enthusiasm I had when I wrote my first tournament in 2008-09. I am glad that you took the time to write a science tournament. One of the reasons why I decided to play the tournament last minute was that I realized it would probably mean something to you (and your writers) if I showed I was having a good time on the set - (and I really did have a good time on the set! and it turned out much better than what I was expecting!) I hope you are encouraged to continue writing science - and I will be more than willing to provide feedback if you PM me.
You're right, it did mean a lot to me to see a large number of the science legends of the qb world play this set at both HSNCT and PACE, so thank you for playing! I'm glad to hear that it exceeded your expectations, and I will certainly take up your offer for feedback.
theMoMA wrote:I was one of the people who made unfortunate comments about BONGOS. All I knew about the tournament was that it was some high schoolers' attempt to write college-level science, and I made a flippant remark about the folly of such an endeavor after someone complained about a lead in or something of that nature. It was unkind and not based on any particular knowledge of the set or its authors; I have apologized and now do so again. I confess that, in a pre-BONGOS world, my mental image of a "college science tournament by high schoolers" involved a rambling series of "associated withs" cobbled together for the purpose of studying eponymous things for HSNCT. I've since heard several of the BONGOS packets, and that's not the case at all. The set so far has been enjoyable and well-written. It's good to see people who, though not necessarily experts, have can-do attitude toward writing science questions and enough skill as writers to pull it off. But regardless of the set's quality, it was uncharitable of me to disparage it on the sole basis that it was written by high schoolers, and I'm sorry for doing it.
I extremely appreciate your apology, and I certainly don't have any hard feelings over your comment. In relation to Joe Nutter's post, I didn't really take it as a personal jab at me. The comment just made me contemplate whether or not I had an embarked on a futile project, which was a tough feeling to have after having put a lot of work into the set. That brings me to Jacob's post:
vinteuil wrote:At the very least, the math questions at the tournament were written extremely well and demonstrated as great a level of expertise (if not more) as I expect and get from college writers most of the time (this is including the one question that I complained rather vociferously about—sorry Will!). Part of what Will is trying to argue, I think, is in fact that it is possible for high schoolers to have "college-level expertise" (if not necessarily writing and quizbowl experience), a position I wholeheartedly endorse.
I really appreciate your and Max's positive feedback on the math questions; I had a lot of fun with writing those and am glad to hear they were fun to play as well. More to the point of this thread, the possibility of high schoolers being capable of "college-level expertise" is right along with what I was trying to say in my original post. I think there is some historical precedent for high schoolers being able to produce decent and playable sets at a high level. Maggie Walker alumni Tommy Casalaspi comes to mind with his Tyrone Slothrop lit event, which was in fact part of my inspiration for producing this set. What I was trying to get at with the narrow age difference point in my original post, was not about things like maturity, but instead just simply the ability to do things for the game/community. Simply put, I don't think that anyone should be considered to be in a lower tier of the qb community just because they are in high school, and thus shouldn't be treated drastically different from college players. I certainly don't think this is the norm in quizbowl, but I've seen it happen on a number of occasions.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:36 pm

I don't have as much to say as Matt, but I'd like to draw on my own college experiences to give a couple points of advice. Quizbowl is a game I devoted many hundreds of hours to in college; it was an important part of my process of growing up. It gave me my first opportunity to really channel my interests into a competitive environment, which did a lot to build my self-confidence. It also gave me many of my closest friendships.

At the same time, I think every college student here would do well to have one non-quizbowl social outlet on campus - a club, a team sport, whatever - that's a major part of their life. Having that extra activity helps you because you get better perspective on what actually matters. Fun as quizbowl is, it's very easy to let it take an outsized place in your time management, which leaves you sitting alone with a laptop and your private thoughts way too often. There's also a lot of practical knowledge - when to get internships, how to apply for jobs, how to present yourself at social events - that quizbowlers frequently lack, but you can acquire through osmosis in more "normal" settings. Finally, getting outside perspective on the game helps you find new topics to write questions on, better ways to run tournaments, and more appropriate ways to conduct yourself at events. By cultivating outside relationships, you'll become more interesting and productive in quizbowl settings, too.

Although this all sounds obvious, I think many people have found that it's easy to sink into a place where you're way too reliant on quizbowl for human contact. For various reasons, I was in that place in my fourth year of college; it was a painful time I'd like to forget. Use quizbowl as a means to learn cool academic content, meet great people, and enjoy fierce competition, but take advantage of the rest of your college options, too. If you don't have a peer support network you can fall back on outside of the game, there's something wrong.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:01 pm

I would like to talk about how we treat each other in-game and during tournaments. There are a few salient incidents that illustrate the problems and solutions.

There is a YouTube video of Penn A at ACF Nationals this year, where I have a public meltdown when my teammate negs a question in a very high pressure situation. This is not ideal behavior, and I apologized for it afterward (though perhaps not as much as I should). This is something that happens a lot in quizbowl, and quite frankly it can make the environment uncomfortable.

An even more salient example of this occurred this weekend, during CO History. My teammate made a few very inopportune negs. And rather than having a calm discussion about how to play the game better, he was berated for making "rookie mistakes", leading to an extended shouting match between the two of them. This was probably the worst such incident that I've witnessed and it was decidedly unpleasant to be present for.

I've also witness tournament staff be incredibly short with players asking simple questions. I understand you have a million things to do during a tournament, but we've all been there, and there's absolutely no reason for that behavior either.

Everyone gets tense when important games are on the line. But yelling at teammates, moderators, staff, or really anyone during the course of the game, even when things aren't going well, is not the way to handle it. If we really want to usher in a new age of civility (not "civility", but actual civil treatment of one another), the culture (and lionization, in some cases - who doesn't like a good Jerry meltdown, after all) of yelling and vituperation during games and tournaments must end.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Cheynem » Sun Aug 30, 2015 7:13 pm

I was thinking about this thread again semi recently. One, fairly easy way to treat others better in an in-game scenario is to stop disparaging other people's buzzes. I do this a bit, and I'm trying to stop, but saying things like "Oh, it was OBVIOUSLY that" or "Of course, that was obvious" after someone on another team has buzzed correctly is pretty patronizing and annoying. At a bare minimum, you should try and rephrase it to be clearer that you're chiding yourself or something, but in general, I think it's something you might as well keep to yourself--if you knew it, why didn't you buzz, etc. Certainly context matters--in a game with 8 experienced people, if that evil Seth Teitler figures out a tossup on Grimm's Law, you can all rage and swear and whatnot. But I find this practice especially distasteful when you're playing against inexperienced people, particularly when your team is already blowing them out anyway. Let them have a buzzer race or a "take the plunge" buzz and save the drama for yo mama.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:26 pm

I also find it tasteless when people are visibly upset at losing a buzzer race to one of their own teammates.
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Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by no ice » Tue Sep 01, 2015 2:15 am

This isn't as bad as disparaging other players' buzzes, but it is also insulting at times for a player to express disappointment in his/her own buzz. Sure, it might not be ideal that you buzzed late on a tossup in your category, but you should keep your comments about how bad of a buzz that was to yourself, because you still beat the other seven players in the room to that tossup. This isn't too much of an issue if the match is between two good teams, but comments belittling even your own buzz can be hurtful to inexperienced players.
James Zhou
Hinsdale Central '16

Banana Stand
Wakka
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:38 pm

Re: Resetting [pt. 5 of 6]: How We Treat Each Other

Post by Banana Stand » Tue Sep 01, 2015 2:36 am

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:I also find it tasteless when people are visibly upset at losing a buzzer race to one of their own teammates.
I don't think this is bad when it happens with two teams on a level playing field, but when someone is up 400 points and then does this, it really sucks. "Those opponents are empty chairs, so I have to compete with my own teammates huehuehue". I'm pretty sure I've done this at some point but never really thought about why it was bad.
Jack Mehr
St. Joe's NJ '14
UVA '19

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