PSA: Don't Write For PACE

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PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Jul 06, 2019 12:06 pm

I'm writing this post to encourage young, up and coming writers to avoid working for PACE.

First, PACE does not offer effective writing mentorship and its attempts to organize such this year were not successful. Without going into details, I would suggest instead working on smaller projects with organized mentorship setups, or on any project where you can work with experienced editors directly.

Second, PACE does not reward effective and dedicated writers with any sort of track to membership where they can contribute more to the organization. Case in point: I wrote 14% of this year's set (139 questions) and stepped in to edit additional categories beyond my initial assignment in the last couple of weeks, in addition to doing most of the pronunciation guides and other misc proofreading during set production. For the last couple of weeks of set production I put in about 30 hours per week on the set, which set me behind on professional responsibilities. This is more work than all but two PACE members put into the set (those being Ike Jose and Mike Bentley). This wasn't a one off contribution - I've had questions in each of the previous three NSCs as well, in addition to volunteering to staff most years since my freshman year of college, as many of you all have. I would like to think that I've also contributed extensively elsewhere towards helping make high school quizbowl happen, and to perpetuation the sort of passion for the game that I embody.

If this is not enough to qualify one for PACE membership, I am forced to conclude that PACE decides who becomes a member based not on merit but rather on a non transparent contest of popularity. If you are interesting in becoming a better writer, one who is enthusiastic about improving the quality of your questions and rewarding young players for their knowledge, I suggest you look to an organization that rewards such dedicated people. For in PACE, as in unfortunately too many places in life, no good deed goes unpunished.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sat Jul 06, 2019 1:02 pm

Everyone in quizbowl, if you didn't know it already, should know that Will Alston was critical to the completion of NSC this year. Without him the set would either not have been completed or been in much worse shape than it was.

Only do work for which you are adequately rewarded and compensated. It's a good life lesson.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Jul 06, 2019 1:30 pm

This goes beyond me - other people who sought to contribute to the set this year via the mentorship program were ignored or brushed aside. I am to understand that there were a number of logistical challenges that contributed to this, as well as to this year's membership decisions, but any organization that snubs honest countributors in this way is, in my opinion, not one worth contributing to unless it takes serious steps to reform itself.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat Jul 06, 2019 11:36 pm

It’s disheartening to read Will’s post. Let me begin by stating that I don’t agree with him that new (or experienced) writers should stop working with PACE. But Will raises good points about issues with the mentorship program, PACE membership, and transparency that I hope to at least partially address in this reply.

Before I get into those issues, let me state what I’m not going to do in this post: publicly go into Will’s case as a prospective PACE member. I don’t think that a public forum is the right place to discuss this type of thing. I am happy to discuss this over a more private communication channel such as e-mail.

PACE’s Current Status:

A brief primer for those less familiar with how PACE works. We’re a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission of advancing high school quizbowl across the country. Our specific objectives as an organization are:
• to promote and encourage the growth of quality high school invitational tournaments around the country,
• to provide guidance or assistance to other colleges or high schools that wish to organize such tournaments,
• to encourage innovation and creativity in academic competition,
• to establish visibility for college academic team programs that run high school tournaments,
• to foster cooperation among college and high school programs in preparation for upcoming regional, state, or national tournaments,
• to encourage participation of teams in tournaments across the country prior to regional, state, or national tournaments,
• to allow all teams adequate opportunity to practice, compete, and socialize among other fellow competitors,
• to produce the question set for and run the National Scholastic Championship each year.

Our members are all volunteers. Members are elected twice a year, with members and non-members submitting nominations. After a discussion period, nominees are approved for membership if 50% of the membership casts a ballot and at least two-thirds of voting members vote affirmatively.

To protect the privacy of everyone involved, PACE does not comment on prospective members who received nominations but were not voted in, or people who were voted in but did not accept their membership.

PACE also has officers who serve one-year terms. Officers are elected from the membership. The elections for the 2019-2020 officers are taking place right now. (This is in part why many of the “here’s what’s changing” parts of this message are in flux.)

PACE also relies on non-member contractors, volunteers and partners. For instance, the NSC only happens because non-members help write, edit, and staff the tournament (thanks!). And teams only qualify for the tournament because quizbowl organizations around the country host local tournaments where teams can compete. Some people have volunteered and worked with PACE for several years without being members, or in a capacity as a former member.

You can find more details about our organization, including our by-laws, at our website, www.pace-nsc.org.

What Does PACE Look for in a Member?

PACE members commit themselves to helping run/organize/produce the NSC and/or serving as leaders in their local quizbowl circuits. Factors such as someone being a strong writer/editor certainly help make a case for a nominee’s election but are usually not the only criteria (since PACE has a mechanism for contributing to the NSC set as a non-member).

We are working on posting clearer guidelines on both what makes a great PACE member candidate and what members actually do in the organization. We will have more information on this after our election cycle completes later this month.

I’ll also say that PACE has long aspired to be more of an outreach organization than it currently is. Often members are brought into the organization to help with some possible outreach project, but we need to do better as an organization translating that initial enthusiasm into concrete action.

Mentorship Program and General Writing for the NSC:

With respect to the mentorship program, I want to apologize for the rough edges in the program’s first year. As a subject editor for the 2019 NSC, it was great to have an influx of vetted questions reach the set in January. It helped us finish on deadline. But I realize that many mentees had a poor experience.

We didn’t do an adequate job getting timely feedback to every mentee, and some people received no feedback for some questions. This was not acceptable. It was also not made clear to everyone how the process worked for getting questions into the NSC, or receiving an invitation to work on the set. As I understand it, at least one mentee had a question appear in the NSC when they weren’t expecting it. This is also unacceptable. But I’m hopeful that as we’ve learned more about what works and what doesn’t with the program we can iterate on it and improve it for this upcoming year. I think it has great promise as a way for PACE to use its abundance of experienced quizbowl writers to grow the community’s writing pool.

PACE member Tejas Raje has volunteered to head the mentorship program for 2019-2020. We’re still working on the final details, but we’re making a number of changes to improve the shortcomings from last year’s program. In particular, we’ll be setting clearer deadlines for mentors and mentees, adding more mentor accountability, improving communication channels, and setting a clearer path for how questions get into the 2020 NSC. I hope that the young writers out there will not be discouraged by any bad experiences they’ve either directly experienced or heard from others.

I similarly hope that more experienced writers will continue writing and editing for next year’s and future NSCs by directly applying to work on the set. We’ll be posting details about that soon. A few things that I’ll mention here:
• We hope to increase the writing and editing rates for next year. But unless/until PACE secures additional significant sources of income, these rates are largely bound by entry fees.
• We also hope to secure more funding for things like proofreading, packetization, and mentor feedback. Each year, people spend huge amounts of time on these things and they’re all super necessary to ensuring a high-quality set.
• I personally find the NSC rewarding to write and edit for, regardless of compensation. It’s a set that’s historically been high quality, and I’m proud to contribute to its ongoing history. It’s fun to find creative answers and clues in the high school difficulty space and then get to see teams answer them (even in the bottom bracket, which I was reading this year). And, in a vain sort of way, the NSC has for years recognized the individual writers of questions in the posted sets.
Mike Bentley
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by John Ketzkorn » Sun Jul 07, 2019 9:07 am

Will, I find it difficult to have sympathy for your story when you're willing to publicly call for boycotting PACE after not getting membership. It strikes me as brash and almost gives more credence to your rejection. You worked really hard and should take pride in your work; you're not always going to get external validation for it. You certainly won't if you're quick to take up an antithetical cause.


I don't know the full story here, but PACE does good work, and I'm glad PACE is getting more involved with outreach and mentorship. As Mike Bentley has pointed out, there were clearly some mistakes in the first year of the program that are going to be used to improve for next year.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jul 07, 2019 10:35 am

If the "members" of an organization are too lazy to show up to meetings and vote on new members, but people who do large amounts of work to make your most important event of the year happen are apparently are not qualified to gain such positions, then I really do not know what to say about your organization's membership criteria other than it is clearly broken. Yes, my actions are brash and inflammatory, but I'm long past caring, and since this is in fact a community rather than a corporate job where I should "shut up and take it" (as some people seem to be insinuating) then I am more than happy to call attention to things which I believe are defective, through fora which might get people to care.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Cheynem » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:47 pm

I am not a member of PACE, nor have I ever been. I do not know anything about the internal workings of the organization.

I feel like, at least only going by the posts made here, that there seems to be a jump in what Will is saying and what he is calling for. As Mike's informative post points out, there were issues with the PACE mentorship program which needed to be solved going forward. There also seemed to be some issues with membership--I don't know if Will is correct regarding his accusations about how members are selected, but I have heard some PACE members say they have had trouble getting members to show up for votes. So that also needs resolving.

Nobody is thus really denying Will's assertions regarding reform--PACE must do better here.

But does that mean, while PACE is reforming, nobody should work and volunteer for PACE (after all, the title of Will's thread is "PSA: Don't Write for PACE")? Should aspiring and rising young writers avoid PACE until these reforms are put in place? This seems like a questionable suggestion to me. Why not try to reach a dialogue with PACE about potential improvements? If a public thread is the best place, why not less inflammatory accusations? Organizations can screw up and need change, but unless you're suggesting the organization is entirely acting in bad faith, I think we should accept the assertions that they will try and improve in the future, especially now that problems are being identified.

This is not to say Will should not have made these complaints. They seem valid. But (beyond tone and language) they seem to be calling for a fairly extreme response to what he is claiming happened (maybe more happened, I don't know, I certainly don't need a Dave Madden-style breakdown post here). To an outside audience, the fact that the mentorship program was flawed and that WIll didn't get membership, at least to me, doesn't deserve a complete abandonment of PACE.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jul 07, 2019 1:04 pm

I'm suggesting that, as of right now, young writers ought to avoid PACE if they want to find an organization or project that encourages them to contribute, cultivates their talent, and offers them recognition for their efforts and opportunities to contribute more.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Cheynem » Sun Jul 07, 2019 1:17 pm

What's the difference between "young writers" and I guess, not young writers, here? After all, you're not a young writer (maybe a middle-aged writer) and you're saying you don't want to be involved with PACE anymore (and Eric's post suggested this wasn't unreasonable)? Are you advocating that *any* writer concerned about being encouraged, cultivated, and recognized should avoid PACE?
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Nice hockey Cote d'Azur » Sun Jul 07, 2019 1:47 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 1:04 pm
I'm suggesting that, as of right now, young writers ought to avoid PACE if they want to find an organization or project that encourages them to contribute, cultivates their talent, and offers them recognition for their efforts and opportunities to contribute more.
I'll respond specifically to this, as it relates to the mentorship program and developing writers. Last year, several writers went through the mentorship program successfully and made significant contributions to the set, and Clark Smith (who did not go through the mentorship program but is a young writer) wrote the fifth most questions. As Mike mentioned, I'm going to be running it for the upcoming year and I'm focusing on continuing to provide young writers a clear pathway to get feedback on their work and contribute to the set. Personally I think writing for NSC is a great way to get started and I would disagree with all of the above regarding cultivating talent. PACE will continue to encourage young writers to contribute, both as NSC writers and as stronger writers and editors going forward in their quizbowl careers.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:38 pm

I hope these people get recognized and rewarded then, as opposed to having the PACE president mount a campaign against their nomination
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by vinteuil » Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:04 pm

These are my personal thoughts and do not necessarily reflect those of any quizbowl organization.

I'm going to leave aside any first-year issues with the mentorship program and focus on Will's grievance, i.e. the most direct impetus for this post.

Let me try to characterize that grievance as I understand it: Will put in a very substantial amount of (poorly compensated) work toward one of the most important aspects of PACE's functioning. He believes that 1) by not being given a membership role he has been snubbed, i.e. not recognized for this work; 2) this role has been entrusted to people who objectively put in far less work for PACE, and indeed hinder its function through inaction. (I've been one of the latter this past year.)

I think we can all understand this sentiment! And the latter part (e.g. me) is a real problem that was and is being addressed.

On the other hand—well, let me use a metaphor. I think Will would probably agree with the characterization that his work on the NSC constituted an "investment" (a huge one) of time and energy. Others did not invest nearly the same amount. It seems that Will views that investment as entitling him to something like equity.

On the flip side, as Mike Bentley voiced above, the default PACE understanding views question writers and editors more as contractors. This is partly because question writing and editors does not involve membership status. Thus, one question when considering members is "What else (on top of writing and editing) would this role enable this person to do?"

Or, as he clarified: PACE membership isn't a status or any kind of recognition; rather, it's a role to play within the organization.

Now, if a contractor is doing great work for a firm—indeed, more than many of the firm's current stakeholders—it might seem like bad management not to give them equity. But we obviously wouldn't say that the firm has any kind of obligation to do so. And obviously, we know that this goes for hiring in general—it might not be in a firm's best interest to hire the most technically competent candidate if they might, for instance, create a difficult working environment.

Moreover, the role of an outside contractor is obviously very different from that of a stakeholder. Among other things, the current set of stakeholders has to consider how the organization as a whole will be represented by each member. In particular, a history of making inflammatory public statements is something that might give stakeholders pause, since such a statement would reflect very poorly on the organization in the future.

Alright, so what I'm basically saying is this: I think you invested a lot in making PACE work, and that's great—you got some public recognition for it in the discussion thread, but it could have been more.

You furthermore seem to think that this investment ought to guarantee some form of equity—"I sank in all this capital, and you won't give me shares? And you'll give them to people with very little invested?"

Finally, realizing that PACE membership is clearly not a matter of "work in→membership out," you then come to understand it as a form of recognition/high status, and thus a personal snub that you didn't get it.

I think Mike has shown pretty clearly that membership fits neither of these models; it's not a status, but rather a role. And I hope my analogies above make it clear why "purchasing membership through work" would not necessarily be a good model for PACE.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Jul 07, 2019 3:55 pm

I think Jacob Reed's post makes sense. It does indeed seem better to not vest people with additional "stakes" in the community if they seem to be willing and able to contribute without such. It is never a wise idea to identify and select people for additional roles and responsibilities primarily on the basis of their demonstrated ability and willingness to perform them.



(EDIT: Tongue in cheek aside, his theory of PACE membership does seem valid given the circumstances)
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by AKKOLADE » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:54 am

I haven’t really felt like posting in this thread, but since Will continues to attack me in public channels, I guess I’m here now.

I did argue against Will’s induction into PACE. I did this in a private forum.

My biggest concern with Will’s admission to PACE was my understanding of an incident [non-public details redacted]....

.... I was emotional over that and issues not directly related to the issue at hand, so I pushed harder on the issue of admitting Alston than I should have during the first round of voting. I apologize for that.

I will admit that I had several other concerns with Will’s prospective membership, ranging from “should people who are seemingly only interested in writing for the NSC be PACE members?” (my opinion is that this applied to Will, and that the answer should be no) to various incidents involving Will’s behavior in the past, such as over the top attacks on me for decisions I made in HSQBRank.

This summer’s new member elections were a bit of a mess, in that a public call for nominees was not initially issued. This resulted in two rounds of voting. Alston was nominated in both.

In the first round, where Will was a nominee, I recall he had a high enough percentage of votes to be admitted but there were not enough total votes for him to be admitted. This was because of two factors: one, a higher number of people abstained from this election, and two, a fairly significant number of then members just didn’t bother to vote. Combining the abstentions with the non-votes meant the vote on Will failed to reach the threshold of votes necessary to be an official vote.

After this happened, I made my priority for the last few weeks of my presidency to clean up the membership rolls. Nonparticipating members were removed or resigned. I believe about six members were removed or went inactive.

It also appears that someone in PACE decided to tell Will about his failure to be elected as a member, while oddly not telling him what happened with the vote counts. The voting results were shared with the PACE membership at large, so this mystery person should have known what had happened. I obviously don’t know what they told Will.

Will was nominated for the second round of voting, and in the interim between that nomination and the start of voting, Will made the initial post in this thread. I also did not make any commentary on who should be admitted into PACE as a member.

[non-public details redacted]

The only conclusions I can draw off the actual results of the votes were that the majority of the PACE membership was not swayed by my initial arguments against putting Will in PACE, and that the reason Will is not a member of PACE today is that he decided to launch an attack on PACE after he wasn’t immediately made a member.

One more thing that I’ll address is Will’s posting where I said in Discord once that I didn’t hate him, and using that as a prop to call me a liar. I don’t hate Will. I would, however, be against his membership in PACE today, and I don't think any reason is needed beyond his decision making that lead to this thread.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Oct 27, 2019 7:39 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:Will was nominated for the second round of voting, and in the interim between that nomination and the start of voting, Will made the initial post in this thread. I also did not make any commentary on who should be admitted into PACE as a member.
Ah, interesting, my request to withdraw my nomination was not honored. Shrug.
One more thing that I’ll address is Will’s posting where I said in Discord once that I didn’t hate him, and using that as a prop to call me a liar. I don’t hate Will. I would, however, be against his membership in PACE today, and I don't think any reason is needed beyond his decision making that lead to this thread.
Yes I am offended that you used uncorroborated and false accusations as evidence to argue that I shouldn't even have been invited to staff the tournament I worked my ass off on, yes I would consider the contrast between your public-facing and private-behavior in this context duplicitous (and frankly ungrateful), and no I don't want to be a member of PACE anymore or any other cliquey quizbowl organization, particularly not one that would choose you as president.
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Re: PSA: Don't Write For PACE

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Oct 27, 2019 9:27 pm

I don't foresee any further good coming out of this topic as it is, so I've locked it. I will echo Tejas's encouragement to check out the PACE mentorship program in this and future years.
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