Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

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Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Progcon » Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:09 pm

It’s time for ACF to stop using packet submission as a model for Fall. It fosters several perverse incentives and negative consequences that I will outline them using a combination of anecdotes and explanation.

1. First and chiefly, the best writers in quizbowl should not be playing ACF Fall which drastically lowers the quality of submissions. What does happen, at least in schools such as mine which receive zero university funding, is that experienced teammates have to write for the less-experienced team packets. Last year at MSU, me and Jakob Myers contributed to three different Fall packets despite neither of us playing Fall or having a desire to do so. This year, me and some veteran UCSD people wrote our B team’s packet entirely to save money and also because the packet submission deadline was before we even had a full B team that could play. The majority of people who would be in consideration for that B team had never played a collegiate tournament and thus would struggle to write. I understand that less experienced teams do not have to write, but situations where experienced writers take time out of their busy schedules and other quizbowl writing commitments to write are common.

packet submission deadlines also don’t really work well for quarter schools like UCSD. We didn’t even start practices until around the first deadline so this further encouraged veteran players to just write all the packets and not let new people actually contribute. My understanding is that the majority of the set had to be written and edited in a month. This doesn't seem ideal and is caused by the packet submission model.

2. The packet discounts are very low. The maximum discount for a Fall packet was -$30. This is laughably low by any measure. If we assume that a team has to write 12/12 per packet, this takes a group of less-experienced writers about six hours. $30 dollars for six hours of research and writing is absolutely terrible. Even among quizbowl writing, $30 dollars for 12/12 of easy college questions is a very low pay grade. I know the questions are imperfect, but this seems to be a sub-optimal allocation of people’s time. This issue is further compounded by repeats.

For example, this year I wrote a tossup on Kate Chopin that focused on her short stories. It probably wasn’t a perfect tossup, but it had overlap with a tossup on The Awakening obviously and was not used. In short, all my work was for nothing and if I used this tossup for another set I was working on such as SUN, I would have gotten a lot more mileage out of this tossup idea. Lots of tossups are wasted due to repeats and other distributional issues such as “too much North American geography written.” Some people complained about answerline repeats at this Fall and previous ones and I think the repeats would go down if packet submission was eliminated.

3. packet submission encourages rushed or lazily-written tossups especially for Fall. If my chief benefit is a discount for my school, what incentive do I have to produce a super unique, fresh, tossup especially at the Fall level? I’m writing for other sets and I don’t really want to burn my best ideas especially when the canon is so small at this difficulty. I wrote a very silly Andrew Yang tossup almost entirely from memory this year to save time and, predictably, it didn’t get used but this is emblematic of one of the issues.

Fall is also really expensive. A base fee of $150 is higher than harder events such as Penn Bowl which typically have longer questions. Some sites only ran 9 rounds due to forced byes caused by packet submission. I would like to seriously urge ACF to rethink its packet submission policy for Fall. packet submission is a lot more viable for harder events such as Chicago Open or ACF Nats where fresh ideas are very appreciated and you can get actual experts such as doctors or PhDs to write about their specialties in unique ways. At Fall level, there really is only a handful of ways to skin a cat.

There might be some benefit to having new players write Fall questions but in 2019, there are lots of opportunities for people to learn to write. I learned to write by writing dozens of tossups for actual sets and getting feedback on the ones that people thought were the worst honestly. There are a whole group of less-experienced quizbowlers who only ever write for Fall and don't get a ton of it.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cheynem » Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:26 pm

A lot of Harris' points make sense; I'll let people more in tune to how Fall is produced (I apparently was a Fall editor once?) speak more about what can be done about them, if anything.

The one factor I'd like to talk about is that I think ACF has a mission/responsibility in running tournaments that other organizations or housewrites do not have. ACF is a quizbowl organization that relies on active members of the community to (in ways that are almost volunteer-esque) step up to be writers/editors. Ideally, this is generational--every year should be bringing in newer types to at least something like ACF Fall. (To be very clear, I am not and have never been a member of ACF.)

Thus, by requiring packet submission in all of its tournaments, ACF is also using this system to functionally keep itself going as an organization. Through packet submission, talented writers further develop their skills in creating packets. People who haven't written before or sparingly may decide they like the experience. ACF can determine writers of enthusiasm, promise, and skill. Those writers can become editors for something like Fall. Those editors may go on to keep working in ACF or beyond.

This does not mean the packet submission system is perfect (I think I've generally been in favor of "packet submission optional, with bigger discounts for good-faith, quality submissions" for Fall). But I don't think it should be completely abandoned, at the risk of really hurting ACF's ability to grow and expand. Tournaments like Fall and Regionals are great opportunities to develop new talent, both as writers and editors, which is central to ACF and a quizbowl world, quite frankly, in which many experienced editors and writers are overworked, burned out, or retiring.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by rahulkeyal » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:08 pm

Progcon wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:09 pm
My understanding is that the majority of the set had to be written and edited in a month. This doesn't seem ideal and is caused by the packet submission model.
I don't mean to discount the rest of your post, which I think raises a number of valuable points for consideration. However, I did want to step in and say that this is a misrepresentation of the set's production. Things may have been somewhat rushed in the final month (due in part to the submission schedule), but certainly more than half the set was finished by October.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:36 pm

I generally agree with Harris, in that the packet submission requirements of ACF Fall place too much of a burden on weak teams, especially when combined with the high registration fee. That said, I think there's some benefit to requiring packets: sometimes, freshmen sometimes need an extra push to try out writing, and saying "you can't play this tournament unless you write a couple questions" is a good motivator. I think ACF could probably remedy this, while keeping the benefits of packet submission, in the following ways:

1. Decrease the size of submissions. For a team of new writers, 12/12 is a lot, especially considering the time frame. Even for schools whose semesters don't start absurdly late, it's usually difficult to decide on Fall teams more than a couple weeks before the first deadline because you don't know who'll still be coming to practice in November. This means that each person has to write 6 questions over the span of 1-2 weeks, all while juggling classes, research, and any other commitments they may have. This is a nontrivial thing to ask of novices, but the burden could be significantly lessened by reducing the submission size to 6/6 (or even 4/4).

As we know, the yield of usable tossups is pretty low. In order to balance out the decrease in submitted questions, ACF could:

2. Allow teams to specify which categories they'd prefer to write. Many teams playing fall will have large gaps in their knowledge, but if players can focus on their specialties, question quality will naturally be higher. Hell, I've submitted pretty-much-unusable history questions to Regionals because I don't know enough about non-US history to structure clues correctly. Would it be too much trouble for ACF to ask "rate your team's writing ability on this category from 1-5" on the registration form and assign distributions that way?

3. Offer larger submission discounts, as well as discounts for well-written packets. Harris went into more detail on this, but $150 is a lot and the packet discounts are fairly small in comparison.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Progcon » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:16 pm

rahulkeyal wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:08 pm
Progcon wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:09 pm
My understanding is that the majority of the set had to be written and edited in a month. This doesn't seem ideal and is caused by the packet submission model.
I don't mean to discount the rest of your post, which I think raises a number of valuable points for consideration. However, I did want to step in and say that this is a misrepresentation of the set's production. Things may have been somewhat rushed in the final month (due in part to the submission schedule), but certainly more than half the set was finished by October.
I appreciate you correcting this but it's still firmly not great to have set production compressed partially due to packet submission.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cody » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:35 pm

Progcon wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:16 pm
rahulkeyal wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:08 pm
Progcon wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:09 pm
My understanding is that the majority of the set had to be written and edited in a month. This doesn't seem ideal and is caused by the packet submission model.
I don't mean to discount the rest of your post, which I think raises a number of valuable points for consideration. However, I did want to step in and say that this is a misrepresentation of the set's production. Things may have been somewhat rushed in the final month (due in part to the submission schedule), but certainly more than half the set was finished by October.
I appreciate you correcting this but it's still firmly not great to have set production compressed partially due to packet submission.
Is this a useful statement? You could say the same about any set production. I have been party to many sets that were not packet submission and experienced a compressed set production, including actually having the majority of the set written in one month.

Packet submission is a trade-off. Listing every single negative thing from the perspective of an experienced writer is not a true accounting of whether packet submission for Fall is worthwhile.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:44 pm

When I was a subject editor, Stephen Liu was the head editor. Stephen filtered the vast majority of the submissions so that us subject editors only saw a minority of packets that were deemed to have usable submissions--those generally came from teams with writers who had some degree of experience. There will always be some wasted effort when it comes to packet sub tournaments, but the sheer amount of wasted effort that comes with ACF Fall (even after the reforms allowing half-packet subs, more submission-exempt teams) is egregious to a degree that it's an actual impediment to the development of the college circuit, and it ends up being more work to incorporate submissions than to let the editors recruit a writing team to do the work or to do all the writing themselves.

I support this abolition wholeheartedly. On a more general philosophical note, quiz bowl should not mandate climbing towards Regs difficulty--I believe one way to foster a healthy circuit is to have a minor league of sorts with players who only choose to play easier tournaments (and I believe there are many such individuals out there), with the accompanying minor league sets to support them (so efforts like Delta Burke). I support giving players more of an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the mechanics and rhythms of the game and to acclimate to collegiate life, with substantial breaks like summer and winter breaks being provided for players to choose to actively study for even difficulties like EFT. Players who want to commit to more difficult quiz bowl should be able to choose to "promote" themselves to the major league.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by jacke » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:56 pm

A Very Long Math Tossup wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:36 pm
1. Decrease the size of submissions. For a team of new writers, 12/12 is a lot ... the burden could be significantly lessened by reducing the submission size to 6/6 (or even 4/4).
I can't add much to add to the overall discussion, but I wanted to say this seems like a great idea. There certainly must be plenty of young collegiate players who have done quiz bowl in high school or have a strong enough familiarity with the quiz bowl canon that could work with other young players on their team to write 6/6 or 4/4, even if they can't get a full 12/12 (e.g. because nobody on the can write physics or chemistry). This might help make submissions more meaningful and alleviate the issue of older folks having to step in to complete packets.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by benmillerbenmiller » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:04 am

I spent a lot of time thinking about this issue in the three months I worked on ACF Fall. At this point, I agree with Harris and others that reforming packet submission for Fall is absolutely the right thing to do.

Coming at this from the perspective of someone tasked with putting the set together, I don't think having a packet submission model made my job any easier. Generally speaking, it took a very long time to take submitted questions (if they were even usable) and turn them into set-ready content. This is not to say that I didn't receive many great questions, some of which required very little fixing (UCSD's tossup on Massachusetts Bay went in basically unchanged), but by and large I had to spend as much time or more working on a submitted question as it would have taken me to simply write one from scratch. Most questions I received came from people who have not written much before, and as we all know, our first attempts at writing quizbowl questions are rarely any good. Expecting that these sorts of questions can be readily polished into shape is unrealistic in the vast majority of cases.

These challenges are compounded by the nature of any packet submission tournament. Because of subdistributional needs, almost all questions that came in during the latter stages of packet production were unusable because they didn't fill the scattered topics that I still needed to cover. I also write and edits dozens of questions at about Fall difficulty every week for NAQT and as a result have very particular notions of how I think things should play. As any packet submission editor can tell you, it's very hard to make writers' individual patterns and styles jibe with your own, and a lot of everyone's time and effort gets wasted in the process.

I appreciate Matt's suggestion that smaller packet segments might make the model easier to manage for teams, but that would make actually running the set much, much harder. In TD'ing Chicago's mirror of Fall, I had to completely rearrange the order of packets to accommodate byes for all the teams that wrote submissions. If we used smaller submissions from way more teams, that scheduling process would become basically impossible.

Though I'm extremely happy with how the U.S. and World History I oversaw came out, I wish I could have just written it all myself versus basically doing that in practice but with a grating sense of obligation to preserve as much as I could from submissions. I'm not saying that the packet sub model should be ditched altogether for Fall, but I think we need to take a serious look at how to maximize its benefits while minimizing its highly significant drawbacks.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:04 pm

jacke wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:56 pm
A Very Long Math Tossup wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:36 pm
1. Decrease the size of submissions. For a team of new writers, 12/12 is a lot ... the burden could be significantly lessened by reducing the submission size to 6/6 (or even 4/4).
I can't add much to add to the overall discussion, but I wanted to say this seems like a great idea. There certainly must be plenty of young collegiate players who have done quiz bowl in high school or have a strong enough familiarity with the quiz bowl canon that could work with other young players on their team to write 6/6 or 4/4, even if they can't get a full 12/12 (e.g. because nobody on the can write physics or chemistry). This might help make submissions more meaningful and alleviate the issue of older folks having to step in to complete packets.
Speaking as someone who previously worked on a set that allowed teams to do this with their half-packets (WAO), I am skeptical that it could be effectively scaled to the size of ACF Fall without developing some fairly substantial technical infrastructure, or without spending an awful lot of time on Google Sheets in ways that will inevitable result in non-negligible human error. Using a bunch of tiny submissions like this is also more likely to exacerbate repeat problems. I'm not sure it's a good idea.

With that said, I wholeheartedly support the abolition of packet submission for ACF Fall or a shift to a packet submission optional model (perhaps with the further goal of using submission as a recruiting ground for future editors, as ACF has apparently done recently). I further endorse Ankit's suggestion that it's not a bad thing if not everyone is trying to play Regionals - particularly if those doing so aren't really trying to either qualify for Nats or seriously test their mettle.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:09 pm

This is beyond the original scope of this thread, but I'm curious what Ankit's proposal for a "minor league" of quizbowl would look like. Would this require even more easier tournaments than we have now? Would such tournaments take up more time on the schedule (which is increasingly constrained by HS tournaments, college tournaments, and other things, like football games)? What potential solutions could be put in place?
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:29 pm

Assuming tournaments like Michigan Winter and Longhorn Invitational don't dramatically overshoot their target difficulties, I feel like this year has a fairly substantial offering of tournaments of "two-star" difficulty and below:
  • Collegiate Novice
  • ACF Fall
  • Delta Burke
  • D2 SCT
  • SUN
  • EFT
  • MWT
  • LIT
  • D2 ICT (for qualifying teams)
I think this is more than enough in terms of offerings for most players, particularly if they're fairly casual and have a decent number of other things going on. I think the bigger issue is making sure the interested circuits mirror all of these tournaments - unfortunately, weaker circuits like SoCal or the Northwest also have fewer teams able to mirror them, so these few teams may get exhausted from constantly hosting.

For the "varsity" circuit, assuming that EFT and up is what's appropriate, you have plenty of offerings as well:
  • EFT
  • MWT
  • LIT
  • Penn Bowl
  • D1 SCT
  • ACF Regionals
  • Fall Open
  • Terrapin Open
  • D1 ICT (for qualifying teams)
  • ACF Nationals (for qualifying teams)

All in all, I really don't think we need more tournaments, but rather to think critically about which tournaments make the most sense to mirror in each region. If I'm coordinating a weaker circuit and I have limited willing hosts, I'd probably prioritize mirroring Delta Burke over Penn Bowl in the fall and maybe not concern myself with getting a Terrapin Open mirror as opposed to a LIT mirror.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Auroni » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:57 pm

All of the above discussion conveniently and intellectually dishonestly ignores that a large chunk of the ACF Fall audience does not need to write a packet. To quote from the announcement for this year's tournament:
Any team with at least two people on it who played a regular, collegiate, academic quizbowl tournament* (either as a college student or as a high school student) prior to September 1, 2018, is required to submit a half-packet, unless it is a high school team attending a high-school-only mirror.
This means that "new players" and "new teams" are not obligated to submit packets to ACF Fall. Those who are required to submit are presumed to be experienced at playing Fall level questions.

As everyone should know, assembling college tournaments is a laborious, difficult task currently shouldered by a small group of people. Packet submission is a way to partially distribute some of this burden to the much larger quizbowl audience in a non-onerous way (in the particular case of Fall, 12/12 written by 2 experienced people, maybe with some contributions from newer folk really isn't a huge ask, especially if planned for). In return, teams can earn a submission discount, be introduced to writing (which may be enjoyable for its own sake, and may lead to future writing/editing opportunities both inside and outside ACF), and improve at quizbowl. For years, many people have sought these benefits and made genuine, good faith efforts to submit questions, many of which were used (especially if these questions were submitted for earlier deadlines, before repeat issues necessarily crowd out perfectly good questions). ACF has been cognizant of the high volume of packets submitted to ACF Fall specifically, and has both lowered the required amount from a full packet to a half packet and raised the threshold of experience required for a team to submit. Contra the title and the overwrought rhetoric of this thread, this is a pretty fair transaction and doesn't amount to any kind of coercion or bondage. The anti-packet submission arguments put forth in this thread seem to be rooted in people universalizing their own negative experiences or unfortunate particular situations without any thought as to the actual realities of producing this crucial tournament.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by The Billiards Fool » Tue Nov 05, 2019 3:02 pm

Before I say anything, I'll note my experience with packet submission has always been positive and I've always enjoyed it, even when it is a bit cumbersome at times. I also know nothing about the ACF Fall writing process besides what is public knowledge.

That said, if there any reason the entire ACF Fall set schedule can't be moved up, allowing for the time necessary to write the set without packet sub? If I recall, Fall editor applications were sent out in June. Given that the corps of Fall writers/editors and Nationals writers/editors are very different, it seems to me like it could be moved up a bunch and Fall could get started way earlier? (in this scenario, the "editors" would just be "the writing staff" in its entirety).
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Progcon » Tue Nov 05, 2019 3:19 pm

Cody wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:35 pm
Progcon wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:16 pm
rahulkeyal wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:08 pm
Progcon wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:09 pm
My understanding is that the majority of the set had to be written and edited in a month. This doesn't seem ideal and is caused by the packet submission model.
I don't mean to discount the rest of your post, which I think raises a number of valuable points for consideration. However, I did want to step in and say that this is a misrepresentation of the set's production. Things may have been somewhat rushed in the final month (due in part to the submission schedule), but certainly more than half the set was finished by October.
I appreciate you correcting this but it's still firmly not great to have set production compressed partially due to packet submission.
Is this a useful statement? You could say the same about any set production. I have been party to many sets that were not packet submission and experienced a compressed set production, including actually having the majority of the set written in one month.

Packet submission is a trade-off. Listing every single negative thing from the perspective of an experienced writer is not a true accounting of whether packet submission for Fall is worthwhile.
I certainly agree it's a trade-off and I don't intend to make this thread a giant screed against packet submission. I just managed a guerilla packet submission pop music event for charity and I got some awesome submissions. I think it can work very well in certain cases. However, like any tradeoff, its costs must be considered as well as its benefits. If it is true that the ACF Fall production schedule is compressed, should not this be considered a germane negative for the current packet submission regime?

The first questions I wrote for college quizbowl were for ACF Fall packet submission my freshman year. I wrote because my team got zero university funding and said if I wanted to play I had to write. My questions were really bad (bizarrely wrote a tossup on The Battle of the Plains of Abraham because I had little idea of what could or could not come up.) I disagree with those who assert that giving examples like this amounts to cherrypicking. Corner cases, such as universities which start closer to October than August, and kinks, such as teams where experienced players write the Fall submissions, are extremely sensitive to incentive structures so they are worth thinking about even if my experience or person X's experience does not generalize to every potential quizbowl club across the circuit. No one would seriously suggest such a generalization is possible.

In general, I'd be more okay with Fall packet submission if the financial incentives to produce a quality submission were higher than at most $30 really. I much appreciate the work ACF puts into these tournaments because I feel that the circuit would collapse without them but I don't think it's dishonest to at least consider alternative rules and ideas. Auroni is largely correct that the collegiate quizbowl writing is supported by a few gracious and hardworking writers. I am of course not arguing that these pillars of the collegiate community should take more on their plate. I think it's very good that ACF has let some fresher faces edit ACF Fall and I think recent iterations of the tournament have been good. All that said, I do think it's entirely fair to at least start asking questions about the current state of affairs for this particular tournament.

Ben Miller's post about directing a tournament also probably deserves more discussion. Ankit's idea of a "minor league" probably deserves its own thread as well. There are some teams that really do only play tournaments of roughly Fall difficulty or slightly harder.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Nov 05, 2019 3:35 pm

Auroni wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:57 pm
All of the above discussion conveniently and intellectually dishonestly ignores that a large chunk of the ACF Fall audience does not need to write a packet. To quote from the announcement for this year's tournament:
Any team with at least two people on it who played a regular, collegiate, academic quizbowl tournament* (either as a college student or as a high school student) prior to September 1, 2018, is required to submit a half-packet, unless it is a high school team attending a high-school-only mirror.
The highlighted portion in red seems dubious, as I don't think there's any intellectual dishonesty going on here - everyone knows that lots of people get exempted from writing packets! What remains true is that B, C, etc. teams at various schools still have to write packets when they're composed of sophomores, juniors, seniors, etc. who may enjoy the game and even be involved with the running of their club, but aren't trying to spend a bunch of time studying, writing, etc. to improve and learn a ton more things. I'm not going to go into market sizing, but I think this is a non-negligible group of people who are a very large part of the ideal audience of ACF Fall.

Right now, I think the general message to these people (those required to submit a packet, but who are much more on the casual end of the spectrum) is some combination of:
  • Stop playing this tournament, you're too old / have been around too long (even if it's an entirely appropriate difficulty)
  • If you're not willing to put in a bunch of time writing IN ADDITION TO PAYING $150 then you don't deserve to play
Is this really what we want to be telling people who like quizbowl and want to stick around? I think it's an entirely different animal than "if you want to qualify for Nationals, you have to do this" - that's totally fair. Qualifying for Nationals is a privilege that one earns. A fall tournament aimed at newer or more casual / less skilled players shouldn't be treated the same way.

EDIT: Moreover, I think it's telling that Auroni insists that asking for 12/12 questions is "non-onerous" yet insists that the entire production process is extremely difficult and laborious. Isn't writing 12/12 a pretty onerous burden for people who, in all likelihood, aren't very good or experienced writers? Is "distributing the burden" in a manner that wastes the vast majority of the product to whom the burden is distributed really efficient, or is it a tax that harms the many for the benefit of the few? Why not just get rid of the packet discounts and pay editors the savings?
Auroni wrote:The anti-packet submission arguments put forth in this thread seem to be rooted in people universalizing their own negative experiences or unfortunate particular situations without any thought as to the actual realities of producing this crucial tournament.
This statement is flatly contradicted by the fact that a bunch of people posting in this thread have actually both worked on ACF Fall and are good players (Ben, Ankit, myself to name a few). I'm sympathetic to Auroni's argument because I definitely got my first taste of writing when I wrote for our submitted Regionals packet. I was hooked from the get-go! But these days there are way more opportunities to get involved in writing than there were before.

Finally, I buy that ACF Fall is an extremely important tournament, but can we please, please quit kidding ourselves that it's particularly difficult to produce a tournament of 15 packets of high school regular-plus level questions, as opposed to other tasks? Producing a quizbowl tournament is never objectively easy, for sure, and ACF Fall is unique because it does have to tap into a wider college canon and curriculum while maintaining a low difficulty. However, I do not think Fall is any harder to produce than the several medium difficulty sets which are housewritten each year, let alone the mammoths that are ICT and ACF Nationals, as long as one has a grasp of the target.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:35 pm

Auroni wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:57 pm
All of the above discussion conveniently and intellectually dishonestly ignores that a large chunk of the ACF Fall audience does not need to write a packet. To quote from the announcement for this year's tournament:
Any team with at least two people on it who played a regular, collegiate, academic quizbowl tournament* (either as a college student or as a high school student) prior to September 1, 2018, is required to submit a half-packet, unless it is a high school team attending a high-school-only mirror.
This means that "new players" and "new teams" are not obligated to submit packets to ACF Fall. Those who are required to submit are presumed to be experienced at playing Fall level questions.
Not everyone is good enough in 3rd year to graduate from ACF Fall difficulty, especially casual players.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:44 pm

You don't have to "graduate" from it, but the idea is that after two years, you at least have sufficient experience to try writing for it.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:08 pm

Cheynem wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:44 pm
You don't have to "graduate" from it, but the idea is that after two years, you at least have sufficient experience to try writing for it.
But empirically most of these submissions are unusable, sometimes due to repeats, but often because people either don't have the skills or don't have the motivation to write sufficiently usable questions!
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:10 pm

Right, I'm not saying you're wrong, I was responding to what Joe was saying, which implied almost that after two years, you were "too good" for Fall. I don't think that's how ACF sees things, just that you are experienced enough to write. Whether as, Will points out, you really are or if you're experienced enough to write good, usable questions is another story.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by magin » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:15 pm

I'm only speaking for myself here, not ACF. I sympathize with people bringing up concerns about the current packet submission model for Fall, and I'm sure that ACF members are open to changes to ensure a better experience for writers and editors, much like the way ACF moved to half-packets from full packets, added exemptions for new teams, and encouraged new writers to apply to edit Fall.

However, I think that the packet submission model itself is important and should be kept.

1) Compared to housewrites, packet submission is a bottom-up, democratic model of producing tournaments. When a small group of writers produces all of the questions from the top down, it's easy to fall prey to your own biases. 200 people, all coming from different backgrounds and perspectives, will produce more interesting ideas for questions than 5 or 10 people. Packet submission helps ensure that the same 10 people aren't burned out by having to come up with hundreds of question ideas, and encourages people who are not part of an in-crowd to contribute to tournaments. (Certainly, editors of packet submission tournaments are often guilty of just replacing lots of submissions with their own questions and not communicating with or encouraging newer writers, but that's a problem with the editors of those tournaments, not the packet submission model).

2) A healthy circuit depends on developing the largest possible number of writers and editors. The fewer packet submission tournaments, the higher probability that the only people who will write questions are the people who are already invested in quizbowl and interested in writing a lot. And it's much harder to learn how to edit quizbowl questions without giving people practice editing instead of writing.

3) This is personal, but without packet submission, I would never have stayed with quizbowl or edited any tournaments. When I started playing in 2006, the Maryland team was pretty isolated from the good quizbowl in-crowd back then, and I didn't really know anyone on any other teams. If I only attended tournaments that were housewritten, I would never have tried writing questions because I never had to. I wasn't a good writer at all, but the first time one of my questions was used at a tournament, I was excited and encouraged. After submitting more questions to tournaments and helping Maryland edit its packet submission tournament, ACF reached out to me and encouraged me to get more involved.

Packet submission isn't perfect by any means, and I'm open to any number of reforms to it. However, its long-term positives (anti-elitism, inviting contributions from many sources and perspectives, and encouraging a larger pool of potential writers and editors) make it the strongest tournament format for the circuit, in my opinion.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:13 pm

magin wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:15 pm
3) This is personal, but without packet submission, I would never have stayed with quizbowl or edited any tournaments. When I started playing in 2006, the Maryland team was pretty isolated from the good quizbowl in-crowd back then, and I didn't really know anyone on any other teams. If I only attended tournaments that were housewritten, I would never have tried writing questions because I never had to. I wasn't a good writer at all, but the first time one of my questions was used at a tournament, I was excited and encouraged. After submitting more questions to tournaments and helping Maryland edit its packet submission tournament, ACF reached out to me and encouraged me to get more involved.

Packet submission isn't perfect by any means, and I'm open to any number of reforms to it. However, its long-term positives (anti-elitism, inviting contributions from many sources and perspectives, and encouraging a larger pool of potential writers and editors) make it the strongest tournament format for the circuit, in my opinion.
Having similarly benefited from being forced to write questions for packet submission tournaments and Maryland high school tournaments, I'm sympathetic to this argument. But I also wonder if things have changed enough in those 15 or so years in terms of writing opportunities for newer players that this matters less than it once did. For instance, around 2006 there were a lot fewer high school housewrites. There were also a lot fewer national high school tournaments (especially ones anywhere near the quality level you have today). And there are now more support mechanisms like the PACE Writer Mentorship program and the ACF question feedback program.

Thus, I think that college packet submission tournaments are less important than they once were in getting newer writers experience writing. That being said, they probably are still more effective than today's system in forcing people to write their first set of questions. "You need to write 4/4 to play this tournament" is going to get more people to write in the first place than "hey you should consider applying to be an NAQT writer." But of course there's a cost of the person who decides just to not play the tournament / quit quizbowl because of that 4/4 writing requirement.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:14 pm

I should also note that I personally like submitting packets for tournaments and wished more higher-level tournaments were packet-sub.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by theMoMA » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:39 pm

I think Jonathan has outlined three very good reasons why packet submission should continue to be a feature of ACF tournaments. To me, it's a core part of ACF's identity that a big chunk of the questions come from the players. This keeps the connection between ACF and emerging writers on the circuit strong and supplies editors with ideas that they wouldn't have come up with themselves. For Fall, I think submissions are especially crucial in furtherance of the tournament's goal of finding and developing newer editors.

My feeling is that a pure economic analysis of packet submission is not appropriate. ACF does not exist as a profit-seeking company, and quizbowl does not exist as a utility-maximizing activity. Rather, quizbowl is a community, and ACF is an important creation of that community. It seems entirely appropriate to me that, as a safeguard of the community's wellbeing, ACF occasionally requires action on the part of community members. Just as some people contribute their weekends, their editing time, and their organizing energy for the collective good, others contribute their writing, without which it would be more difficult to put together high-quality events of the kind that ACF produces.

That said, ACF has always been willing to rethink the submission requirement, both in terms of how long a submission is and how many teams need to submit. If Fall (or any other tournament) has gotten to the point where much more material comes in than is used, then it may be appropriate to recalibrate the requirement.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:22 pm

(These are from Ophir Lifshitz, who did not have time to post them himself). I edited them for readability and clarity, removing a few sections in which he responded to others in the chat (He gave me permission to post them):
(Speaking for myself, as always) Training new editors is necessary for the sustainability of college quizbowl and quizbowl in general. The picture is so much bigger than ACF. Yes, of course ACF always needs more editors for "its own projects" (without even getting into how these projects are between vital to and synonymous with intercollegiate quizbowl competition - ACF isn't just some detached entity, its mission, explicitly or not, involves community service). Yes, new editors also happen to be trained outside of ACF, but ACF has more institutional experience and is well suited to support training compared to other projects. Unlike most ad-hoc housewrite projects, ACF has a membership of several dozen people in reserve with a high amount of combined expertise who are often available to answer questions or come to the aid of its current project representatives.

It's a fallacy to attribute to a single project the process of learning how to write or edit because it takes years of experience, trial and error. I don't credit my own training to any single project; it's been over 10 years of being on various types of projects and I have yet more to learn. I also don't credit ACF with training every editor, but I expect that the vast majority of prolific editors around today have worked on ACF projects. Now, ACF hasn't always had open editor applications (I am speaking only for myself when I say I believe that a major purpose of Fall is pedagogic, as I don't think that is actually enshrined anywhere), and it doesn't do accounting how much other work its alumni do, but if you do actually do your investigation, I expect you would also come to that conclusion.

The purpose of packet submission (and its associated systems) is far more than democratizing question ideas or giving editors a head start on completion or training or providing potential new writers a small stepping stone towards larger projects or anything like that. It is about cultivating awareness that the existence and sustainability of quizbowl is fundamentally dependent on community service, i.e. you. Packet submission (as well as other endeavors, like the mentorship program) should teach many people about the importance of long-term goals in the best interests of the community rather than instant gratification. The deepest and saddest irony, at least as I see it, I this: The recurrent discourse on entirely abolishing packet submission (as opposed to gradual reform), however, has shown this message to have been an obvious failure.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Nov 06, 2019 3:32 pm

My Negative Memories of Packet Submission as a Player
I remember the first tossup I ever wrote. It was for ACF Fall 2004, where I was playing on Chicago E. The answerline was "John Tyler" and the lead-in clue was that during the nullification crisis, John Tyler was the only Senator to vote against the Force Bill (all the other Senators who opposed it had left the Senate chamber in protest). I remember clacking away at an iMac in the school library on that tossup, sending it to one of the grad students on the team. I thought it was such a good tossup - and on a subject that I really knew well. And then I remember getting back a very harsh and critical response full of jargon like "this needs to be more pyramidal" that I didn't really understand. It was a very negative experience for me. A less determined person might have quit quizbowl then and there.

One of my favorite parts of any packet-submission tournament was the bye round when my team's packet would get read. We would all go to the room where the best teams were playing on our packet, to see how the best players would do on our questions. Each time the moderator started a tossup, I hoped it would be my tossup. Anxiety would set in if my favorite submitted tossup wasn't read by Tossup 15. If my cherished tossup wasn't read at all, or relegated to the tiebreakers, what sadness! It felt like my work was wasted. Worse, sometimes the tossups I submitted were completely transformed. At Chicago Open 2010 my tossup on "Mexico", written to be a sterling example of a "hard question on an easy topic" was instead transformed into a tossup on "the Cristero War", one of the more egregiously difficult answerlines of that entire tournament. My feelings were hurt.

I also remember explaining quizbowl to people and telling them that the questions were written by the players. That was often the point at which they expressed great incredulity and began taking the activity less seriously. Even today, when I occasionally explain the Andy Watkins scandal to people, the thing I have to spend the most time explaining is why an active player had access to NAQT's database in the first place (though of course that has nothing to do with packet submission).

My Positive Memories of Packet Submission as a Player
The plus side of packet submission, of course, was that I got to share exciting clues with the community. Sometimes I found a new fact that I was so excited about sharing that I immediately ran to the closest computer and wrote a tossup. Sometimes, seeing a top player react to my question made my entire week. Sometimes, in the course of writing a tossup or bonus, I learned a new fact that made me a better player.

But packet submission was an inferior mechanism for these things. Writing 5/5 questions at a time just didn't the kind of scale to make me better. I don't think I improved as a writer until I was writing 10x or more that amount of questions at a time. And packet submission, especially at larger and easier tournaments, was an inferior way of introducing those exciting new clues to quizbowl because it was less certain that they would make it in. Editing entire tournaments was a much better way to get those positive impacts.

My Positive Memories of Packet Submission as an Editor

My Negative Memories of Packet Submission as an Editor
I belong to the Bruce Lou school. As an editor I often found that packet submission needlessly complicated my life. It was often less work to replace than to rewrite a bad submission. And one thing I noticed is that players were strategically submitting tossups on subjects they disliked. The charitable interpretation of this is that they wanted to get better at those subjects. The less charitable interpretation is that they were manipulating the game to ensure the things they didn't like came up in their bye, and not during a round when they were playing. And this was top teams doing this, by the way. Top teams.

Conclusion
I always saw packet submission as a necessary evil. In my time, more tournaments than not were packet submission, and without that they probably wouldn't happen. Today, it seems, ACF is a lone outlier, and it seems like there is enough talent in quizbowl to end packet submission entirely within the playing careers of people active today. I view this as a remarkable and positive development. To me packet submission is unprofessional and amateurish. I don't think you find similar things in other, more respectable activities. Spelling bee kids aren't writing words for their rivals to spell.

I view this within the context of the greater professionalization of college quizbowl. It seems to me that ACF-style quizbowl as it existed from the early 2000's onwards was a reaction to the "professional" quizbowl organizations of that time (CBI and pre-reform NAQT) providing shoddy questions and bad experirences. Thus, tattered old books instead of trophies, volunteer editors instead of professional writers, etc. I haven't attended a tournament in years, but from reading this message board it seems to me that a new generation of players for whom CBI is ancient history and NAQT has always been good are questioning the Bohemian nature of ACF-style quizbowl.

I have always said that being inducted into ACF as a full member was the single greatest honor of my quizbowl career, but I wonder if it is time to begin transitioning ACF-style quizbowl to something more like NAQT: a group of professionals who are not current players. Based on what I know about the inner workings of ACF, they would need some new revenue stream to make this viable. Perhaps that revenue stream could be the creation of a new, year-round circuit of "easy" tournaments that target the potentially hundreds of college programs that might be interested in ACF Fall level play but be scared off by ACF Regionals, as we've discussed in other threads recently.

That leaves an open question of how exactly writing talent is going to be identified and developed, but I refuse to believe that making college freshmen write 5 questions every few months is necessary to identify and develop talent.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Cheynem » Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:25 pm

Since we're talking beyond ACF Fall here, I'll share some thoughts on packet submission:

The last packet submission tournament I did was CO 2016. While I've defended the idea of packet submission, I actually don't enjoy much working with it, for a lot of the reasons Bruce mentioned. It's cumbersome, it can be time-consuming, and it's just easier to use your own ideas and thoughts. But I do think I learned some valuable things:

1. I learned to move beyond my comfort zone. There are some questions in that tournament that were on topics I would never have chosen to do on my own. In some cases, they even went well.

2. You get a better feeling of what makes a good question and how to produce a question. At one point, Matt Jackson gently admonished me to not throw out submissions and instead try and edit them. I thought about how to improve clue selection or answerline selection, while still keeping the general theme or answerline. This can be invaluable when you're writing your own questions later.

3. I think, just like you learn how to be a better writer in non-quizbowl things by peer reviewing others' works (it's easier to notice stuff in other people's writing that irritates you when they do it, rather than you), the same principle applies in editing. It may be easier to notice things like cliffs, transparency, vague clues, or poor bonus structures when others do it, and to apply that to your own work.

4. Finally, there's just something cool to opening a submission and seeing an interesting idea or neat new clues. I realize you're probably not going to encounter this too much at Fall, though.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:43 pm

I think Ophir, Andrew, and Jonathan make persuasive arguments for the community value of packet submission - when you see that a packet is "Michigan A" then you know the Michigan team contributed to the packet and that helps institutionalize things in a way that's difficult to put a value on. ACF is different from NAQT and doesn't need to be like them - it's different because it's the "players' organization." That does mean that the players, in a way, commit to uphold it, and in the limited quizbowl economy it probably needs to be this way.

That said, I remain firmly of the opinion that, as with Nationals, it's probably not productive to have submission mandates for many of the arguments presented above. I think a good optional model can and should be worked out to preserve the institutional value of packet submission and the function of ACF as truly "the players' organization" while avoiding the tremendous waste that can result from the current model.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:46 pm

In the OP, Harris notes that it would take "a group of less-experienced writers" about six hours to write 12/12, which comes out to an average of 15 minutes per question. This was surprising to me, because I would have guessed that it takes inexperienced writers much longer to write questions.

While I am certainly no great shakes at writing quizbowl questions, I imagine I've written more than the inexperienced writers under discussion here. I have found that it takes at least 30 minutes for me to write a tossup on anything; longer for topics I don't know well. Writing my 6/6 of any given packet in college (even ACF Fall!) was typically a 8-12 hour affair; this despite me usually having the good fortune to be able to write on the parts of the distribution I knew relatively well.

In the next iteration of the "experience survey", it might be good to ask the respondents to indicate how long it took them to write their submitted questions, so we have better empirical evidence about the costs borne by teams attending packet-submission tournaments. I don't think the "how difficult was it to write" question from the most recent iteration captures this well - it's very possible for question-writing to be a non-difficult yet very-lengthy process.

(Or perhaps I'm just uniquely and preternaturally slow at writing questions, in which case never mind all this.)

[edit: words and numbers]
Last edited by Excelsior (smack) on Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Abolish packet submission for ACF Fall

Post by Progcon » Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:47 am

Excelsior (smack) wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:46 pm
In the OP, Harris notes that it would take "a group of less-experienced writers" about six hours to write 12/12, which comes out to an average of 15 minutes per question. This was surprising to me, because I would have guessed that it takes inexperienced writers much longer to write questions.

While I am certainly no great shakes at writing quizbowl questions, I imagine I've written more than the inexperienced writers under discussion here. Empirically, I have found that it takes at least 30 minutes for me to write a tossup on anything; longer for topics I don't know well. Writing my 6/6 of any given packet in college (even ACF Fall!) was typically a 10-12 hour affair; this despite me usually having the good fortune to be able to write on the parts of the distribution I knew relatively well.

In the next iteration of the "experience survey", it might be good to ask the respondent to indicate how long it took them to write their submitted questions, so we have better empirical evidence about the costs borne by teams attending packet-submission tournaments. I don't think the "how difficult was it to write" question from the most recent iteration captures this well - it's very possible for question-writing to be a non-difficult yet very-lengthy process.

(Or perhaps I'm just uniquely and preternaturally slow at writing questions, in which case never mind all this.)
I think you are quite correct. I was just dumb and divided by two. 12/12 should take at least 12 hours for an inexperienced team. When I'm writing questions I tend to go at around one tossup, one bonus per hour. Bonuses tend to take me less time if I have the three parts planned out while I sometimes can spend 10 or so minutes finding a perfect lead-in. I definitely endorse asking teams how long they spent on a submission.
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