PB 2017: General Discussion

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Hobbie Klivian
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PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Hobbie Klivian » Sun Oct 22, 2017 4:48 pm

This thread is for general discussion related to Penn Bowl 2017.

First of all, I would like to thank all the writers involved in this project: Jaimie Carlson, Jason Zhou, JinAh Kim, Paul Lee, Nathan Weiser, Eric Mukherjee, Samir Khan, Sam Rombro, Ankit Aggarwal, Athena Kern, Lam Tran, Samantha Claypoole, Gabe Ajzenman, Sam Winikow, Joey Goldman, and Liam Weiss. A huge thanks also goes to our editors Jaimie Carlson, Jason Zhou, Jordan Brownstein, and Eric Mukherjee.

Jinah Kim and Jaimie Carlson wrote most of the literature with editing by Jordan Brownstein.

Biology and Chemistry were mostly written and edited by Eric M. with contributions from me and Samir Khan. Sam Rombro wrote most of the physics. Most of math/cs questions were written by Samir, and Eric M. and Sam wrote astro/earth science.

Jason Zhou wrote most of World and European History, and Nathan Weiser wrote all of American History.

I wrote most of music with contribution from Jinah. Jaimie wrote most of painting, and Nathan and Jaimie wrote most of other FA with contributions from Nathan, me, and Aidan Mehigan.

Athena, Jinah, and Ankit wrote religion with contributions from Aidan and Samantha. Jaimie wrote most of mythology with contributions from Athena and Samantha Claypoole; Jinah wrote most of the philosophy with contributions from Joey. Jaimie and Ankit wrote most of Social Studies with help from Jason and Jinah. Finally, Jason and Nathan wrote most of CE/Geo questions with contributions from Lam Tran, and trash was written mostly by Gabe with contributions from various members of the writing team.

Feel free to discuss how you felt about the tournament and the set.
Paul Lee

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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by wcheng » Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:40 pm

Although it seemed like this tournament had significant difficulty variability between categories, I felt that overall, it was a solid iteration of Penn Bowl. Within my main categories of history and religion, the answerlines seemed well-chosen and I didn't notice any major issues with cluing or pyramidality.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Off To See The Lizard » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:11 pm

I enjoyed this tournament and thought the questions were very well written. Lots of props to the writers for doing a good job and thanks to Penn for having a 13 round day run so smoothly.

As an aside, was I the only person who thought that there were very few architecture questions in this set?
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Hobbie Klivian » Wed Oct 25, 2017 4:04 pm

Off To See The Lizard wrote:As an aside, was I the only person who thought that there were very few architecture questions in this set?
There were 2/2 architecture in this tournament as usual, but 2/0 ended up in packet 13 and finals 1. We may end up moving this around.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Monstruos de Bolsillo » Fri Oct 27, 2017 1:36 pm

Overall, I had an enjoyable time playing the set. I knew going in that the questions would be challenging, so I expected to struggle as I'm not that good of a player. However, I feel like, after packet 9 or so, the tossups as a whole became much more difficult. I noticed, in our last few rounds, a lot more tossups were going dead than earlier in the same consolation bracket. Obviously, this was the lowest consolation bracket, on a difficult set with new/newish players, but from that round on, the difficulty just felt more uneven, with a lot more dead tossups and such.

I thought the bonuses still did a pretty good job overall with having a clearly-defined easy part, but there were some here and there that were essentially free points that didn't really test "quizbowl" knowledge (the Lincoln part, Thomas Jefferson, etc.), while most of the others had easy parts that still required some previous experience with the canon.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Taper or die. Can you do any less? » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:23 pm

Set was very good. I enjoyed lots.

Bio was hard.

Very little India stuff.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:04 pm

The grandmother is {wise, dead}. wrote:Set was very good. I enjoyed lots.
Yup, but felt harder than 'regular difficulty' compared to lets say the last two regionals.
The grandmother is {wise, dead} wrote:Bio was hard.
Maybe Rein should git gud.

But more generally it seemed like there were quite a few randomly hard science answerlines, e.g. Hamilton or cryo EM, but it wasn't bio-specific.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by CPiGuy » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:35 pm

I enjoyed this tournament; overall I think the editors did a good job of selecting interesting answerlines that didn't make the tournament too hard. I do think there was some inconsistency between categories with the bonus difficulty, though: the science felt a lot more difficult, especially the easy parts (we got zero on similar amounts of science and literature, despite being much better at science than literature).

edited: we were not as good at lit than at science
Last edited by CPiGuy on Mon Oct 30, 2017 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Conor Thompson
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by vinteuil » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:03 pm

I think that, not only was there wild variability in bonus difficulty across categories, but that that variation reflected completely different notions of what a hard or middle part should be at this difficulty. I'm mentally comparing the "classical" (with a few exceptions like the Neil Simon bonus) regular difficulty literature (Pnin/Nabokov/Pale Fire; Master Harold/Fugard/kite, although that could use an easier easy part?) to the science hard parts and especially the philosophy (feminist epistemology; "Epistemology Naturalized" and "eliminativist" as answers in the same bonus).

I hate to go down this path, but there were also a substantial number of errors in the music questions; multiple questions didn't mention a note's accidental (I think I heard "E" for "E-flat" twice); the Beethoven's 5th bonus claimed that the 1st movement's second theme is in G major (actually E-flat). Other clues were just weirdly unhelpful/content-free (Janet Baker and Barbirolli for Mahler, when they also did Ravel and Berlioz in addition to the Elgar mentioned in the question; I get that there were German words before that, but then why mention Elgar at all?).
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by shmno » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:45 pm

I thought the science was overall good, although some of the tossups and easy bonus parts seemed a bit hard (e.g. Ising model easy part, the aforementioned cryo EM and Hamilton tossups, metallicity, Lorentz-invariance). Thought some of the non-science bonuses had varying easy part difficulty as well.

I did notice immunology come up a tad more often in the biology, with tossups on "neutrophils" and "MHC" as well as the bonus with the hard part being CART, the one with a middle part of foam cells (although that was on Tangier's disease), and I think there was a third bonus although I can't remember what it was. This could be Baader-Meinhof from taking an immunology class, though. (Also I suppose platelets come from hematopoietic stem cells so they might be mentioned in immunology).

Overall, an enjoyable tournament.

(I believe one of the E / E flat mixups was Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, which is in E flat and not E).
Noah Chen
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by sbraunfeld » Sun Dec 03, 2017 9:29 pm

I quite liked (what little of) the math I heard. Thanks Samir.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:39 pm

I'm not going to reiterate what other folks have said - I've worked with the Penn folks before, I know good work went into this set, and a bunch of questions were pretty darn enjoyable. I wanted to provide some actionable feedback:

Literature - A lot of bonuses here weren't using the easy, middle, and hard parts to "bin" teams into 0, 10, 20, and 30 categories very well. I think a good example of this is the Vikram Seth bonus - the easy part is on Seth from one of his most famous titles (A Suitable Boy), and then asks you for his other most famous title (Golden Gate). Teams that have heard of Seth generally will know both of those books, so you're basically giving them 20 points if they have; Seth himself, however, isn't an easy-part famous author (he's not a major Nobel contender, to my understanding).

I think running this by an experienced player would have helped - some people have different conceptions of what an easy part is! But also from a writer's perspective, it may also be worth comparing your middle and easy parts and asking "if someone knows one, what's the chance they'll know the other?" This really comes out as a 20-or-nothing. I think the same may be functionally (if not theoretically) true of the Nabokov bonus, though that's probably only true among quizbowl players (since Nabokov is definitely more famous for Lolita than Pale Fire).

Music and Philosophy - For the most part, the cluing here was mechanically quite good. That said, the questions were really hard - the clues that were used were chosen well, but they were just frankly too difficult! It probably would have helped to have some second eyes - a music specialist, a good generalist, etc. - to give it a look-over and difficulty assessment there. I think music bonus hard parts were generally less challenging than philosophy ones, but in any case I think it would have helped to find easier answerlines to test engagement with some of the lesser known or conceptual material to give more players a shot at answering it, while still rewarding knowledge of that material and being educational.

Non-US History - A number of questions suffered from transparency which was fairly easy to recognize from knowledge outside of the "history" category per se, i.e. Portuguese words (padrões has the same characteristic Portuguese nasal vowels and vowel combinations as Luis de Camões, and -ões is the plural of similarly characteristic -ão ending), Armenian last name patterns (recognizable from pop culture i.e. various Kardashians, Ana Kasparian, Anita Sarkeesian, or music i.e. Aram Khachaturian). Other times, ostensible hard parts and early clues required very basic knowledge of history (hieroglyphics decoding as mentioned elsewhere, knowing that grain is a perishable, frequently-stored good that the Romans cared about a lot) to make an educated guess and be correct. I'm not sure how to improve this from a writing perspective - if you don't recognize these things, then there's not much of a solution than for someone else to give them a look-over.

Also, Nathan's US history was great and I look forward to reading it over.
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Re: PB 2017: General Discussion

Post by Jason Cheng » Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:42 pm

Will's comments about literature got to the heart of what bugged me about this set when I played it about a month ago--much of the cluing/answer line selection (esp. in bonuses) actively excludes people who don't play a lot of quiz bowl, except at the regular difficulty level, which is the absolute highest level in which quiz bowl can feasibly claim to be accessible to people that haven't dedicated themselves to figuring out how cluing and the canon works and immersed themselves into the activity of "playing" quiz bowl. Someone described this aesthetic to me as "seems like a parody of quiz bowl."

Practically, this took the form of a feeling of no player empathy and an over-reliance on bread-and-butter clues in order to differentiate difficulty. The bonus where "Ising model" was the easy part (some smart cookie could feasibly convert this from early-level chem major classes, but most of the people who actually converted it have probably just heard a bunch of tossups on transition states before) or the lit bonuses that Will mentioned ("Vikram Seth" from A Suitable Boy is not a clear easy part at this level and not that different from Vikram Seth->The Golden Gate, even when most people who pay attention to lit in quiz bowl know the title) are pretty clear examples of this; the "having wings" tossup in lit where the entire tossup was Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" was one of the moments where that feeling popped up in the tossups. As someone who barely pays attention to more than, like, 4 categories, I can't confidently point at a lot of examples in other subjects but I'm sure they exist from the amount of griping I heard at the tournament (the opera tossup answerlines and the music questions, maybe?)

Don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed playing the tournament and I thought there was a lot of good content in there too that seemed both interesting and intellectually satisfying to play. I get that most of the Penn Bowls I've played in my career (2014 to this year's) usually looked something like this, and I also understand that "nailing down the difference between the 10, 20, 30" types of teams or "making sure that easy things and tossups are actually accessible" isn't necessarily the top priority of each set and comes down to personal taste--I'll take a "find your ass" easy part over an easy part asking you to name a "stock" clue any day--, but I think dialing things back at least a little and focusing more on the roots of player empathy would've increased the overall quality of the set. The sense that "maybe this set wasn't written for us" was pretty pervasive at the site I played, which I think is a pretty good cross-section of the "moderately okay" and "don't necessarily spend time breaking down the regs and beyond cluing/canon" categories of teams that I'm talking about.
Jason Cheng
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UCSD 2017
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