WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

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WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Progcon » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:11 pm

Hello all,

Thank you for playing the set. I am on a bus in Austria to Germany so I have some time to type up a little preamble to the set discussion. First of all, I really want to apologize for the delay in getting the set out. Much of the set was edited and written the last week—and particularly the last few days. This happened for multiple reasons: not least of all was the fact that I have not had been in Switzerland in my apartment since Tuesday night so finding time to write away from home has been difficult. This is of course no excuse and I would like to thoroughly offer my sincere gratitude to the understanding teams affected by the delayed sending of packets and any errata and poorly written clues that may have been the result of any last minute writing or editing. I would hope that I speak for all the editors in that I would appreciate the understanding of teams that played the first weekend—and we welcome any constructive comments or criticism.

I would like to personally thank Joe, Jakob, Derek, Jacob, and Rein for working for about 40 hours straight to ensure the set got done. I have gotten 4 hours of sleep total the last two nights—partially from working on the set, but the lion’s share of work was done by these few gentlemen. The McGill team team also graciously worked to edit and improve our questions, as Jonathan Magin also did. Austen from McGill himself wrote like 5 questions at 5 am to save the set.

With that, this is who nominally edited and wrote what. This was not always the case, as for example, I wrote a few literature questions and we all wrote some trash questions and religion was also a team effort.

Jacob O’ Rourke: American History and American Literature
Jakob Myers: World History, Euro History, Other History, Geography
Derek So: Non-American Literature, Painting, Other VA
Joe Su: Biology, Music, Other AA, some Other Science
Rein Ostason: Physics, Chemistry, some Other Science
Harris Bunker: Philosophy, Social Science, Current Events, Mythology, Trash, Religion

For my own categories and especially in social science, I tried to reward very real knowledge that was not asked about very much. I thing this is clearly seen in the bonus on tax policy, the tossup on socialization, the bonus on personality disorders and the bonus on moral luck. I liked to ask about thinkers that I think are relevant to current research or have oft-debated ideas in lieu of “old-school” social science tossups on dead thinkers and their works though I think some of those people did come up. I tried having a balance there and in philosophy.

For trash, we experimented with having 50/50 low brow trash and high brow trash. Please tell me how this idea worked. I was often unsure what counted as “high trash”, but I think we have a decent idea. I think it was Derek who said that high trash is like obscene content, he knows it when he sees it. I don’t think the trash was actually 50/50 high low, because we didn’t have the time to super plan out all the answerlines after the submissions got in, but I hope we at least showed that the trash cannon isn’t just sports, shitty music, TV shows, JRPGS, etc.

This specific thread is for the discussing the set as a whole: its positives, negatives, strengths, weaknesses, specific subject holes or overused topics (answerlines on Italy being a possible candidate), etc. Please ask for and about specific questions in the specific question thread.

Again, thank you for playing the set. It’s hard not to have a playtest mirror especially when this set had a lot of different content from what normally comes up. A lot of us, including myself, were new writers to hard collegiate questions, so we welcome any and all feedback. The packet submission format was cool in the sense that there were many, many great ideas for questions, but added a lot of logistical problems as opposed to a conventional set.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by 1992 in spaceflight » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:17 pm

Additionally, I would like to thank Jakob Myers and Derek So, both of whom helped me with editing and writing for my categories when I was falling behind. I would also like to extend a sincere thanks to the players from the McGill team, who sacrificed a night of sleep to copy-edit and further revise our questions. You all are true blue heroes of quizbowl.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:45 pm

I think the majority of the problems from this tournament come from the fact that there was no designated "head editor" to get everyone's stuff together and have a broad sense of exactly what still needed to be done with the tournament. The tournament post mentioned that non-listed categories would be a collaborative effort - that didn't happen, at least for religion, until last night. Nobody was designated to fill in after Isaac Thiessen's absence and again we sort of all just sat there until it was too late. Jonathan Magin's aid in this set was invaluable, but unfortunately he wasn't ready to help us until after ACF Fall. Even still, I thought everyone who had their questions completed by the end of last weekend were able to get incredibly useful feedback.

These major things will get fixed for next weekend:
Progcon wrote:For trash, we experimented with having 50/50 low brow trash and high brow trash.
- In order to have this set complete we didn't do this for the November 11th mirrors.
- The "other academic" was supposed to be mostly CE, but that didn't happen so we added a bunch of random questions from any category, mostly Jakob's geography questions.
- Because of the aforementioned snafus, the majority of the religion, and a few questions in myth, phil, ss, trash, ce, other academic were left largely unedited from submissions.
- All science questions in the non-biological sciences were essentially guerrilla with minor edits or hastily written in the editors packets.

For the November 11th mirrors, please keep in mind the above comments when discussing the content.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by CPiGuy » Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:20 am

Overall, I enjoyed this tournament. I thought most of the tossups were well constructed, and there were a lot of interesting ideas. However, as I'm sure you're aware, there was a lot of variance between categories, especially in the bonuses. Literature was noticeably harder than the rest of the subjects, and the bonus difficulty was just all over the place in general. My team had one game in particular where it felt as though a significant factor in who won the game was which bonuses went to which team, since some bonuses were just a free 30 points while some were difficult to 10. I'll try to point out specific examples of this in the specific questions thread.

I must say, though, that I do feel somewhat disappointed that I'm going to have played a noticeably worse version of the set than anyone who plays this tournament next weekend. I understand you didn't have a "head editor" to wrangle questions together, and I understand that that certainly would have had a negative impact for categories like religion or CE, where there was no designated editor (but seriously, um, this was probably a bad idea to not designate a point person for a given category), but I'm certainly not under the impression that you all need a head editor simply to remind you of deadlines. Again, the literature was the worst-quality and least consistent subject today, and looking back at the original tournament announcement, "literature" had a clearly defined subject editor. Likewise, according to your post, most of the science was basically unedited -- and yet, there were multiple clearly-defined "science" editors who have been in the group since the beginning. Pure and simple, those people dropped the ball, and it's disingenuous to blame the lower quality of those categories on the lack of a head editor.

Alright, rant over. I just want to reiterate that overall I still think this is a good tournament, especially the categories that got done on time and were able to receive feedback and get a second look, and it will become great once you iron out the kinks.

Edit to add: I understand that some of the people I called out above are first time editors. As someone newer to the community myself, I want to make clear that I'm not trying to drive them away from editing; in fact I think it's great that they were willing to try editing a tournament. I just wanted to express my opinion that the lessons they should learn from this are "get your shit done on time" and not "get a head editor to nag you to get your shit done on time".
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by otsasonr » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:52 am

CPiGuy wrote: Likewise, according to your post, most of the science was basically unedited -- and yet, there were multiple clearly-defined "science" editors who have been in the group since the beginning.
Not to be defensive, but the only category which could be categorized as "basically unedited" is chemistry, where due to an error in communication with Joe on my part, some questions had to be put in with only quick read-throughs for obvious issues. Every other science question in the set was either completely edited or a from-scratch replacement. They might not have been edited well, because I don't necessarily know what I'm doing, but they were edited.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by adamsil » Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:58 pm

For the most part, I enjoyed this set, and it was a good effort by relatively inexperienced editors. I have just two general comments I'll make here:

Answerlines, particularly in science, particularly in chemistry, were not extensive enough. Things like hydroxyl/alcohols have been extensively conflated in quizbowl and textbooks for so long that you should at least prompt on one for the other. Contrary Conor, you should absolutely just accept chromatography for the column chromatography tossup (in industry, it is often referred to as such, and I had no idea why I kept getting prompted for saying things like "HPLC", which ought to have been acceptable outright rather than anti-prompted). The migratory insertion tossup did not accept or prompt on "migrations", despite multiple clues referring specifically to that step. "Piston engines" didn't accept things like internal combustion engines, though I don't believe that the prompt made any particular mention of pistons, etc. These would have been easy things to fix with more time, especially if the chemistry was phoned-in, since in my experience editing, most teams do a rather poor job of including acceptable answerlines even in good tossup submissions.

My other concern is that, despite having played 14 rounds of it yesterday, I still don't really know what this set's intended difficulty was. I apologize for submitting questions harder than they should have been; our team assumed that "WAO II" was naturally the successor to "WAO" due to the name and calendar spot--and therefore, that it was intended as "Regular Plus" difficulty. This was apparently not the case. Other teams apparently made the same mistake. Even though it was in the forum announcement, it probably would have been better to be more explicit that you were aiming for regular difficulty! But it seemed that, although some packets got edited down to approximately regular difficulty, others did not--which accounted for a huge variation over the day in tossup answerline difficulty and bonus difficulty, both across packets and categories. There were a lot of things in this tournament that would never be tossed up at Regionals (e.g., Richard Serra, Isamu Noguchi, migratory insertions). There were also several bonuses that played nearly at the high school level. This would be a good tournament to have advanced statistics for; I think it would give a good sense to the editors how difficulty could have been better calibrated across the board.

Thanks for a fun tournament!
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by otsasonr » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:51 pm

adamsil wrote:For the most part, I enjoyed this set, and it was a good effort by relatively inexperienced editors. I have just two general comments I'll make here:

Answerlines, particularly in science, particularly in chemistry, were not extensive enough. Things like hydroxyl/alcohols have been extensively conflated in quizbowl and textbooks for so long that you should at least prompt on one for the other. Contrary Conor, you should absolutely just accept chromatography for the column chromatography tossup (in industry, it is often referred to as such, and I had no idea why I kept getting prompted for saying things like "HPLC", which ought to have been acceptable outright rather than anti-prompted). The migratory insertion tossup did not accept or prompt on "migrations", despite multiple clues referring specifically to that step. "Piston engines" didn't accept things like internal combustion engines, though I don't believe that the prompt made any particular mention of pistons, etc. These would have been easy things to fix with more time, especially if the chemistry was phoned-in, since in my experience editing, most teams do a rather poor job of including acceptable answerlines even in good tossup submissions.

My other concern is that, despite having played 14 rounds of it yesterday, I still don't really know what this set's intended difficulty was. I apologize for submitting questions harder than they should have been; our team assumed that "WAO II" was naturally the successor to "WAO" due to the name and calendar spot--and therefore, that it was intended as "Regular Plus" difficulty. This was apparently not the case. Other teams apparently made the same mistake. Even though it was in the forum announcement, it probably would have been better to be more explicit that you were aiming for regular difficulty! But it seemed that, although some packets got edited down to approximately regular difficulty, others did not--which accounted for a huge variation over the day in tossup answerline difficulty and bonus difficulty, both across packets and categories. There were a lot of things in this tournament that would never be tossed up at Regionals (e.g., Richard Serra, Isamu Noguchi, migratory insertions). There were also several bonuses that played nearly at the high school level. This would be a good tournament to have advanced statistics for; I think it would give a good sense to the editors how difficulty could have been better calibrated across the board.

Thanks for a fun tournament!
Thanks for the feedback Adam. I'll reply to the comments on specific questions in the other thread.

For the overall difficulty, I was certainly aiming for regular difficulty. I was aware that migratory insertions, for example, was definitely harder than standard regular difficulty, but I thought it just pushed the envelope. Since it seems that it's a bit past that level, I'll replace it for the other mirrors. If you can remember any particular bonuses that skewed far too easy, let us know and we'll be sure to bump them up. We'll also be going over the entire set again with fresher eyes to get a better view on everything.

The point about answer-lines is well-taken, so we will make sure to check each one for completeness.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by adamsil » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:29 am

Thanks for the response. Overall, I thought you did a good job. We can agree to disagree about the chromatography thing (if you check archives though, you'll notice that it is pretty standard to accept chromatography for column chromatography, so this may not be a hill worth dying on).

One thing I'll add: I thought this set's biology was very good and wanted to highlight its use of effective literature clues--the DS leadin about XIST strategies and the Saccharomyces leadin about amber replacement were terrific examples of high-impact research that people are doing that didn't fall into the "pick random Nature paper for leadin" paradigm (admittedly, the leadin I wrote for the lysogeny tossup was somewhat in that vein, so I'll apologize again). The inclusion of contemporary science in the bio distro was exciting to see; Oxitec probably was too hard as an answerline, but I was very happy to hear it come up. My only real complaint was the aforementioned weird mitochondria question, but it sounds like that's getting replaced.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:09 am

Unlike Conor, I thought the lit was one of the better categories at this tournament, generally speaking. While it was relatively hard, it did a good job of rewarding material that avid readers engage with.

But the main reason I'm posting is to give kudos to whoever wrote the bonus on "poets who appear in Alejandro Jodorowsky's Endless Poetry," since I was planning on writing a bonus with that exact theme. Even more kudos for resisting the temptation to make the hard part on the too-hard-for-regular-difficulty Enrique Lihn, a temptation which I surely wouldn't have been able to resist.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by touchpack » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:58 pm

The science in this set had a lot of interesting ideas/clues and had decent potential, but was mired by a few issues:

1) Bizarre difficulty swings: As Adam pointed out, migratory insertions is way too hard to toss up at regular difficulty--I also think ruthenium and trigonal bipyramidal are pushing the envelope (not because of the answerlines, but because the only good clues that exist are very, very hard) The bigger problem with tossup difficulty though were the numerous tossups that were ridiculously easy, triggering buzzer races in multiple rooms, often on the very first pronoun. Off the top of my head, the worst offenders were the tossups on plasmas, the Wittig reaction, alcohols, the curl, and Fermi. (Fermi is on this list NOT because Fermi acceleration is super easy, but because the clue is written in a "fill in the blank: ___ acceleration" style, making it much easier. Also, I'll add more to this list when I remember them or get a copy of the set) Bonuses also had a more difficulty variance than your average tournament. While certainly, every tournament has variable difficulty on bonuses, the distribution felt much broader than normal--this is the type of thing that you can easily fix during editing, but from what I've been told, this could not happen because of how quickly the set was rushed.

2) There were many examples of confusing/bad English, suboptimal pronoun usage, poor descriptions, etc. that made some of the questions frustrating to play. The two biggest examples I can think of from science were 1) The RNA question, which had a clue about the TPP riboswitch that was basically unparseable as a sentence and only buzzable if you just ignore the grammar and use a binary association of TPP -> riboswitch -> RNA and 2) the carbonyls question, which kept switching between clues corresponding to carbonyls and clues corresponding to functional groups which contain carbonyls (the 1600-1900 cm clue and Baeyer-Villiger clues were useless for this reason), making it difficult to divine what the question wanted. This was not limited to the science--the worst offender I can think of was the bonus part on "Socrates" from a Platonic dialogue whose wording didn't make it clear whether the bonus wanted "Socrates" or "Plato." Again, this is the type of thing that can be ironed out through a second round of editing and proofreading, which didn't happen because of how rushed the set was.

3) The chemistry in particular seemed especially rushed--there were a number of tossups (alcohol, imine, carbonyl come to mind) that were basically "let's spin the wheel of functional groups, hastily compile a list of mostly-named-reaction clues, and put them in a random order approximating a pyramid." I know it's difficult to write organic chemistry in an interesting manner, but it was especially boring at this tournament. Tossing up 2 geometries in 1 set is also not a great idea, because the answerpool is quite small and it's easy to play the process of elimination game based on stuff that's come up already. I suspect though that these problems were symptoms of the greater problem: that the chemistry was written extremely quickly (thus answers and clues that are easy to write/find were chosen). While the biology had some cool current-research clues, and the physics/math had a bunch of creative ideas (I loved the tossups on diagonalizability, space propulsion, and control theory), the chemistry.... just seemed boring and cookie-cutter.

4) Adam has pointed this out already, but answerlines were very incomplete.

Tl:dr: Don't rush your tournament, take time to look over all the questions multiple times. This set could have been a very good regular difficulty set, but because of how rushed it was, there were a number of things which majorly detracted from the playing experience.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Nabonidus » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:43 pm

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:But the main reason I'm posting is to give kudos to whoever wrote the bonus on "poets who appear in Alejandro Jodorowsky's Endless Poetry," since I was planning on writing a bonus with that exact theme. Even more kudos for resisting the temptation to make the hard part on the too-hard-for-regular-difficulty Enrique Lihn, a temptation which I surely wouldn't have been able to resist.
Glad you enjoyed it! I think it was my second favourite movie of the year so far, after A Quiet Passion.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by touchpack » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:27 pm

What was the distro for Other Science? Based on my memory, I would guess something like 50% math and 12.5% each of astro, CS, earth sci, and misc. engineering. If so, that's decidedly non-standard and something which 1) should have been advertised beforehand and 2) is worth discussing the pros and cons of.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:34 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Adam and Billy
touchpack wrote:1) The RNA question, which had a clue about the TPP riboswitch that was basically unparseable as a sentence and only buzzable if you just ignore the grammar and use a binary association of TPP -> riboswitch -> RNA
This wasn't an issue when I read the question to Akhil. I'll see how I can make it clearer.
adamsil wrote: One thing I'll add: I thought this set's biology was very good and wanted to highlight its use of effective literature clues--the DS leadin about XIST strategies and the Saccharomyces leadin about amber replacement were terrific examples of high-impact research that people are doing that didn't fall into the "pick random Nature paper for leadin" paradigm (admittedly, the leadin I wrote for the lysogeny tossup was somewhat in that vein, so I'll apologize again). The inclusion of contemporary science in the bio distro was exciting to see; Oxitec probably was too hard as an answerline, but I was very happy to hear it come up. My only real complaint was the aforementioned weird mitochondria question, but it sounds like that's getting replaced.
The mitochondrial transport tossup is getting changed to one on the inner membrane, in retrospect that seemed like the obvious thing to do.

My strategy for lit clues was to read some recent reviews and get some high impact articles from there. I wish I could have used more but that seemed harder to do while still controlling the difficulty. I'm glad you liked them. The submitted bonus on pest control didn't have a hard part so I probably went a bit too overboard on there. Perhaps I could rework the bonus and make the answerline _Oxford_ and also say something about nanopore sequencing.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by CPiGuy » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:45 pm

touchpack wrote:What was the distro for Other Science? Based on my memory, I would guess something like 50% math and 12.5% each of astro, CS, earth sci, and misc. engineering. If so, that's decidedly non-standard and something which 1) should have been advertised beforehand and 2) is worth discussing the pros and cons of.
I just looked through my notebook and got this:

4/2 math
1/0 stats
1/1 EE
2/5 CS
2/1 astro
0/2 geology

So, by my count there was actually more CS than math, but the tossup/bonus ratios were not very even, which could certainly have skewed your memory (if you didn't get some of those bonuses).

It is perhaps worth discussing the fact that, of the 10/11 other science that I counted, 6/7 was math or CS -- that seems slightly high, but not too much.

Also, I just noticed there were two bonuses about voting: the one which was voting / independence of irrelevant alternatives / hoteling model, and the one which was Duberger's law / Condorcet / UK. They were independent of each other, but this might still be an issue.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Progcon » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:56 pm

CPiGuy wrote:Also, I just noticed there were two bonuses about voting: the one which was voting / independence of irrelevant alternatives / hoteling model, and the one which was Duberger's law / Condorcet / UK. They were independent of each other, but this might still be an issue.
Yeah I thought that could be a problem, but they are slightly different. One is more about modelling and Arrow's impossibility theorem, while another is about a famous political science principle for FPTP. I might be scrapping the FPTP bonus, but I think it's important and interesting.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:38 pm

Aaron Manby (ironmaster) wrote:Thanks for the feedback, Adam and Billy
touchpack wrote:1) The RNA question, which had a clue about the TPP riboswitch that was basically unparseable as a sentence and only buzzable if you just ignore the grammar and use a binary association of TPP -> riboswitch -> RNA
This wasn't an issue when I read the question to Akhil. I'll see how I can make it clearer.
That tu probably should have a prompt on given answers of riboswitch?
there were a few other questions that probably also could have wanted more prompts (pompe disease probably should have taken acid maltase deficiency for example)
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Guile Island » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:21 pm

This is perhaps a small complaint more than anything, but can we stop using the stupid "you are a Laotian phrenologist" or whatever bonus leadin joke so much? In particular, it was used in THREE BONUSES in Editors 1, which got really grating. Wiener's First Law apparently belongs to the ages now...
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:35 am

My feelings about this set are pretty mixed. First off, the lit and fine arts in this set were really enjoyable. The lit was occasionally too easy but I don't think that is particularly bad especially at regular difficulty. Now to the bad stuff. The science didn't seem like it had been edited. The number of buzzes I got off of random eponyms I learned in high school is obscene. The history was pretty solid but it seemed to often heavily mirror Jakob Myer's personal interests (for instance, there was almost one African history tossup per round). The thought was also kind of all over the place (a lot transparent tossups, word salad clues, and obscure title bowl). That said, given how many new writers were working on this set, I think that this set was pretty decent.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Red Panda Cub » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:04 am

I actually quite enjoyed this set, especially the lit, VFA and history. The lit and VFA I thought did a really good job of clueing things that people engage with organically and things were generally described well. On the one hand, the lit clueing was perhaps on the hard end. On the other hand, I thought the use of secondary/criticism clues in the literature was well done (I'm thinking here the leadins to Ghosts, E Bronte and Remembrance of Things Passed as examples) so props to Derek there!

One very minor quibble on the history side. At the time of the War of The Grand Alliance, John Churchill was not yet the Duke of Marlborough, which caused a lot of people at our site to rule out pre-War of the Spanish Succession conflicts. In cases like that were someone notably gained their title, it's probably worth either calling them by what they were known as at the time of the event clued, or saying something like "the future [title]" to avoid confusion.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:57 am

I had a good time at this tournament generally. There were a bunch of difficulty inconsistencies and a few misplaced clues / too-hard tossups per round, but most of this seemed attributable to inexperience so it's pretty hard to give a fresh team of editors crap for that. I'd give the editors some applause for putting together what was (at least at our mirror) a mostly functional tournament.

The lit I'm told was hard by people who know that category well, but as a mediocre lit player I found it interesting to listen to as it did a good job contextualizing a number of literary works and making me think about why you should read them. And the history was a great effort by a first-time editor as well.

Bonus variability is a complaint at every tournament, but I think observing the PPBs across the sites might give you a bit of an idea about this - every strong team seemed to be scoring around 21-22 PPB, with not a lot of variation out of this range. For me, this suggests that the sprinkling of tough hard parts in many places denied teams a shot at higher PPB. Admittedly, a re-permutation of players might have helped with this (i.e. Eric M and Jordan on the same team).

I think in general a lot of answerlines could have simply been chosen better. I'll post more examples of these in the specific question thread.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:55 pm

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:My feelings about this set are pretty mixed. First off, the lit and fine arts in this set were really enjoyable. The lit was occasionally too easy but I don't think that is particularly bad especially at regular difficulty. Now to the bad stuff. The science didn't seem like it had been edited. The number of buzzes I got off of random eponyms I learned in high school is obscene. The history was pretty solid but it seemed to often heavily mirror Jakob Myer's personal interests (for instance, there was almost one African history tossup per round). The thought was also kind of all over the place (a lot transparent tossups, word salad clues, and obscure title bowl). That said, given how many new writers were working on this set, I think that this set was pretty decent.
A quick scan of my answerline doc reveals 5/16 world history tossups were on Africa. This may be slightly excessive, but it's not altogether out of proportion.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by otsasonr » Sun Nov 19, 2017 3:33 pm

Steph Curry-Dwight Howard Isomorphism wrote:The number of buzzes I got off of random eponyms I learned in high school is obscene.
Could you perhaps provide some specific examples of what was obscene? At a certain level this game is always going to involve some buzzing on "random eponyms", so I'm mostly concerned with times when you felt that certain names were dropped too early. I know there were issues with this at the first weekend of mirrors, and I certainly attempted to fix all of those issues for yesterday. But I'm new to this, and am frequently surprised by what quizbowl has turned into a stock clue, so any particular problems you can point out would be very helpful.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by alexdz » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:28 pm

Having moderated the Princeton site of this yesterday, there are still several copyediting problems that weren't fixed in the intervening week. Random sentence fragments were rather annoying. And maybe this is just a stylistic thing, but I also really did not like that in several places, commas or periods were placed outside of quotation marks. (That is, I'd see "Thing in Quotation Marks", instead of "Thing in Quotation Marks.") At least for me, that made the set harder to parse since I would sometimes miss the punctuation.

I will echo that the "you are an X" lead-ins became rather annoying. Please stop using them.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:31 pm

alexdz wrote: I will echo that the "you are an X" lead-ins became rather annoying. Please stop using them.
Or at least make them funny if you are doing so!

Side note - based on past transgressions, I'm not allowed to complain about letting political bias show, but come on - "Name this supposed doctor" for Rand Paul? Rand Paul is, in fact, a licensed physician who not only sees patients, but does pro bono eye surgeries, which I suspect is more than whoever wrote this bonus does for charity.

Also, I thought the more diverse trash distribution was pretty great - putting stuff like genre lit, chess, playing cards, and maybe some other games there would be pretty cool. It was nice having a trash distribution that didn't completely ignore huge areas of pop culture. This didn't really affect me much (I hardly answer trash of any kind) but people who knew things like sci-fi seemed really engaged by these sorts of questions. I'm okay with this coming at the expense of condensing other areas a bit.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Progcon » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:52 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
alexdz wrote: I will echo that the "you are an X" lead-ins became rather annoying. Please stop using them.
Or at least make them funny if you are doing so!

Side note - based on past transgressions, I'm not allowed to complain about letting political bias show, but come on - "Name this supposed doctor" for Rand Paul? Rand Paul is, in fact, a licensed physician who not only sees patients, but does pro bono eye surgeries, which I suspect is more than whoever wrote this bonus does for charity.

Also, I thought the more diverse trash distribution was pretty great - putting stuff like genre lit, chess, playing cards, and maybe some other games there would be pretty cool. It was nice having a trash distribution that didn't completely ignore huge areas of pop culture. This didn't really affect me much (I hardly answer trash of any kind) but people who knew things like sci-fi seemed really engaged by these sorts of questions. I'm okay with this coming at the expense of condensing other areas a bit.
As a libertarian who vote for Gary Johnson, I feel like I should be able to make fun of Rand Paul when his certification is somewhat questionable given that he apparently certified himself. I believe Ron Paul has more of a history of practicing medicine than Rand does but I can see how some would think that joke would show political bias. Rand Paul is actually one of my favorite GOP Senators for his opinions of wiretapping, prison reform, drug rescheduling, etc. but he is a pretty goofy guy I think we can all admit.

I'm glad you enjoyed the trash. I wrote and edited some of the high trash--but not all of it. The chess bonus I wrote in one of the Editor's packets was actually supposed to be Other Academic but I'm pleased to hear that stuff like that would be petty cool. Did anyone get to hear the tossup on Robert Johnson I wrote for Editor's 3? I'd like feedback on that tossup because I couldn't find a tossup on him from the archive. He's a hugely important blues musician that people still listen to today. The tossup I wrote on him was "High Trash" as well and I think it'd be cool if people like him started showing up more in quizbowl. I'd also like to say that a lot of the submissions we got for "High Trash" were excellent as well such as the tossup on Warner Bros I edited, the bonus on de Chiricio and trash, etc.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by otsasonr » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:14 pm

alexdz wrote:And maybe this is just a stylistic thing, but I also really did not like that in several places, commas or periods were placed outside of quotation marks. (That is, I'd see "Thing in Quotation Marks", instead of "Thing in Quotation Marks.") At least for me, that made the set harder to parse since I would sometimes miss the punctuation.
This came up in discussion while we were editing, and this is a difference in convention between Canada and the US. Americans (bizarrely!) put all of their punctuation marks inside quotation marks, even when said punctuation is completely unrelated to what is inside the quotation marks. This is probably just a matter of being used to seeing particular patterns, but I find punctuation much easier to see when it's outside of quotation marks, with lots of white space around it.
I will echo that the "you are an X" lead-ins became rather annoying. Please stop using them.
Sorry about that, they accidentally all ended up in the same pack. The physics one of those came into being because someone asked if we had any of that style of bonus in the set yet, and it gave me the idea for it. Hopefully irritation was the only result.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:41 pm

otsasonr wrote:Americans (bizarrely!) put all of their punctuation marks inside quotation marks, even when said punctuation is completely unrelated to what is inside the quotation marks. This is probably just a matter of being used to seeing particular patterns, but I find punctuation much easier to see when it's outside of quotation marks, with lots of white space around it.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Pablo Picasso 2 » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:44 pm

Progcon wrote:
I'm glad you enjoyed the trash. I wrote and edited some of the high trash--but not all of it. The chess bonus I wrote in one of the Editor's packets was actually supposed to be Other Academic but I'm pleased to hear that stuff like that would be petty cool. Did anyone get to hear the tossup on Robert Johnson I wrote for Editor's 3? I'd like feedback on that tossup because I couldn't find a tossup on him from the archive. He's a hugely important blues musician that people still listen to today. The tossup I wrote on him was "High Trash" as well and I think it'd be cool if people like him started showing up more in quizbowl. I'd also like to say that a lot of the submissions we got for "High Trash" were excellent as well such as the tossup on Warner Bros I edited, the bonus on de Chiricio and trash, etc.
It was incredibly cool hearing that Robert Johnson got asked - the question was used for the final between the QuizDB team and Jordan's team.

Just out of curiosity, what was the "high" and "low" trash question distributions? I feel like there has been a lot of sci-fi this tournament, but isn't sure if that's counted in lit or trash. While I don't think any trash questions really swayed a game (at least hopefully), it would still be interesting to see if there was an unintended bias towards sci-fi (or some other subgenre).
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by alexdz » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:46 pm

otsasonr wrote:
alexdz wrote:And maybe this is just a stylistic thing, but I also really did not like that in several places, commas or periods were placed outside of quotation marks. (That is, I'd see "Thing in Quotation Marks", instead of "Thing in Quotation Marks.") At least for me, that made the set harder to parse since I would sometimes miss the punctuation.
This came up in discussion while we were editing, and this is a difference in convention between Canada and the US. Americans (bizarrely!) put all of their punctuation marks inside quotation marks, even when said punctuation is completely unrelated to what is inside the quotation marks. This is probably just a matter of being used to seeing particular patterns, but I find punctuation much easier to see when it's outside of quotation marks, with lots of white space around it.
Yeah, I think it's just that I'm so *not* used to seeing punctuation in that way, that my brain would automatically assume there was more to come if I saw a quotation mark close without any punctuation inside of it. It led to a few instances of awkward inflection as I realized I needed to actually end a sentence when I wasn't expecting to. A stylistic difference, yes, but one that made a small but noticeable difference in my reading speed.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Progcon » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:54 pm

geremy wrote:
Progcon wrote:
I'm glad you enjoyed the trash. I wrote and edited some of the high trash--but not all of it. The chess bonus I wrote in one of the Editor's packets was actually supposed to be Other Academic but I'm pleased to hear that stuff like that would be petty cool. Did anyone get to hear the tossup on Robert Johnson I wrote for Editor's 3? I'd like feedback on that tossup because I couldn't find a tossup on him from the archive. He's a hugely important blues musician that people still listen to today. The tossup I wrote on him was "High Trash" as well and I think it'd be cool if people like him started showing up more in quizbowl. I'd also like to say that a lot of the submissions we got for "High Trash" were excellent as well such as the tossup on Warner Bros I edited, the bonus on de Chiricio and trash, etc.
It was incredibly cool hearing that Robert Johnson got asked - the question was used for the final between the QuizDB team and Jordan's team.

Just out of curiosity, what was the "high" and "low" trash question distributions? I feel like there has been a lot of sci-fi this tournament, but isn't sure if that's counted in lit or trash. While I don't think any trash questions really swayed a game (at least hopefully), it would still be interesting to see if there was an unintended bias towards sci-fi (or some other subgenre).
I am almost done making a spreadsheet of every question with its category, author, etc. When this is done I will post it here so people can see the breakdown for themselves by packet. I tried making High/Low trash about 50/50 but this wasn't always possible. To answer your question about sci-fi: I think there was something like 2/3 Trash lit in total including comics, sci-fi, fantasy etc.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:17 pm

I forgot to mention this, but I thought the music in this set was generally quite good, which is a testament to Joe's hard work. It skewed in certain ways stylistically (lots of note clues) but I think each writer can and should be given some leeway about stylistic cluing preferences, as long as they don't totally lock out other types of knowledge - and other types of knowledge were definitely rewarded as well.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Ewan MacAulay » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:42 am

Adam and Billy have said most of what I was going to mention, but I'll spiel on anyways.

This set was pretty fun, and it seems that it benefitted from the week of work after the first mirror. That said bits of it did feel a bit off, and the chemistry could have used a bit more time and care.
The carbonyls tossup was a bit odd - strange to have the rogue Fukuyama clue for thioesters in there, and I reckon it might be neater as a question on either aldehydes or ketones.
Wittig reaction question was kind of a blast from quizbowl tournaments long past.
Imines question seemed very hard before power - don't think either of the first two reactions have ever come up in 6 years of degree-level chem. That said, "hydrolyses to a ketone" and "tossupable at regular difficulty" should probably have clicked somewhere in my mind...

A few questions seemed a bit transparent - "contracts", "class action" and "regression" sprung to mind.

Was furious with myself for negging the S. cerevisiae question with E coli on the first clue despite having actually done amber codon suppression. Moderator kind of mangled the names in the first sentence, recognised the sequences, then just assumed that at least one of the names was Peter Schultz's. Then I proceded to sulk for the rest of the packet. None of that is the editors' fault though; I just wanted to vent.

But yeah, thanks to all involved in writing and running this - excited to see what y'all work on next.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by adamsil » Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:24 pm

Ewan MacAulay wrote: Was furious with myself for negging the S. cerevisiae question with E coli on the first clue despite having actually done amber codon suppression. Moderator kind of mangled the names in the first sentence, recognised the sequences, then just assumed that at least one of the names was Peter Schultz's. Then I proceded to sulk for the rest of the packet. None of that is the editors' fault though; I just wanted to vent.
Don't worry, I somehow managed to make the same neg on this same clue and had exactly the same reaction despite having (a) skimmed the 8 papers published in the same issue of Science talking about the project; (b) met Jef Boeke and listened to him talk about this project in person; and (c) recently presented an amber suppression paper in group meeting where I explicitly made a slide calling out Boeke's work in Saccharomyces. (All this is to say that this was a very good clue, and I am a doofus.)
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by 1.82 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:01 pm

Speaking as a person who does get a lot of trash questions and whose primary academic interest is the cultural history of sports, I disliked the division of the trash distribution into "high" and "low" both in theory and in practice. The distinction between trash and academic content is arguable in edge cases but clear in general; by contrast, there is no such distinction between "high trash" and "low trash", because neither of those are actual reified things. Perhaps it would have been philosophically justifiable to allot half the distribution to questions on academic study of trash subjects (although it would have been very difficult to fill that space up with accessible questions), but there's no such justification for the distinction that was actually made between two terms that were never defined. I don't actually know what distinguishes J.R.R. Tolkien and Lin-Manuel Miranda (both of whom the tournament announcement specifically named) from other purveyors of trash content, or what exactly "cultural and academic merit" are. What sort of things lack cultural and academic merit? Anything that people engage with can be and is studied in an academic context; consider Mike Cheyne's PhD thesis. The comparison in this thread of "high trash" to Potter Stewart's definition of pornography certainly doesn't help, because there's no way for us to reach into the editors' mind and know what they find salacious.

In practice, to the extent that my team was able to identify the "high trash" while playing the tournament, it seemed to be a mixture of questions on trash subjects which made mention of some academic things and questions on academic topics that used trash clues, neither of which were satisfying or particularly fun to play. Consider the case of the tossup on video game soundtracks. I assume that this tossup was "high trash", since its first clue was about an academic and since the same packet had a bonus on BoJack Horseman, which presumably is "low trash". The inclusion within power of clues on a dude who studies video game soundtracks academically and on an essay about video game soundtracks is, I guess, intended to demonstrate the cultural and academic merit of video game soundtracks. Maybe I'm mistaken and many people know a lot about these things, but my guess is that hardly anyone buzzed on the concept of Mickey Mousing that isn't in film. What this served to do instead was confuse the one player on our team who actually knew things about video game soundtracks, and that was before the tossup gave way to such culturally significant clues as "high-quality rips of these works are very popular on YouTube." Since it wasn't ever going to be a question entirely on academic discussion of video game soundtracks (and for good reason, since that tossup would be impossible), it would be better to dispense with the attempts at establishing cultural merit and just ask about video game soundtracks. Either write trash or don't write trash. Don't try to artificially create a "high trash" that isn't defined and doesn't exist.

On a different note, the law tossups in this tournament have been mentioned, and my feeling is that they fell prey to the same issue that plagues all law tossups that I can recall. The number of law students in quizbowl is very small, and nobody else gets any meaningful legal training, so invariably law tossups are converted very early by the people who have actually studied their contents in class, and in all the rooms without law students the question proceeds until someone is brave enough to buzz in and make a guess. People who aren't law students generally don't get law questions based on actual knowledge but rather based on inferring what the question sounds like; this doesn't make for very good questions. I'm not sure if there's an actual solution to this.

My final thought for now is that although I didn't have egregious issues with the difficulty of the tournament, it was clear that there were issues as a result of the name. Please be thoughtful about what you name your tournament, and don't decide to name it after an unrelated tournament written to a different difficulty level, lest there be these exact issues. Certainly there's no shortage of potential names out there.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:43 pm

Yeah, if my post was interpreted as endorsing the "high versus low" distinction - I don't know how I feel about that, and it feels arbitrary. Academic study of pop culture content makes for cool clues...if people know it, which in most cases they probably don't (I suspect almost nobody converted the bonus part I wrote on cultural technology for MO, and doubt people did better here). What was nice was seeing more diverse topics in the trash distribution, from the perspective of someone who doesn't really know much about sports, movies, TV, or video games.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Progcon » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:02 pm

Thanks for the great post Naveed. I would agree that the difference between high and low trash is kinda silly and doesn't advance the category a lot. What I do think is important is to try to ask about things in more ways and reward more types of knowledge. The video game soundtrack tossup was a submission and it seemed like an interesting idea. It seems it didn't play as well in your room as I would have liked, but things happen.

My biggest passion outside of the academic world is probably sports and I wrote most of the sports for this tournament except for the NHL question on the Caps. I kinda assumed that the sports lied outside of the High/Low delineation but I just tried not having two sports questions in one packet, etc. If I were to edit trash for another college tournament, I would make trash overall .5/.5, include a high range of things called High Trash such as Tolkien and Heinlein in that .5/.5 and include academic questions that referenced pop culture topics in Other Academic. I also think the tossup on Robert Johnson could possibly fall into Other Arts but I don't think that claim is uncontroversial.

To summarize, the High/Low trash designation, which wasn't my decision, in practice became about introducing under-asked-about topics and new ideas into the trash cannon. I hope it accomplished this goal to the extent it could. I think the way NAQT does trash can be a little jarring at times because it is just straight pop culture knowledge required unless the question is in the "Mixed" category.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by cornfused » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:02 pm

1.82 wrote:Either write trash or don't write trash.
Speaking as one of two authors of the trash in the videogame soundtracks/BoJack packet: I think it's safe to say that we basically did exactly that - we never quite decided for sure which was supposed to be the classy one. Whoops.

I definitely agree that the high/low distinction didn't play out well in practice. I would rather have had 1/1 trash - maybe .5/.5 trash and .5/.5 other academic would've accomplished the editors' goals better.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by ErikC » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:46 pm

1.82 wrote: On a different note, the law tossups in this tournament have been mentioned, and my feeling is that they fell prey to the same issue that plagues all law tossups that I can recall. The number of law students in quizbowl is very small, and nobody else gets any meaningful legal training, so invariably law tossups are converted very early by the people who have actually studied their contents in class.
Two problems I have with this argument:

1. I've taken two law courses that relate to my discipline (environmental law in second year and planning law in fourth year) so this isn't entirely true. Besides myself, business students will learn business law (the tossup on contracts, for example, would reward their knowledge) and there are plenty of business students. I imagine there's other disciplines that learn law as it applies to their own concerns.

2. This idea hasn't stopped plenty of other smaller fields from becoming part of the regular quizbowl canon.

Law tossups don't have to be bad. While it may be hard to evaluate most law tossups that are written because I've learned Canadian law and some concepts are either completely different or have different names and specifics, I have heard plenty of law questions that weren't transparent.
Last edited by ErikC on Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:36 pm

Yeah law is definitely a thing worth asking about and it's something the field does possess knowledge of, even among non-law students (and there's plenty of law students in this game as well). The issue is, as posters have been correctly identifying, creating non-transparent questions - but those do exist! The tossup on the warrant requirement at ACF Nats 2016 strikes me as a decent example (though knowledgeable people told me the first clue was pretty easy, it played out with a decent mid-late buzz in our room):
ACF Nationals 2016 wrote:An exception to this legal requirement exists when there are "exigent circumstances," first established by the case of Warden v. Hayden, and extended by Kentucky v. King. The conviction of Theodore Payton was overturned in 1980 because a New York law did away with this constitutional requirement in the case of felonies. Valid compliance with this legal obligation requires a "neutral and detached" decision-maker who is not part of the "competitive enterprise," according to Coolidge v. New Hampshire. The doctrine of hot pursuit describes occasions when this requirement does not apply. Neither this requirement nor the existence of probable cause must be met to conduct a Terry stop, only a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The person or place to be searched must be described "particularly" to satisfy this requirement of the Fourth Amendment. For 10 points, name this requirement that forces police to obtain a namesake document from a magistrate to conduct a search
The same with this tossup on standing:
stanford housewrite wrote:A Supreme Court ruling on this doctrine was decisive in a case in which plaintiffs sought to enjoin the Burnt Ridge Project, a Forest Service initiative that allowed the salvage sale of timber on 238 acres damaged by fire. That decision, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, drew heavily from a 1992 case in which this doctrine stopped plaintiffs from applying the Endangered Species Act to development projects abroad. The two-part Flast test allows this requirement to be met in the taxpayer context only if unconstitutionality is alleged under Article I, Section 8. This requirement arises from Article (*)) III, and was critical to the defendants' victories in both Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife and the 1923 case that first established it, Frothingham v. Mellon. Third parties cannot sue because of this doctrine, which is satisfied when the plaintiff shows injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability. For10 points, name this legal requirement that establishes a party's right to have the merits of a lawsuit heard in court.
I think these questions are both educational about something that's incredibly integral to our society (the law) and at the same time pretty well-executed. They may be a bit impenetrable, but I don't think it really takes a lot of "technical" knowledge to learn about the things that come up in this question, and you could totally run into this information in a separate context, i.e. reading news articles about court cases, etc.
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Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by Guile Island » Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:51 pm

I made audio recordings of all my team's matches at the MSU site of this tournament. If you are for some reason interested in listening to them, let me know and I can get them uploaded. Note that they will probably be unedited, so expect lots of profanity and injokes.
Dylan Minarik
PACE (Former Director of Communications, 2018-19 season)

Northwestern '17
Belvidere North High School '13

JRPG Champion, BACK TO BACK Robot Slayer

nsb2
Lulu
Posts: 86
Joined: Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:05 pm
Location: Berkeley, CA

Re: WAO II Difficulty and General Discussion

Post by nsb2 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:47 pm

I thought some of the ideas in this set were interesting, but there were a few things I thought could be fixed:

1. Some of the tossup answerlines felt too hard (migratory insertion, Gerontion, and mitochondrial inner membrane, for example.) It might be understandable if they went dead on our (Berkeley C's) side since I'm basically a specialist at this difficulty, but many of the stronger teams we played had trouble with some answerlines as well -- for example, the Biot-Savart tossup went to a last-line buzzer race in our game against Berkeley A.

2. The difficulty of the bonuses was very inconsistent. The Zoot Suit Riots/Los Angeles/Sleepy Lagoon murders bonus felt like something one might find at hard high school difficulty, whereas there were some bonuses which we felt we were lucky to 10 (or that we found hard to 20 in my areas of specialization.)

3. The existence of multiple second-person bonus lead-ins in Editors 1 (I don't think I need to explain much here).

4. Name-dropping early clues (e.g. Merrymakers at Shrovetide on the Hals tossup, or the Dvorak lead-in on the carnivals tossup which was used at 2015 NASAT). This got me some early buzzes, but they came more from studying through association rather than having a real knowledge of the subject matter.
Pranav Sivakumar
Barrington Station MS '13, Barrington High School --> IMSA '17
UC Berkeley '21

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