No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by vinteuil »

This post was prompted by my experience at Michigan's Penn Bowl mirror this past weekend, but my intent isn't so much to call them out as to raise this issue more broadly: that was far from the first time that I've seen a selection of books that frankly nobody wants handed out as "prizes."

Don't do this. Don't give out battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes for a hard event; don't give out manuals for technology from the 1970s; don't give out copies of the fucking Da Vinci Code. Yes, you're hilarious. Thanks for wasting your money (alternatively, a portion of our mirror fees)—ESPECIALLY if your club is short on cash, don't waste it like this. Give fewer, better prizes, or frankly none at all.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Oh No You Didn't »

Are printed copies of "a good accounting tossup" written by a Mr. Charles Martin Jr. acceptable as prizes?
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Cheynem »

While certainly nobody wants tech manuals, I dunno about not giving out "battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes." I guess I've rarely been a top scorer (I was, once! Seriously! At ACF Regionals, no less!), but I've never minded getting a copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge and Moby Dick, and if I'm going to get a copy, I wouldn't mind an old, battered copy. Seems like that's venturing into quizbowl hipsterism, unless, like the copies were utter shit. If they were used, that would also presumably be why they were cheap, which refutes your second point about wasting money. When I was buying book prizes at Minnesota, they were rarely combined above like 10 or 20 dollars.

Look, don't hand out intentionally stupid prizes, but don't feel like you've got to pick out inventive prizes. Pick out a nice selection of books, either in an used bookstore, a library sale, or in your own collection. They may be cool, they may be standard. That's all. I don't see what's insulting about familiar books.

And the Da Vinci Code is certainly more interesting than some book prizes.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by CPiGuy »

Co-sign and apology -- the bookstore we get books from usually has a rack with a really good selection of classics and it was not well-stocked this time so we had to scrounge exclusively from the one dollar book rack (from which there are usually a couple great finds but not nearly enough to supply an entire tournament's prizes).

As a non-lit player, I especially like it when there are interesting book prizes that would get one points in a category other than literature. Unfortunately this is kind of difficult when, uh, the prizes are books. So it's fine if not.
vinteuil wrote: Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:44 pmDon't give out battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes for a hard event
I don't actually co-sign this -- like Mike has said, not everyone's a lit player, and not every lit player's read the entire canon. I don't think a book prize table with 20 books that get tossed up in high school could reasonably upset anyone.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by vinteuil »

Cheynem wrote: Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:11 pm While certainly nobody wants tech manuals, I dunno about not giving out "battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes." I guess I've rarely been a top scorer (I was, once! Seriously! At ACF Regionals, no less!), but I've never minded getting a copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge and Moby Dick, and if I'm going to get a copy, I wouldn't mind an old, battered copy. Seems like that's venturing into quizbowl hipsterism, unless, like the copies were utter shit. If they were used, that would also presumably be why they were cheap, which refutes your second point about wasting money. When I was buying book prizes at Minnesota, they were rarely combined above like 10 or 20 dollars.
This is fair, and was a much more tangential point on my part. I'm remembering being pretty unhappy at an ACF nationals where one of the better prizes on offer was a collection of Pope's poems in good but not great condition; this is much less relevant for the majority of regional tournaments, and certainly such prizes are perfect for events targeted at undergraduates/underclasspeople.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Carlos Be »

vinteuil wrote: Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:44 pm This post was prompted by my experience at Michigan's Penn Bowl mirror this past weekend, but my intent isn't so much to call them out as to raise this issue more broadly: that was far from the first time that I've seen a selection of books that frankly nobody wants handed out as "prizes."

Don't do this. Don't give out battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes for a hard event; don't give out manuals for technology from the 1970s; don't give out copies of the fucking Da Vinci Code. Yes, you're hilarious. Thanks for wasting your money (alternatively, a portion of our mirror fees)—ESPECIALLY if your club is short on cash, don't waste it like this. Give fewer, better prizes, or frankly none at all.
This post is terrible. Not every top scorer owns every hyper-canonical book, and not every top scorer is going to complain when their free book is a bit battered. Getting a book prize, however low quality, is a rewarding experience for most people. Now maybe when you've been a top scorer for the better part of a decade you're numb to it, but I assure you this isn't the case for everyone.

If you're insulted by The Da Vinci Code or by a good quality poetry anthology, you're taking yourself way too seriously. You didn't win the Pulitzer or write a best seller. You did okay at a niche activity. Either take your prize or scoff at it, but don't claim that nobody wants cheap books because you think you deserve more.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by magin »

vinteuil wrote: Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:44 pm This post was prompted by my experience at Michigan's Penn Bowl mirror this past weekend, but my intent isn't so much to call them out as to raise this issue more broadly: that was far from the first time that I've seen a selection of books that frankly nobody wants handed out as "prizes."

Don't do this. Don't give out battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes for a hard event; don't give out manuals for technology from the 1970s; don't give out copies of the fucking Da Vinci Code. Yes, you're hilarious. Thanks for wasting your money (alternatively, a portion of our mirror fees)—ESPECIALLY if your club is short on cash, don't waste it like this. Give fewer, better prizes, or frankly none at all.
I'm pretty surprised by this post. I like copies of unusual/interesting books as prizes, don't get me wrong, but I also like hyper-canonical books, old tech manuals, and the Da Vinci Code (although Digital Fortress is more compelling). If teams are providing no prizes, then that's not great, but these prizes seem fine?
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by benmillerbenmiller »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:38 pm
vinteuil wrote: Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:44 pm This post was prompted by my experience at Michigan's Penn Bowl mirror this past weekend, but my intent isn't so much to call them out as to raise this issue more broadly: that was far from the first time that I've seen a selection of books that frankly nobody wants handed out as "prizes."

Don't do this. Don't give out battered copies of hyper-canonical books every top scorer will have as prizes for a hard event; don't give out manuals for technology from the 1970s; don't give out copies of the fucking Da Vinci Code. Yes, you're hilarious. Thanks for wasting your money (alternatively, a portion of our mirror fees)—ESPECIALLY if your club is short on cash, don't waste it like this. Give fewer, better prizes, or frankly none at all.
This post is terrible. Not every top scorer owns every hyper-canonical book, and not every top scorer is going to complain when their free book is a bit battered. Getting a book prize, however low quality, is a rewarding experience for most people. Now maybe when you've been a top scorer for the better part of a decade you're numb to it, but I assure you this isn't the case for everyone.

If you're insulted by The Da Vinci Code or by a good quality poetry anthology, you're taking yourself way too seriously. You didn't win the Pulitzer or write a best seller. You did okay at a niche activity. Either take your prize or scoff at it, but don't claim that nobody wants cheap books because you think you deserve more.
I find this point completely, utterly, impressively baffling. In selecting book prizes, hosts can either a) provide interesting texts that many people will want to read or b) provide less interesting texts that most people will not want to read, for instance, copies of The Da Vinci Code (I say copies plural because I think Michigan had more than 1). There is no cost difference between those options. You can get a great used copy of Democracy in America or the Tao Te Ching for the same $.50-$1 you'd spend on a Word 97 for Dummies manual. I for one don't find it elitist nor self-aggrandizing to say you would prefer Option A to Option B.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

I think "try to find interesting prizes, when you can" is reasonable advice for TDs, but putting it in such a personally-aggrieved and/or condemnatory context isn't a great way to communicate that.

I also agree with Jonathan about Digital Fortress. Thrill as the protagonists struggle to figure out a five-letter password chosen by a man obsessed with a woman named "Susan"!
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity »

If you aren't wild about the choices being offered for book prizes and there's a possibility you'll win another book prize in your career, feel free to let your prize go to a lower-scoring teammate. I only read (and enjoyed!) The Day of the Locust because Andrew Yaphe wasn't wowed by the selection/probably had multiple copies of all the prize books at the 07 regionals tournament and was gracious enough to pass his prize to his less-experienced teammate, me.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Cheynem »

1. Yes, don't provide prizes like Windows for Dummies or whatever.

2. Da Vinci Code is kind of a silly prize, but isn't the end of the world. Wouldn't be my first choice and I wouldn't hand out all books in that vein, but some people do enjoy reading that sort of stuff.

3. Everyone's concept of "interesting" varies. I certainly wouldn't want to win Democracy in America or the Tao te Ching, but someone might (just like that someone may not want a copy of The Rise of Silas Lapham, which I recently won). At 95% of the tournaments I've attended, the book prizes are perfectly fine. I don't think there's some pernicious trend of bad book prizes or anything.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Muriel Axon »

I have some sympathy for Jacob's post. I think it's true that TDs shouldn't provide book prizes that are falling apart or obsolete, and that they should ideally provide a varied selection of books. On the other hand (and I don't think this was a claim Jacob was making), individual players can't necessarily expect to get a book they find 'exciting,' especially as the pickings get slim towards the end. But TDs can do a lot to ensure that the overall selection is good -- foremost, by building up a stockpile so that they don't have to scramble with whatever the local used bookstore has on their dollar cart. We really take advantage of bag sales and other sources of very cheap (<$0.50 per book) books in good condition, and having that stockpile helps a lot.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Mike Bentley »

Muriel Axon wrote: Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:49 pm I have some sympathy for Jacob's post. I think it's true that TDs shouldn't provide book prizes that are falling apart or obsolete, and that they should ideally provide a varied selection of books. On the other hand (and I don't think this was a claim Jacob was making), individual players can't necessarily expect to get a book they find 'exciting,' especially as the pickings get slim towards the end. But TDs can do a lot to ensure that the overall selection is good -- foremost, by building up a stockpile so that they don't have to scramble with whatever the local used bookstore has on their dollar cart. We really take advantage of bag sales and other sources of very cheap (<$0.50 per book) books in good condition, and having that stockpile helps a lot.
Yeah, I have a box of book prizes at my house obtained through places like this. This allows you to both not scramble and to cater the prizes based on your tournament's audience. For instance, I tend to give out more canonical classics at a high school tournament than a college tournament with a good field. For the latter, I find people are generally more interested in, say, books from a couple of years ago that are now at a discount (Half-Price Books often offers these for like $2). I often supplement this pile with books I've ready myself and am now done with (unless it's a book I'm likely to go back to). Offering a good mix of subjects and even 1 or 2 quizbowl reference books is a good recipe to making most people happy with your selection without breaking the bank.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Cheynem »

I should note that Mike gives out the best book prizes I've seen for his tournaments. I love that he frequently hands out non-fiction books.

Also, this thread, started by one of the most beloved and acclaimed thinkers in the game, might be instructive:

https://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic ... &t=20601&p
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by prodski »

I have to slightly disagree with this post.

As someone who has hosted tournaments for over 20 years, I always try to give something for prizes, and I think everyone should. We've given Buffalo Wild Wings gift cards on the high end (I think we gave over $250 in cards one tournament), to trophies, plaques and medals, to college cups and "crappy calculus books" on the low end - depends on our budget for the year. I guess I'm in a different position on the CC level with less experienced players, but half of giving prizes to me is a little bit of credit for a good tournament, getting a "golf clap" from your colleagues, and a little recognition walking down to the prize table. Now, if you have played for 10 years, won a bunch, the prizes may be insulting, but if it is your first tournament, you finished 20th overall, I bet you don't care about a "crappy book" or a college labeled mug - getting your name called is worth it. I'm going to keep giving prizes, whatever I have in my office or can afford, and if someone doesn't like it, don't take it.

I'll also add that we have always provided lunch at every tournament we have hosted - even taco bars - so if you are going to complain about prizes please consider folks who provide lunch too - this is often a major cost that I rarely see when I travel to other tournaments.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by vinteuil »

prodski wrote: Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:11 pm I'll also add that we have always provided lunch at every tournament we have hosted - even taco bars - so if you are going to complain about prizes please consider folks who provide lunch too - this is often a major cost that I rarely see when I travel to other tournaments.
I can't speak for anybody else, but I'd take lunch provided by the tournament over almost any prizes—that's a ton of effort and cost to put in, and I envy your competitors.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

One thing I used to do is buy slightly more prizes than there were top scorers (so if I wanted to give out prizes to the top 8 scorers, common in my day, I would get like 10-11 books). This way if some book was truly of no interest to anyone, nobody would get stuck with it. I was often surprised at what got claimed and what didn't. Sometimes I did give way all the prizes, often to people who don't normally finish above the cutoff for a book prize. These people seemed to prize any book prize they were given, even if it was objectively terrible.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

vinteuil wrote: Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:23 pm
prodski wrote: Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:11 pm I'll also add that we have always provided lunch at every tournament we have hosted - even taco bars - so if you are going to complain about prizes please consider folks who provide lunch too - this is often a major cost that I rarely see when I travel to other tournaments.
I can't speak for anybody else, but I'd take lunch provided by the tournament over almost any prizes—that's a ton of effort and cost to put in, and I envy your competitors.
Seconded!
Shoutout to Centennial HS, btw, for always having an insane breakfast spread at their tournaments.

I'll add that while I absolutely love books, and have way too many in my relatively small room right now, if no one on your team is into collecting books, there's always other prizes! Baked goods! Pressed Flowers! Sea Glass! As an anthropologist, I can tell y'all a lot about gift giving. Here, it's important to think about the ritual, the performance that surrounds the exchange. Presentation and introduction can do wonders!
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill »

My two favorite scoring prizes:

1) a copy of Absalom, Absalom! I bartered from Jonathan Magin for some other book on the promise that I "read it before the end of the year" (I did, and it was great!)

2) a $10 Subway giftcard. Back in 2009, that was 2 free meals!

Try to get good books, especially ones that might be slightly outside the normal canon, but I think a little variety and experimentation in prizes can be good, too.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by tiwonge »

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote: Tue Oct 29, 2019 2:17 pm One thing I used to do is buy slightly more prizes than there were top scorers (so if I wanted to give out prizes to the top 8 scorers, common in my day, I would get like 10-11 books). This way if some book was truly of no interest to anyone, nobody would get stuck with it. I was often surprised at what got claimed and what didn't. Sometimes I did give way all the prizes, often to people who don't normally finish above the cutoff for a book prize. These people seemed to prize any book prize they were given, even if it was objectively terrible.
I was going to suggest this, too. People have different tastes, and so I try to provide a surplus of books so that somebody's not "stuck" with something. I also make an effort to include a few non-lit books among my book prize, whether it's a popular science (i.e., not a technical, but written for the masses) book, or a biography, or something like that. For high school or novice tournaments, I might also include study guides (especially on something like art or opera or classical music). For college tournaments, I often look for minor works by major authors, in addition to some of the other things described above.

Our local library book sale offers free books to nonprofits (and hey, we incorporated as a nonprofit!) after the conclusion of their spring book sale, so I make heavy use of that. The books have been picked over, but I can still find some stuff.
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by Deckard Cain »

I've had quite a bit of luck browsing my local Goodwill stores for cheap books to give as prizes; they usually have a few racks of used books for $1 apiece or even less, though you may have to make more than one trip because their selection isn't always the widest. (This also has the added benefit of possibly finding a great deal on something else you can really use. For example, I've gotten an entire suit in my size there for less than $20, and while shopping for prizes for last month's MOQBA Fall Championship, I found a suitcase in almost perfect condition for all of four dollars.)

I'll second the advice of buying a few more books than you actually plan to give away - this ensures that whoever has the last pick will still have more than one book to choose from, and that you'll have a few left over for your next tournament. I also like to vary the selection as much as I can, so I'll try to pick up a few well-known classics, a few less-well-known classics, some non-academic fiction, and at least a couple of non-fiction works as well.

Something else that a few MOQBA tournaments have started to do recently is to give away a few extra books as "door prizes" to people who aren't top scorers. We'll have somebody pick a few random numbers before the lunch break and then award the extra prizes to whoever ended up in that position on the scoring list. It seems that these people always really appreciate getting to pick out a book, even more than the high scorers do, so I would highly recommend this idea to other TDs. (Edited to add: This part of the post is probably more relevant for high school tournaments; I posted this without realizing I was in the college forum. Still, I'll leave it here just in case anyone finds it useful.)
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Re: No prizes is better than insulting prizes

Post by tiwonge »

At a middle school tournament we just ran, the book prizes we gave away were gifted me by a previous player who had graduated and passed on her book collection. There were a lot of graphic novel versions of classics, and the players (even the high school players who were staffing) seemed to really like those.
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