Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by TheKingInYellow » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:01 pm

Post the questions
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:08 pm

Are there plans to post the set for teams that didn't attend the tournament, but would like to use it as practice material?
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by ... and the chaos of Mexican modernity » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:10 pm

flylikeaneagle wrote: I've heard bonuses on the Mughals, VSEPR theory and many of the questioned topics in national packets, yet those having questions like that is perfectly acceptable, but a house-written tournament using questions like that is wrong in some way?
I'd like to say that I particularly don't really understand what you mean by this considering everybody that has mentioned this tournament had the obscure Mughal bonus. Isaac Hirsch who did attend this tournament said the difficulty of some of these bonuses lead to games of 130-0 on average with some of the elite teams in this field, I don't think by putting ACF Nationals bonuses in a house-written high school tournament is testing the knowledge of the weaker teams who prodominantly occupied this field. If you want to use nationals level questions in a high school tournament, then advertise it as so.

Maybe post the set or e-mail it to someone so that we can see the set for what it is?
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:13 pm

#4. Frankly, the 16-team antiquated play-off format got the students running the tournament and the finalists at a decent time so that we could finish up homework. This also ensured that a 3-2 team had a shot at winning first place, believe it or not.
Your convenience should not be the goal in organizing a tournament, but rather the ability to offer the fairest event possible. To use the argument that a 3-2 team can stay in the hunt for the championship is for one thing misleading - I directed a tournament a week ago where, after seven rounds, a team with 3 losses still was still mathematically in contention to win using a round robin playoff format. It is also not any argument for why single elimination is superior, since the whole point of a tournament is to weed out the teams that lose games, not to keep rewarding them.
#5. Most of the teams are coming to this tournament to improve their performance on the TV show. We've been approached several times asking how it's like, whether it's like three teams playing against each other with three people on each team. Most of the people we advertise to are the Baltimore area TV contestants. These people rarely know that hsquizbowl exists.
Then you should do something to point them to hsquizbowl, or at least advertise to them that they are in driving range of a very competitive, extremely top notch circuit. You have the power to effect some change in this situation.

I haven't seen your questions, so I have no idea what they look like, but I will say that you sound like you need to be more open minded towards criticism. Just because you know things doesn't mean your field does. From what I've heard about, say, the Mughal bonus is that it had no questions on the most famous Mughals like Shah Jahan, which undermines your argument that the Mughals are accessible if you aren't going to use the accessible ones. This board has a lot of resources to help you make your tournament better and more appealing to all levels of teams, not just those that play on television in Baltimore, but you need to not be so hostile about it.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:24 pm

flylikeaneagle wrote:Thanks to everyone who came to the tournament! :grin: I'd like to congratulate:

#2. While I agree that some questions weren't ideally pyramidal, I don't understand how an average question length of 5.27 lines can be considered a "speed" question. (This does not include computations, which were naturally shorter). Another point I heard mentioned was "answerability" of some bonuses. I understand that the Celtic mythology was difficult and obscure, but I felt that most others were relatively well-balanced. If some teams, even the better ones, had difficulty with specific bonuses, is it really our fault? The members on the team represent a variety of interests, from science and math to literature and the arts and social sciences. Some topics were crazy obscure and other bonuses were not well written but, in general, the bonuses were well balanced. I've heard bonuses on the Mughals, VSEPR theory and many of the questioned topics in national packets, yet those having questions like that is perfectly acceptable, but a house-written tournament using questions like that is wrong in some way?
See, this is what you're not getting. The reason we're being so hard on you guys is not because we hate you and want you to never write questions again. It's because we think you guys can and should produce better questions. Look at the flaws listed with this tournament-vague clues and impossible bonus parts(incidentally, nationals packets are purposefully more difficult than regular season packets and thus make a terrible index of what should be in a regular season packet). They're serious flaws, but they're also very elementary flaws that are quite correctable.
#4. Frankly, the 16-team antiquated play-off format got the students running the tournament and the finalists at a decent time so that we could finish up homework. This also ensured that a 3-2 team had a shot at winning first place, believe it or not.
This is a straw man. Almost all well-run tournaments today use some kind of round-robin playoff and they normally finish at a reasonable time.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:29 pm

As someone else who often has different goals than their coaches, I can sort of sympathize, but I reiterate that this tournament didn't really make anyone happy. The questions were too hard for many teams [one team put up 17 ppg, if I remember correctly, and they played no powerhouse team] and the few regular circuit teams did not find the questions up to their standards.
My offer to help next year still stands; I would try to work towards a set that, while still suitably pyramidal, would not be overly difficult for the majority of teams that attend.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:36 pm

TheKingInYellow wrote:Post the questions
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Dec 14, 2009 7:46 pm

Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS wrote:
TheKingInYellow wrote:Post the questions
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:06 pm

Don't empty quote!
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:07 pm

EDIT: Ignore me.
Last edited by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite on Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:09 pm

That was the easiest warning ever.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:13 pm

Aldo Montoya wrote:One thing that bothered me about Mr. Gilbert's post was the assertion that this tournament benefitted less-experienced teams while still satisfying upper-level squads. Instead, I find that the tournament this year has settled into a sort of uncomfortable middle ground where neither sorts of teams are entirely happy with the end result.
I've either made my point poorly or I've been misunderstood, I think. I'd say that probably the top teams were least well served by this year's tournament, but looking at the turnout and the specific teams in attendance, I don't necessarily see that as a problem, either. It hasn't always been that way in the past, either. I seem to recall one year it was skewed toward the top teams.

I'd say overall, I probably agree with your middle-ground assessment.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:32 pm

Doink the Clown wrote:
Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS wrote:
TheKingInYellow wrote:Post the questions
Yes, please.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:49 pm

Howard, I have trouble imagining that a tournament could have served the middle of the road teams better than the top teams when said top teams felt that the set was overly difficult.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:35 pm

#1. I really don't care if you thought our questions were bad but I want you to know this: all the questions were written by students as a means of applying the knowledge that they know best. The main goal of having a house-written tournament is to teach the younger members some of the facts that show up repeatedly on the TV show and tournaments.
Hey, there's a winning attitude! Seriously, a number of people who have been critical of this tournament in the past took care to identify the ways it has improved - John Gilbert even claimed (erroneously or not) that you guys had been specifically attentive to listening to criticism, and making changes for next year. Then you just drop by as the presumed chief editor, and announce that you just don't give a crap what anyone thinks. I'm not even sure if you are the person identified in the signature (and, if you're not, you should be aware that it's a violation of forum rules), but this is an avowedly terrible model to set for the players you're supposedly trying to bring along.

The fact that you can't manage to teach your team basic facts about terrible tv show trivia without this tournament is very hardly a good choice for your "main goal" of hosting a tournament - if you're charging people to attend, your main purpose is to deliver a good product while raising money for your squad. Of course, you're wrong in the first place to assert that there's some kind of zero-sum relationship between writing good questions and learning things that will be useful on the tv show.
We practice maybe 1.5 hours a week and even over several years, they end up not learning about some "key Quizbowl items."
I mean, you should probably practice more than that. At the very least, you aren't going to be making up for it by writing bad questions. I promise.
By using the better NAQT and HSAPQ(?) packets, this does not achieve our purpose.
Well, even by this bizarre logic you're using, why couldn't you have people write questions to learn (as many programs, high school and collegiate, do), and if the product ends up being substandard, have your senior members shoulder the writing responsibility or just use the NAQT or HSAPQ sets or whatever (as, again, most programs also do)?
While naming the President given the name of the dog is not the best choice for a bonus, it reflects some of the atrocious questions heard on TV. Since we use question writing as a requirement for trying out for the TV/A team, many of the questions produced reflect what one might hear on TV.
I'm not sure what these things have to do with each other. Requiring people to write questions to do something doesn't dictate what the questions should be like. Look, the real issue here is that you're either unwilling or unable to teach people to write good questions. There's nothing wrong with the latter, but you guys should probably stop REFUSING ALL THE HELP THAT IS CONTINUALLY OFFERED WITH WRITING THIS EVENT if you expect to legitimately argue that you're doing your best.
#2. While I agree that some questions weren't ideally pyramidal, I don't understand how an average question length of 5.27 lines can be considered a "speed" question. (This does not include computations, which were naturally shorter).
By including 4.27 lines of unbuzzable garbage, or failing to identify what kind of answer is being sought. It's clear that, minimum, more than zero questions at this tournament did this, so I'm not sure why you don't understand.
Another point I heard mentioned was "answerability" of some bonuses. I understand that the Celtic mythology was difficult and obscure, but I felt that most others were relatively well-balanced.
I heard this tournament had a bonus asking for Shah Jahan (without giving the Taj Mahal), Aurangzeb, and Dara Shikoh. That you don't see these as a problem is unsurprising and not particularly a shortcoming; that you continue to ignore advice from and refuse help offered to your program by people who would not ask tv-only teams to identify Mughal Emperor also-rans is the actual problem.
If some teams, even the better ones, had difficulty with specific bonuses, is it really our fault? The members on the team represent a variety of interests, from science and math to literature and the arts and social sciences. Some topics were crazy obscure and other bonuses were not well written but, in general, the bonuses were well balanced.
Actually, the presence of very hard, very obscure, and poorly written bonuses - even if many bonuses are quite well-written - is precisely what makes your tournament's bonuses unbalanced. This argument is very confusing to me.
I've heard bonuses on the Mughals, VSEPR theory and many of the questioned topics in national packets, yet those having questions like that is perfectly acceptable, but a house-written tournament using questions like that is wrong in some way?
I mean, there's the whole underlying issue of how you write questions at play here - a Mughal bonus is not inherently bad, but if you're writing for a mostly tv-audience (or any high school audience) and asking about Dara Shikoh, you're doing it wrong. But I wonder: How is this an argument for your tournament being well-written? Unless you intended to hit Nationals difficulty, why would you justify what you asked about by such a reference?
We charge $55 so that we can spend hundreds of dollars sending multiple teams to more, "better" tournaments.
As someone who has worked quite hard to make a number of tournaments attended by Centennial substantially better than they would have otherwise been, I find this statement somewhat insulting. So you're too ignorant to differentiate between good questions and bad ones?* It doesn't make you noble, it just makes you ignorant, and you're free to not spend money on those tournaments. But what in the world does this have to do with the quality of your tournament? I mean, are you acknowledging that you're writing a crappier set, but claiming it's ok because you charge less than (some) better sets?

*And here, I mean basic things that are indisputable, like identifying pronouns and avoiding unbuzzable clues, not even things that people disagree on
#4. Frankly, the 16-team antiquated play-off format got the students running the tournament and the finalists at a decent time so that we could finish up homework. This also ensured that a 3-2 team had a shot at winning first place, believe it or not.
See, this is where you break into a weird 3rd-person narration (according to your signature, you are a student running the tournament, after all) that causes me to think you're actually the coach or something. Again, if you are, stop breaking forum rules and posting under a student's name; surely you can tell that's pretty poor form. If you're actually Anupama, then quit referencing yourself in the 3rd person! It's weird!

Anyway, this excuse is utter crap; tons of tournaments don't use single elimination, run with less efficiency than you guys have run recent Centennial events, and don't cause students to fail out of school. I fail to see any merit in inherently allowing a 3-2 team a shot at winning first place; ensuring that the teams finish where they deserve, rather than have one single fluke game determine placement (perhaps when the loser still has a better record than the winner) is a far better goal.
#5. Most of the teams are coming to this tournament to improve their performance on the TV show. We've been approached several times asking how it's like, whether it's like three teams playing against each other with three people on each team. Most of the people we advertise to are the Baltimore area TV contestants. These people rarely know that hsquizbowl exists.
This statement really makes you look rather awful, I think. As one of the few teams in your area that often attend circuit events beyond the tv show, shouldn't you be trying to encourage these teams to do so as well, take a few minutes to tell them how they can tap into the larger community, etc.? Unless, of course, your primary concerns are making money and doing well yourself on the tv show, and you just don't give a crap about anyone el- oops, wait, nevermind.
#6. If you didn't hear the questions, don't judge them. Every year, we've spent more time training people how to write questions and we've gotten better. While there is room to improve, there is even for the best of teams.
Well, it sounds as though your tournament failed to be very good prep for the tv show, either. I mean, you aren't going to prep teams for the tv show with 5 line tossups and a 20/20 format; write an it's ac format in the real way those questions are if what you're doing is providing that service to teams; write a good 20/20 tournament if you decide you want to do things that way. Don't pretend that by appealing to those various camps (or rather, as seems to have been the case, failing to appeal to either), you can justify lazy or bad question writing. You're also essentially saying that as long as any of the top teams are not absolutely perfect in some ambiguous number of ways, it's invalid for people to correctly critique your questions. Logic! I didn't hear your questions, but I will judge based on the few examples I've heard that at least some of them sucked. If it seems to you like I'm being unreasonable caustic in this post, it's because I'm deliberately responding to the callousness implicit in everything you've said.

For the record, those kind of arguments are also against board rules, so please don't make them. There is a degree of truth, though, in pointing out that people shouldn't judge what they can't judge; indeed, as you noticed, I can only judge a limited number of questions and offer (almost assuredly correct) conjecture about the tournament. But don't worry, you can fix this! POST THE QUESTIONS.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by STPickrell » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:29 pm

flylikeaneagle wrote:Thanks to everyone who came to the tournament! :grin: I'd like to congratulate:
First Place: Walter Johnson
Second Place: Blake
Third Place: Langley
Fourth Place: Eleanor Roosevelt
Have Langley attended other tournaments? I know there are some years when they are highly competitive.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Kouign Amann » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:38 pm

STPickrell wrote:
flylikeaneagle wrote:Thanks to everyone who came to the tournament! :grin: I'd like to congratulate:
First Place: Walter Johnson
Second Place: Blake
Third Place: Langley
Fourth Place: Eleanor Roosevelt
Have Langley attended other tournaments? I know there are some years when they are highly competitive.
They were at Rumble on the Pike and TJIAT, I believe.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:43 pm

Langley qualified for NSC at TJIAT.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by STPickrell » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:44 pm

FredMorlan wrote:Langley qualified for NSC at TJIAT.
Thanks. Nice to know there are legit teams coming out of NoVA in addition to TJ.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:12 pm

STPickrell wrote:
FredMorlan wrote:Langley qualified for NSC at TJIAT.
Thanks. Nice to know there are legit teams coming out of NoVA in addition to TJ.
Yeah they were pretty good at that tournament, honestly. They beat a couple good Gov B and Wilson teams and had some other quality wins. They deserved to qualify. I hope we get to see them again.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:02 am

Matt Weiner wrote:At some point, I think there is little that you can do when teams just like bad questions. The Centennial tournament is not in It's Academic format; it's in 20/20 format. It's not more accessible than other tournaments; all reports say it's noticeably harder. The only difference at all between the Centennial tournament and other tournaments that might appeal to IA teams, save the tossup conferring, is that the Centennial tournament is poorly written. When John Gilbert comes on here and says that criticizing Centennial is unjust and he thinks it's a valuable event, that can mean only one of two things, which is that he likes bad questions, or that conferring on tossups is the most important thing in the world, much more important than the questions themselves.
If you reread my post, you'll see nowhere that I said criticizing the tournament was unjust. You'll see that I said the tournament had received much unjust criticism in the past, even referring to criticism that complained after the fact that a previous tournament was in the format advertised. Furthermore, it was in response to a post that seemed to imply no one should bother attending this tournament. I find it difficult to believe that any tournament could be so poorly constructed as to not be of benefit to some reasonable subset of teams. I've certainly never experienced one.

As for why I thought it was valuable, I don't suppose it could be for the reasons I cited as opposed to reasons Matt Weiner assumes that I must really have. I couldn't possibly have been accurate when I posted:
howard wrote:For my team, on the other hand, this was a good tournament. It was close-- so close that I met my team at the tournament location. ... And the questions were of a level that helped me identify weaknesses as well as illustrate a few things we knew well.
Being convenient to attend and having a significant number of questions potentially answerable by a team of strength similar to mine couldn't possibly be real reasons for determining a tournament to be valuable. [/sarcasm]

By my estimation, about 75% of the tossups had answers I'd want my team to know. That's a reasonable percentage for a team to answer a reasonable number of questions and actually learn something from a significant number of questions said team didn't answer. Last time I checked, knowledge was one of the requirements to answer quiz bowl questions.

As to statements that this tournament was excessively hard, I'll say that the bonuses overall seemed harder than the tossups, but that their difficulty varied enough for this to be difficult to gauge. Additionally, I didn't hear the last three rounds because my team had been eliminated, so I can draw no conclusion as to the content of those questions.

I won't bother addressing the rest of Matt's post here since I cannot figure out how it relates to this tournament.

Edit: Moved final sentence to end of post.
Last edited by Howard on Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by at your pleasure » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 am

Howard wrote: As for why I thought it was valuable, I don't suppose it could be for the reasons I cited as opposed to reasons Matt Weiner assumes that I must really have. I couldn't possibly have been accurate when I posted:
howard wrote:For my team, on the other hand, this was a good tournament. It was close-- so close that I met my team at the tournament location. ... And the questions were of a level that helped me identify weaknesses as well as illustrate a few things we knew well.
Being convenient to attend and having a significant number of questions potentially answerable by a team of strength similar to mine couldn't possibly be real reasons for determining a tournament to be valuable. [/sarcasm]
Nobody is disputing the "convenient to attend part". The second part seems to imply that the tournament was easier than most local, which based on what people have said about the set all over this thread is disputable at best.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:55 am

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:
#4. Frankly, the 16-team antiquated play-off format got the students running the tournament and the finalists at a decent time so that we could finish up homework. This also ensured that a 3-2 team had a shot at winning first place, believe it or not.
Your convenience should not be the goal in organizing a tournament, but rather the ability to offer the fairest event possible. To use the argument that a 3-2 team can stay in the hunt for the championship is for one thing misleading - I directed a tournament a week ago where, after seven rounds, a team with 3 losses still was still mathematically in contention to win using a round robin playoff format. It is also not any argument for why single elimination is superior, since the whole point of a tournament is to weed out the teams that lose games, not to keep rewarding them.
While I believe I understand your point, Charlie, sometimes more compromise is in order. The actual desires of the tournament audience and the needs of the tournament staff are also on the top of the important considerations list. Without the tournament staff the tournament cannot exist. If the majority of teams don't wish to stay for a significant number of after-lunch rounds, there's little reason to make them choose zero or five. Asking them to play another five rounds or so will likely lead to numerous dropouts and confusion among those teams left that are without opponents. In fact, the majority of tournaments I've attended that rebracketed for a second round-robin had issues with teams leaving, either due to not wanting to play any more games or just because there were circumstances that made their departure necessary. Choosing single elimination allows rooms to be returned to proper setup for class as games are being played. Sticking around for another hour or two rearranging rooms isn't particularly desireable at 4PM.

This isn't meant to imply that I think single elimination is always (or even frequently) the best playoff format, just that it's within the realm of reasonableness.
Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:...but you need to not be so hostile about it.

I don't see how it isn't obvious why such hostility exists. And most of my points don't just apply to this tournament.

People come on this board prior to the tournament and complain about the announced format with little regard for anyone other than themselves and their team, failing to realize that other teams might prefer something different than what they'd prefer. Year after year, posters on this board have made rude, offensive, and unjust criticisms of this tournament. This year, we've reached the level of implying the tournament is fit for no one and accusing the tournament director of not being who she says she is.

Furthermore, looking at the criticism, a significant amount has come from people/teams who didn't participate. This tournament operates year after year, acting on comments from the teams that were present. I understand that the people lodging criticism in this thread are (at least mostly) doing so with the best of intentions, but at some point we need to realize that we will often be treated the same way we treat others.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:12 am

Doink the Clown wrote:The second part seems to imply that the tournament was easier than most local, which based on what people have said about the set all over this thread is disputable at best.
Don't know how I can make it more clear than this:
howard wrote:By my estimation, about 75% of the tossups had answers I'd want my team to know.
75% is certainly higher than several tournaments we've attended recently. A check of our recent statistics will make it rather apparent our knowledge levels aren't very impressive. So right now, the "want to know" area includes mostly giveaways. As they (hopefully) improve, I'll of course expand the "want to know" area.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:26 am

What you arbitrarily want your team to know shouldn't be a criteria in the discussion, since it's obviously impossible for us to know the terms of the debate, and you yourself admit the set of answers you want your team to know varies with possibly intangible decisions. We can't judge whether a tournament is too hard by whether you want your team to know some of the answers.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:39 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:What you arbitrarily want your team to know shouldn't be a criteria in the discussion, since it's obviously impossible for us to know the terms of the debate, and you yourself admit the set of answers you want your team to know varies with possibly intangible decisions. We can't judge whether a tournament is too hard by whether you want your team to know some of the answers.
Shouldn't what a team knows and what a coach wants the team to know ultimately be the single most important factor in a coach assessing a tournament's value? If the vast majority of teams/coaches playing in a tournament find it to be of value, then it is.

As far as my "want to know" list, if including mostly giveaways isn't enough of a descriptor, I doubt there's anything else I can tell you that will give you a better idea.

Edit: grammar
Last edited by Howard on Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Matt Weiner » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:49 pm

Howard wrote:Shouldn't what a team knows and what a coach wants the team to know ultimately be the single most important factor in a coach assessing a tournament's value? If the vast majority of teams/coaches playing in a tournament find it to be of value, then it is.
I really wish you were capable of engaging in the same discussion that the other people in the thread are having. No one else is making any claims about whether the Centennial tournament has "value" (which you have defined in such terms that it is impossible for any tournament not to have "value," thus making it a meaningless attribute anyway).

We are saying that the Centennial tournament was bad. It was a bad tournament, because the questions were bad. Do you disagree?
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:20 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:I really wish you were capable of engaging in the same discussion that the other people in the thread are having. No one else is making any claims about whether the Centennial tournament has "value" (which you have defined in such terms that it is impossible for any tournament not to have "value," thus making it a meaningless attribute anyway).

We are saying that the Centennial tournament was bad. It was a bad tournament, because the questions were bad. Do you disagree?
So here's the issue. I disagree the questions were bad, and thus didn't make the tournament bad. The problem is that the criteria Matt Weiner (and many others on this site) use to determine good/bad questions aren't the same as the criteria I use. So the fact that I disagree on that count doesn't really mean anything. Furthermore, the assertion on this board that every tournament (including those that draw a significant number of teams whose players/coaches don't seem to have a presence on this board) should be forced to conform to certain standards that not all teams necessarily prefer is illogical. So I make an attempt to discuss things in a more neutral manner-- one that can be applied to all teams across the board, rather than one that, if used, only applies to a fraction of quizbowl teams.

While I said that nearly every tournament should be of value to certain teams, that doesn't imply that every tournament is of value to every team. For example, it's possible to construct a tournament that is of little value to those teams actually in attendance. I think I receive an invitation every year to a jeopardy-style tournament. Considering the goals for my team, I don't find this of a value as great as tournaments where buzzers are used. So, each year, we typically do not attend because we can choose a tournament which is of higher value to us. What I do not do is come here and criticize the tournament for daring to be in a format that we do not prefer.

If my posts on this board are reviewed, it'll be found that there are very few criticizing tournaments or questions. Why? Because the vast majority of time criticism is leveled here against a tournament, there's some sort of ridiculous fighting that occurs between the tournament organizers and those giving the criticism. If I choose to give criticism, I give it, with little exception, to the tournament organizer in private.

In this thread, I've taken issue with only three things:
1. The idea that no one should have attended this tournament.
2. The idea that it isn't reasonable for tournament organizers to pick a playoff format (including single elimination) that fits their needs after consideration of factors the organizers deem important.
3. The idea that the questions at this tournament were too difficult.

Edit: added paragraph regarding value
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:59 pm

Howard wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:I really wish you were capable of engaging in the same discussion that the other people in the thread are having. No one else is making any claims about whether the Centennial tournament has "value" (which you have defined in such terms that it is impossible for any tournament not to have "value," thus making it a meaningless attribute anyway).

We are saying that the Centennial tournament was bad. It was a bad tournament, because the questions were bad. Do you disagree?
While I said that nearly every tournament should be of value to certain teams, that doesn't imply that every tournament is of value to every team. For example, it's possible to construct a tournament that is of little value to those teams actually in attendance. I think I receive an invitation every year to a jeopardy-style tournament. Considering the goals for my team, I don't find this of a value as great as tournaments where buzzers are used. So, each year, we typically do not attend because we can choose a tournament which is of higher value to us. What I do not do is come here and criticize the tournament for daring to be in a format that we do not prefer.
Now, here's where you will get very little sympathy from this board. We do not view Centennial's questions as "different"--we view them as "bad." If these questions have "value" to certain teams, it is because those teams need to rethink their goals. Now, of course, I do not mean to cast blame on the students at Centennial, who have been taught that this tournament fulfills the requirements of good quizbowl. I only think we need to reach out more to them and make it clear that their product, as it stands, is far inferior to the sets produced by HSAPQ, NAQT, Dunbar, and Maggie Walker (although all these housewrites, including Centennial, have difficulty issues). Saying that Centennial has "value" according to some strange criteria that you have yet to define only serves to undermine that. Furthermore, assuming that the criteria you use are based in a desire for your students to learn, regardless of quizbowl of any format, I am certain that the sets I have already named would meet your criteria far better than this one.

EDIT: Of course, this discussion could be much more meaningful if Centennial would post the questions.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:15 pm

Howard wrote: If my posts on this board are reviewed, it'll be found that there are very few criticizing tournaments or questions. Why? Because the vast majority of time criticism is leveled here against a tournament, there's some sort of ridiculous fighting that occurs between the tournament organizers and those giving the criticism. If I choose to give criticism, I give it, with little exception, to the tournament organizer in private.
I guess I can agree with the idea that the dogpile that resulted from mainly people who did not attend this tournament was likely unnecessary, although it could potentially be justified if this set is ever posted [which it won't be, fyi.] Still, having played on every packet in this set, I have to disagree.
Howard wrote:1. The idea that no one should have attended this tournament.
This isn't worth discussing, because this would never happen anyway. This is probably hyperbole- I think what was meant in this assertion was why any regular circuit team would attend.
Howard wrote:2. The idea that it isn't reasonable for tournament organizers to pick a playoff format (including single elimination) that fits their needs after consideration of factors the organizers deem important.
There really is no evidence that the latter happened, though- the explanation essentially said, "We did what was best for us."
Howard wrote:3. The idea that the questions at this tournament were too difficult.
The questions at this tournament were too difficult. Some were alright, but difficulty fluctuated wildly. A playoff score- in the semifinals- of 190--5 is ridiculous. Even GSAC, which was roundly criticized for its difficulty, didn't feature scores like this in the semis. You may argue that it had a better field, but that's the point. A tournament should serve its field, and this one didn't.

I'm advocating making this tournament more accessible for the majority of teams that attend. You disagree, for reasons I can't comprehend. I guess we're not getting past that.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Charbroil » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:36 pm

Howard wrote: Furthermore, the assertion on this board that every tournament (including those that draw a significant number of teams whose players/coaches don't seem to have a presence on this board) should be forced to conform to certain standards that not all teams necessarily prefer is illogical.
So in essence, you're saying that there's no objective determination of whether a tournament is better or not? After all, the only "standards" that I've seen universally shared on this board are that Quiz Bowl tournaments should A) Be about academic topics B) Be of reasonable difficulty, and C) Reward the team that knows more with victory in a game as often as possible. Are you saying that even if a tournament only tested irrelevant trivia, was impossibly difficult (or absurdly easy), and actively awarded the team that knows less with victory, you wouldn't criticize it if some of the attending teams found value in it?*

*Note, I'm not saying this description is supposed to reflect this tournament, except perhaps on the 2nd point, but rather I'm just giving an example of the logical conclusions of your thought process as I see them.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:47 pm

Aldo Montoya wrote:
Howard wrote:2. The idea that it isn't reasonable for tournament organizers to pick a playoff format (including single elimination) that fits their needs after consideration of factors the organizers deem important.
There really is no evidence that the latter happened, though- the explanation essentially said, "We did what was best for us."
Actually, if you look back through the thread, you'll see that the organizers listed their reasons before the tournament.
Aldo Montoya wrote:
Howard wrote:3. The idea that the questions at this tournament were too difficult.
The questions at this tournament were too difficult. Some were alright, but difficulty fluctuated wildly. A playoff score- in the semifinals- of 190--5 is ridiculous.
I agree that this is much less than optimal, but I didn't hear that round. If this was a one-round aberration, then I don't think it's fair to criticize the entire tournament for a problem with one round. I suppose it's also possible that there was an attempt to make the playoff rounds harder, which is a reasonable likelihood considering the initial playoff round my team heard. Of course, looking at the discussion on this tournament so far, I can't see as there's any reason Centennial should even bother distinguishing anything in this thread with a response.
Aldo Montoya wrote:A tournament should serve its field, and this one didn't.

I'm advocating making this tournament more accessible for the majority of teams that attend. You disagree, for reasons I can't comprehend. I guess we're not getting past that.
I, too, am advocating tournaments serve the majority of their field to the extent that's possible, and I'm not sure why you think I feel otherwise. As far as being accessible to more teams, there comes a point where, if you're trying to preserve some sort of reasonable question length, you begin to compromise the ability to challenge top teams to gain accessibility to lower teams. I'd like to see more accessibility, but my team is currently on the lower end. I can understand why the teams on the other end would hold the opposing viewpoint. Effectively, I'd think most tournaments would aim for the middle of the two extremes.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Howard » Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:56 pm

Charbroil wrote:So in essence, you're saying that there's no objective determination of whether a tournament is better or not? After all, the only "standards" that I've seen universally shared on this board are that Quiz Bowl tournaments should A) Be about academic topics B) Be of reasonable difficulty, and C) Reward the team that knows more with victory in a game as often as possible.
Standard B can be inferred from some statistics, but there's still no perfect objective indicator of the appropriate difficulty level. And I've argued in the past that thought processes and abilities are important things to reward (as well as knowledge), but that's not particularly relevant to the discussion on this particular tournament.
Charbroil wrote:Are you saying that even if a tournament only tested irrelevant trivia, was impossibly difficult (or absurdly easy), and actively awarded the team that knows less with victory, you wouldn't criticize it if some of the attending teams found value in it?*

*Note, I'm not saying this description is supposed to reflect this tournament, except perhaps on the 2nd point, but rather I'm just giving an example of the logical conclusions of your thought process as I see them.
I'm saying I wouldn't make that criticism in public.

Edit: removed extraneous esses
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Kouign Amann » Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:08 pm

Howard wrote: I'm saying I wouldn't make that criticism in public.
One of the great things about having these forums is the opportunity they provide to everyone for collective learning from mistakes. People reading this thread now know what was thought to be unsatisfactory about Centennial's tournament, and can avoid making such mistakes at their own tournaments. If/when the questions are posted, discussion will follow, and writers will be able to see good examples of what to do and what to avoid in their own questions.

Sure, it may be nicer and more comfortable for everyone's ego if criticism were only directed in private, but then this benefit would be lost.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Charbroil » Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:32 pm

Howard wrote:
Isaac Hirsch wrote:A tournament should serve its field, and this one didn't. I'm advocating making this tournament more accessible for the majority of teams that attend.

I'd like to see more accessibility, but my team is currently on the lower end. I can understand why the teams on the other end would hold the opposing viewpoint.
I'm not sure how your statement (made in response to Isaac) disputes Isaac's. Both of you say that you want tournaments to be more accessible, but when Isaac (a member of a stronger team) argues that this tournament was too difficult, you disagree even though you're the coach of a weaker team and thus should prefer accessibility. This seems odd, especially given that all of the top notch players at this event seem to be saying that it was too hard.

Thus, it seems that you two are making the same point, except that Isaac says that the tournament was too hard and you say that it wasn't. In essence, he seems to be arguing your position and vice versa.

The only way your argument seems to work is if, as you say:
Howard wrote:...there's still no perfect objective indicator of the appropriate difficulty level.
Which makes me wonder, when you say "perfect," do you mean literally "perfect" or merely "useful?" If the former, while it's true that there's no "perfect objective indicator" of tournament difficulty (or most things, for that matter), that hardly seems to be a reason to say that it's impossible to judge a tournament's difficulty. After all, statistical indicators such as PPB and PPG combined with reading the questions themselves usually reflect difficulty fairly well. Granted, this tournament hasn't chosen to make public either the statistics or questions, but isn't that merely a flaw of this event that should be remedied for the future?

Of course, if you're saying that there's no way of judging appropriate difficulty whatsoever, then by your logic all meaningful discussion of tournament difficulty is impossible and neither you nor I (nor anyone else) has the right to discuss whether a tournament was appropriately difficult, since all of our subjective opinions are equally valid.

Finally:
Howard wrote:I'm saying I wouldn't make [criticism of tournaments] in public.
It's an admirable trait to not to want to shame others publicly, but if you can't criticize a tournament publicly, what kind of discussion can you have about a tournament perceived to have serious flaws? Wouldn't your argument make any sort of public discussion of a tournament's negative points impossible? This seems to be a problem given that it keeps more experienced members of the Quiz Bowl community (including you) from using their experience to moderate the statements of young hotheads who don't have the experience necessary to understand what is and isn't worthy of criticism.

I hope I haven't come across as excessively harsh in my questioning--I'm merely trying to understand your logical processes, since as far as I can see, those processes have some unfortunate implications if taken to their logical extremes.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Dec 27, 2009 5:34 pm

Howard wrote: The problem is that the criteria Matt Weiner (and many others on this site) use to determine good/bad questions aren't the same as the criteria I use.
You seem to be under the impression that what's real or fake in quizbowl is determined by some sort of vote or summation of innate, arbitrary preferences. This is not the case. Fake questions would remain fake regardless of how many people were incapable of recognizing their inferiority. John Gilbert can stand on top of the mountain and scream "I love it when the answer to the question isn't referenced until line seven of a seven-line tossup" and "games which reduce to six-tossup matches because fourteen of the questions are on things no one in high school knows are awesome," just like John Gilbert can stand there and shout that evolution and gravity and the law of conservation of mass aren't true, and those facts will similarly care not a whit about what you think.

Furthermore, your holier-than-thou "I don't CRITICIZE things in public" meme is just more confirmation that all of your posts on the board are white noise and trolling. We're here to discuss quizbowl tournaments. If that offends you, then go away. You're not gaining any moral credibility by constantly crusading for fake quizbowl; even those in the good quizbowl community who normally give people like yourself way more benefit of the doubt than you deserve have given up on taking your posts at face value.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:21 pm

Here's what I hope will be my final post in this topic.

The semi-final set I mentioned was not an aberration. All the playoff sets were very, very difficult. Hammond, who I believe we played in the final 8, seemed to just want to leave at that point. This is not to say the prelims were perfect- they weren't, they were okay, but there were definitely way too hard things being asked.
What you say about advocating a reasonable middle ground for all teams in attendance is fine, but I don't really see how this tournament got this. As you say, statistics determine the difficulty, but they don't look good here. [I really wish I had snatched a stat sheet when I got the urge.] One team had 7 ppg, as I mentioned prior, and there were plenty of teams who hovered around 30 ppg. This is going to happen, you could say, but our team found this tournament too difficult on the whole as well, and our coaches just sort of shrugged it off, noting that these things happen with house-written sets. It doesn't have to happen, of course, but this tournament did not aim for the middle- it aimed for "write what we know, regardless of the canon."
Additionally, I see no reason why Centennial shouldn't "distinguish what has been written with a response." After all, I've offered to help edit the set to make it more accessible, an offer that has been outright ignored. I am not claiming to be the world's best editor, either, I'm just offering to lend a hand since I have a decent idea of the canon and an even better idea of the novice canon.
I don't think our aims are separate, but I just don't get why you found this tournament to be of acceptable difficulty.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:34 pm

Centennial has been habitually unprofessional and dismissive about responding to private critiques (and, more ridiculously, repeated and significant offers for free help), so at this point I really can't see a reason to object to public criticism of the tournament. It's unlikely that Centennial will respond to this either, but it at least allows people to be made aware of these issues and perhaps even improve them in their own tournaments. Look, I get that people have different priorities, but John, even you've admitted that these questions didn't really serve anyone. If they want to mimic the tv show, then they wrote questions that were way too long in a different format, and included material that was way too hard. If they wanted to mimic standard quizbowl, they failed to do that as well. If they wanted to construct a tournament shorter and easier than standard quizbowl, they failed even more acutely. There are oodles of people here (myself included) who would be happy to advise Centennial on how they could improve their tournament to meet any of these goals; I'm not drawing a distinction based on style, because the shortcomings of this event were mostly format independent, from what attendees (including you yourself) have shared.

I can't speak for anyone else, but my issue here is that Centennial has basically told everyone to go jump off a bridge, and justified their shoddy standards (and this is in regards not to debatable metrics of "good quizbowl," but to basic things like not hosing people or asking high schoolers about Dara Shikoh) by completely dismissing everything people put a decent amount of time into saying. They've also essentially claimed that because the event is cheap, it's ok that the event is poorly written, and that they only care about teaching their players basic facts by writing this tournament - apparently, they could give a crap about your experience (as a paying customer) playing it. I don't know if these things really reflect the opinions of the Centennial program or the editors in particular, but it's undeniably what's been expressed on the boards thus far (possibly by a teacher posting as a student), followed by the typical interminable stonewalling to countless requests to post questions. At this point I'd say it's misguided to focus on ideological differences some people have with Centennial's tournament or questions in general, and focus on specific things they could do much more responsibly than they are right now.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by square635 » Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:23 am

I'm a Centennial alum (formerly square634, but apparently I had a password/e-mail mishap) who was pointed toward this thread by my younger brother, who is a current team member and thought I would get a laugh out of it. I haven't been to the last two Centennial tournaments due to my own finals schedule, but I would argue that historically we have been very attentive to criticism but have gotten bashed every year for one reason or another. Frankly, some of it is well-deserved, and I felt that Ana's response (or at least the parts I saw that were quoted) was completely uncalled for. But honestly, what kind of reaction do you expect when some of the criticism is belittling rather than constructive, and is offered by college students who weren't even in attendance? Centennial is a public high school team that is doing the best it can to put on a tournament to both raise money to stay on the tournament circuit and improve the team members' understanding of question mechanics and canon. I'm not sure why that is a goal that deserves such malicious attacks, even if the final product is less than perfect. I think what is more dangerous to quiz bowl than bad questions is the pompous, holier-than-thou attitudes of some people such as a few who have written on this thread. The behavior of some people/teams was certainly a turn-off to me in high school, and I was on a middle-of-the-road team; I can see why there isn't much motivation for some weaker teams to continue to show up to tournaments and try to improve. If this tournament is able to increase accessibility -- whether due to its location, its weaker competition, or otherwise -- shouldn't that generally be applauded?

Could the questions have been better? From what I have read here, probably, Does that mean that the students aren't trying their hardest? Absolutely not. One thing I'm certain of is that the students at Centennial will not be motivated to make improvements by personal attacks and summary dismissals. If someone else can put on a better tournament that offers the same location advantage as Centennial's does in Howard County, then more power to you, and the local quiz bowl circuit will be all the better for it.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Dec 29, 2009 4:43 am

square635 wrote:I haven't been to the last two Centennial tournaments due to my own finals schedule, but I would argue that historically we have been very attentive to criticism but have gotten bashed every year for one reason or another.
Quit being so histrionic. Centennial runs bad tournaments and people explain why they are bad. That's not "bashing," nor is it unfair. People have made many calm, constructive suggestions in this thread, including offering to help edit the tournament in the future.
But honestly, what kind of reaction do you expect when some of the criticism is belittling rather than constructive, and is offered by college students who weren't even in attendance?
Many people who know what real quizbowl looks like are in college, and are willing to take time out of their schedules of attending college and creating good college and high school tournaments to try to explain how others can write better tournaments. You should thank them for this, not shake your fist at the highfalutin intellectuals.
Centennial is a public high school team that is doing the best it can to put on a tournament to both raise money to stay on the tournament circuit and improve the team members' understanding of question mechanics and canon. I'm not sure why that is a goal that deserves such malicious attacks, even if the final product is less than perfect.
I believe characterizing people's problem with impossible, poorly written questions as being an opposition to Centennial trying to improve or raise money would qualify as a "lie," which would make you...something. There are many public high school teams, teams who need money, and teams with goals who write better tournaments. Perhaps if Centennial would stop declaring that they don't care about their tournament being bad and look to what those teams do, they could join their ranks.
I think what is more dangerous to quiz bowl than bad questions is the pompous, holier-than-thou attitudes of some people such as a few who have written on this thread.
I agree; it was totally inappropriate for Centennial to declare "I really don't care if you thought our questions were bad" and for John Gilbert to lecture competent quizbowl people on what tournaments should look like. These people should take your advice and try to adjust their attitudes to be less arrogant in the future.
If this tournament is able to increase accessibility -- whether due to its location, its weaker competition, or otherwise -- shouldn't that generally be applauded?
Many portions of the tournament were impossible. That's the #1 complaint people have. Two teams in the semifinals didn't break 200 combined points. That's not "increasing accessibility." That's writing a tournament that's ludicrously hard because you fill packets with trivia about what you got assigned in class this week rather than things that high school quizbowl players should know. It's the opposite of being "accessible."

It's almost as if the standard Wheel Of Fake Quizbowl Defense Mechanisms spins off the same nonsense regardless of whether it outright contradicts what we're talking about. It's NEVER been true that poorly written questions are easier than good questions, and in this case, we have the actual game scores, like 190 to -5 in a game between two of the top 4 teams, and people are still pulling this "fake quizbowl is so accessible" crap. Why?
Could the questions have been better? From what I have read here, probably, Does that mean that the students aren't trying their hardest? Absolutely not.
It could be a lack of effort, but you're right, it's more likely an ideological commitment to bad questions promoted by people like John Gilbert, or a simple lack of guidance on how to create good questions when one wishes to. People are trying to provide the latter in this thread, but you seem to object to "college students," people who "weren't in attendance," and anyone who has an opinion at all, doing so. Why is that?
One thing I'm certain of is that the students at Centennial will not be motivated to make improvements by personal attacks and summary dismissals.
One of them has already declared that he/she has no interest in making improvements. If the rest of them would like to improve on this setback to their team's reputation, there are dozens of people willing to help them.
If someone else can put on a better tournament that offers the same location advantage as Centennial's does in Howard County, then more power to you, and the local quiz bowl circuit will be all the better for it.
Are we seriously indulging this whole "people can't be bothered to drive from the Baltimore suburbs to College Park for a tournament" thing? If you'd rather play a bad tournament in Howard County than go 25 minutes down I-95 to a good tournament, I doubt you ever liked real quizbowl at all, and I doubt there's anything I can say to you that will make you change. You do know that the average team in many parts of the country has to travel an hour or more to go to any tournament, right? And even the ones who aren't that interested do it?

No one wants Centennial to fail. Nothing would make the people in this thread happier than for Centennial to write a great tournament that we could all help get a 40, 50, or 60 team field for. It's totally up to them whether they want to take the copious help that's being offered to them from people who understand how quizbowl works and what real questions are, or continue to call in the alumni army to spin things and get defensive.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by square635 » Tue Dec 29, 2009 4:50 pm

If you haven't done so, I would suggest you go back and read all of the previous Centennial tournament threads to see how the team has in fact responded to criticism in the past and why some people might be especially defensive this time around. Explaining how to write better tournaments is fine, but maybe it would be better received without all of the condescension and seeming anger. There are certainly some things to improve on, and I think there are ways of saying so without a belligerent tone; for example, I think Isaac's posts have been perfectly reasonable in this thread.

I don't know of many tournaments in the area that are house-written with all of the questions coming from students, and the number has seemingly dwindled over the past four to six years. I am sure you would know better than I do as a prominent member of this board. Are there other schools that aren't in the elite circle of Quiz Bowl teams that are housewriting better tournaments? If so, I'd love to hear examples.
I agree; it was totally inappropriate for Centennial to declare "I really don't care if you thought our questions were bad" and for John Gilbert to lecture competent quizbowl people on what tournaments should look like. These people should take your advice and try to adjust their attitudes to be less arrogant in the future.
You won't hear me disagree about that post; it was totally inappropriate and should indeed be included as something arrogant that has been written here. But I think that represents the attitude of one frustrated student, rather than the opinions of everyone involved with the tournament. The student who wrote that is a senior anyway, so her opinions regarding changes/improvements, like mine, are frankly not very meaningful to the future of the tournament. My opinions may actually be more meaningful next year because my brother will be a senior and thus will likely be one of the key organizers of the event. And if you really think John Gilbert is "lecturing" more than you and others are, I don't know what to say.
Many portions of the tournament were impossible. That's the #1 complaint people have. Two teams in the semifinals didn't break 200 combined points. That's not "increasing accessibility." That's writing a tournament that's ludicrously hard because you fill packets with trivia about what you got assigned in class this week rather than things that high school quizbowl players should know. It's the opposite of being "accessible."

It's almost as if the standard Wheel Of Fake Quizbowl Defense Mechanisms spins off the same nonsense regardless of whether it outright contradicts what we're talking about. It's NEVER been true that poorly written questions are easier than good questions, and in this case, we have the actual game scores, like 190 to -5 in a game between two of the top 4 teams, and people are still pulling this "fake quizbowl is so accessible" crap. Why?
I mean accessible in terms of which teams are actually in attendance, not difficulty level. It's all well and good if other tournaments are easier or better, but are they more accessible if new teams don't show up? From my understanding of what occurred, a few people realized while assembling packets there were too many difficult questions, and with no time to make new ones, they pushed those all to the playoffs. So it is actually entirely possible for the tournament to be too difficult in the playoffs while still being fairly reasonable in the preliminaries, when all of the teams were still playing. The first time we ran a tournament, we were told it was too hard, and those were edited heavily by a college Quiz Bowl student. In a future year, the questions were easier and people said it was too easy. I'm sure everyone involved would ideally like to reach a middle ground. That being said, there does tend to be a fixation on a small minority of questions. For example, one year there was widespread complaint about a tossup regarding "Gassire's Lute" which no one has ever heard of. I read at that tournament, and I think that was the only question out of about 300 that was outside of acceptable Quiz Bowl canon, but that was understandably the only question people brought up.
It could be a lack of effort, but you're right, it's more likely an ideological commitment to bad questions promoted by people like John Gilbert, or a simple lack of guidance on how to create good questions when one wishes to. People are trying to provide the latter in this thread, but you seem to object to "college students," people who "weren't in attendance," and anyone who has an opinion at all, doing so. Why is that?
As should be obvious, since I'm a college student, I don't object to college students having opinions, just the condescending way in which some of them have been expressed.

As for offers to edit the questions, while I'm sure they are appreciated, since our inaugural tournament, there has been reluctance from our coach to get other people involved too heavily with question writing/editing. The reasoning is that our students will not learn as much about question-writing and Quiz Bowl in general if other people do the work, and reliance on others to fix the questions could create a cycle whereby the younger students never truly learn the process. If that happens, then when the help isn't available, Centennial would essentially have to run a tournament with questions bought elsewhere or not run a tournament at all. You can argue whether this is foolish reasoning or not, but it isn't the fault of the students.
Are we seriously indulging this whole "people can't be bothered to drive from the Baltimore suburbs to College Park for a tournament" thing? If you'd rather play a bad tournament in Howard County than go 25 minutes down I-95 to a good tournament, I doubt you ever liked real quizbowl at all, and I doubt there's anything I can say to you that will make you change. You do know that the average team in many parts of the country has to travel an hour or more to go to any tournament, right? And even the ones who aren't that interested do it?

No one wants Centennial to fail. Nothing would make the people in this thread happier than for Centennial to write a great tournament that we could all help get a 40, 50, or 60 team field for. It's totally up to them whether they want to take the copious help that's being offered to them from people who understand how quizbowl works and what real questions are, or continue to call in the alumni army to spin things and get defensive.
The fact is that there are many teams that go to Centennial's tournament that don't go to others. Now you can sneer at those teams all you want, and they will probably never be powerhouses in the region, but long-term I think that increased participation and awareness is a good thing. As an example, Centennial has only recently "evolved," so to speak, from a team that exclusively cared about the TV show to one that practices for and shows up to many area Quiz Bowl tournaments. It does happen. Other tournaments have advertised at our tournament in the past, and after our inaugural tournament I remember seeing a couple other Howard County schools at a higher-profile tournament (I forget which) for the first time. I realize that if Centennial's tournament is truly horrendous, then those teams will have no reason to look further. But some of those teams have come for several years in a row, so if they hated it that much, they wouldn't show up the next year. So while there are improvements that need to be made, I think they might be being overstated.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by wexs883198215 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 11:39 am

square635 wrote:That being said, there does tend to be a fixation on a small minority of questions. For example, one year there was widespread complaint about a tossup regarding "Gassire's Lute" which no one has ever heard of. I read at that tournament, and I think that was the only question out of about 300 that was outside of acceptable Quiz Bowl canon, but that was understandably the only question people brought up.
Well that's not the case here. A small minority of ridiculous questions does not cause the winning team to end up with 15 ppb.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:04 pm

square635 wrote:The fact is that there are many teams that go to Centennial's tournament that don't go to others. Now you can sneer at those teams all you want, and they will probably never be powerhouses in the region, but long-term I think that increased participation and awareness is a good thing. As an example, Centennial has only recently "evolved," so to speak, from a team that exclusively cared about the TV show to one that practices for and shows up to many area Quiz Bowl tournaments. It does happen. Other tournaments have advertised at our tournament in the past, and after our inaugural tournament I remember seeing a couple other Howard County schools at a higher-profile tournament (I forget which) for the first time. I realize that if Centennial's tournament is truly horrendous, then those teams will have no reason to look further. But some of those teams have come for several years in a row, so if they hated it that much, they wouldn't show up the next year. So while there are improvements that need to be made, I think they might be being overstated.
It is wonderful that there are teams that come to your tournament that might not come to any others. I, at least, don't sneer at them--I want them to become aware of other tournaments. (This may be part of why they come to yours every year: they don't know what potential quizbowl has, so they imagine your tournament might be the pinnacle--you have a captive audience.)

I want those teams to keep on having the introduction to quizbowl that you provide. I don't want your form of quizbowl to be so inaccessible that we have to be surprised some attending teams don't "hate it that much." So why don't you accept outside editing help or get a vendor set?
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by square635 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:15 pm

Well that's not the case here. A small minority of ridiculous questions does not cause the winning team to end up with 15 ppb.
You may be right; was that 15 ppb throughout the whole tournament? I'm not sure what exactly is the target number there, but if you combine bonuses that are, say, 5 ppb too difficult with a weak field, that might account for some of it. Still, this is an area where definite improvement is needed - I have heard from people involved with the team that the bonuses were all over the map. Again, I never said that the tournament was wonderful (how could I? I wasn't there!), but I was pretty disgusted by the tone in which some of the attacks were coming.
It is wonderful that there are teams that come to your tournament that might not come to any others. I, at least, don't sneer at them--I want them to become aware of other tournaments. (This may be part of why they come to yours every year: they don't know what potential quizbowl has, so they imagine your tournament might be the pinnacle--you have a captive audience.)

I want those teams to keep on having the introduction to quizbowl that you provide. I don't want your form of quizbowl to be so inaccessible that we have to be surprised some attending teams don't "hate it that much." So why don't you accept outside editing help or get a vendor set?
I think we're mostly on the same page here, but you may not have seen the reasoning provided in my previous posts, so I'll expand on that. First an foremost, a sizable point of the tournament is to raise money. Using a vendor set cuts into profit very significantly. Secondly, the team and coach feel that housewriting a tournament is an opportunity for a learning experience, which also plays into the editing help. Thirdly, and I'm not sure everyone involved in the Centennial tournament would agree with me here, housewriting allows flexibility in terms of style and format (I know this is not always a good thing), and sometimes the homogeneity of vendor sets can get a bit stale. Finally, our coach does not like to have outside people involved in shouldering the load on questions because he believes it sets a dangerous precedent... this, at least, cannot be blamed on the students.

What I would suggest, rather than outright editing help on questions, would be a list of rules and guidelines with examples that the team members could read and try to follow. If those resources are already available, please link them here and I will personally make sure they are disseminated to the rest of the team.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:47 pm

square635 wrote:
Well that's not the case here. A small minority of ridiculous questions does not cause the winning team to end up with 15 ppb.
You may be right; was that 15 ppb throughout the whole tournament? I'm not sure what exactly is the target number there, but if you combine bonuses that are, say, 5 ppb too difficult with a weak field, that might account for some of it. Still, this is an area where definite improvement is needed - I have heard from people involved with the team that the bonuses were all over the map. Again, I never said that the tournament was wonderful (how could I? I wasn't there!), but I was pretty disgusted by the tone in which some of the attacks were coming.
It is wonderful that there are teams that come to your tournament that might not come to any others. I, at least, don't sneer at them--I want them to become aware of other tournaments. (This may be part of why they come to yours every year: they don't know what potential quizbowl has, so they imagine your tournament might be the pinnacle--you have a captive audience.)

I want those teams to keep on having the introduction to quizbowl that you provide. I don't want your form of quizbowl to be so inaccessible that we have to be surprised some attending teams don't "hate it that much." So why don't you accept outside editing help or get a vendor set?
I think we're mostly on the same page here, but you may not have seen the reasoning provided in my previous posts, so I'll expand on that. First an foremost, a sizable point of the tournament is to raise money. Using a vendor set cuts into profit very significantly. Secondly, the team and coach feel that housewriting a tournament is an opportunity for a learning experience, which also plays into the editing help. Thirdly, and I'm not sure everyone involved in the Centennial tournament would agree with me here, housewriting allows flexibility in terms of style and format (I know this is not always a good thing), and sometimes the homogeneity of vendor sets can get a bit stale. Finally, our coach does not like to have outside people involved in shouldering the load on questions because he believes it sets a dangerous precedent... this, at least, cannot be blamed on the students.

What I would suggest, rather than outright editing help on questions, would be a list of rules and guidelines with examples that the team members could read and try to follow. If those resources are already available, please link them here and I will personally make sure they are disseminated to the rest of the team.
http://www.acf-quizbowl.com/documents/howtowrite.php
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:51 pm

square635 wrote:I think we're mostly on the same page here, but you may not have seen the reasoning provided in my previous posts, so I'll expand on that. First an foremost, a sizable point of the tournament is to raise money. Using a vendor set cuts into profit very significantly.
No, see, I rejected that reasoning. A justification for creating bad questions cannot be "this raises our profit margin." Even if you refuse to lower your profit margin to provide a better experience for attending teams (which is frustrating) you have the option of raising the price, keeping your profits constant but allowing teams to get better questions.
square635 wrote:Secondly, the team and coach feel that housewriting a tournament is an opportunity for a learning experience, which also plays into the editing help.
"Plays into" how? You can't have a "learning experience" if no one's doing any effective teaching; anyone who helps edit this tournament could help teach you guys how to write more appropriate questions (and to construct them in a more appropriate manner).
square635 wrote:Thirdly, and I'm not sure everyone involved in the Centennial tournament would agree with me here, housewriting allows flexibility in terms of style and format (I know this is not always a good thing), and sometimes the homogeneity of vendor sets can get a bit stale.
Sure, that's true. That doesn't prevent you from writing a better housewrite with external advice or editing help or whatever; I'm sure we'd all be just as happy if this were a housewrite, just a better one.
square635 wrote:Finally, our coach does not like to have outside people involved in shouldering the load on questions because he believes it sets a dangerous precedent... this, at least, cannot be blamed on the students.
What kind of precedent?
square635 wrote:What I would suggest, rather than outright editing help on questions, would be a list of rules and guidelines with examples that the team members could read and try to follow. If those resources are already available, please link them here and I will personally make sure they are disseminated to the rest of the team.
Sure; here are some. More importantly, though, why not have someone there for oversight? That way they can say--at the least--"look, you're misconstruing rule 1.c.ii; you should do this differently," which is infinitely more helpful and leads to not much more interference. (Eventually, your team will internalize these guidelines and can pass them down from seniors to freshmen and won't need external help.)

http://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=3945
http://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=5222
http://www.acf-quizbowl.com/documents/subash.php
http://www.acf-quizbowl.com/documents/p ... philosophy
http://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=6909
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by square635 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 4:33 pm

No, see, I rejected that reasoning. A justification for creating bad questions cannot be "this raises our profit margin." Even if you refuse to lower your profit margin to provide a better experience for attending teams (which is frustrating) you have the option of raising the price, keeping your profits constant but allowing teams to get better questions.
No one is using that as a justification for creating bad questions, just as a justification for creating questions. Raising the price is probably not an option because we aren't exactly marketing to teams with extremely high budgets. If this were a tournament aimed at the top teams in the region, then sure, they would probably pay more if they felt it was worth it. I would say that "refusing to lower profit margin" should be rephrased to "want to be able to regularly attend other local Quiz Bowl tournaments."
"Plays into" how? You can't have a "learning experience" if no one's doing any effective teaching; anyone who helps edit this tournament could help teach you guys how to write more appropriate questions (and to construct them in a more appropriate manner).
I actually agree with you here, but teaching is different than just sending the questions to some external source and getting edited versions back. When I was at Centennial, we actually did hold a couple of practices, one of which was held by our college editor, specifically aimed to teach students how to write questions. Our questions that year were probably the best we've had, although they were still criticized (I believe that was the year that John Gilbert mentioned that was skewed toward the top teams). I would say that the lessons have not been passed on as effectively from upperclassmen to underclassmen as we would have hoped, so that's something I hope can be organized again this year. I see that that is also one of your suggestions, and it is one that I like. I don't have a ton of influence obviously, but I am guessing that I could organize something like that. The precedent that our coach is afraid of is that students will not learn how to write questions themselves. Of course, it may be argued that this needs improvement anyway. I must say, though, that besides the simply awful Croatan question, most of the concrete complaints I have seen have focused on questions outside of the canon and over-reliance on arcane classroom material, as opposed to question construction and mechanics. Hopefully this implies that the mistakes are ones that can be remedied without an extreme makeover. I think that this year students may have gotten too much rope as far as choosing topics within the question categories, thus leading to too much classroom material. In my senior year, rather than assigning, for example, five World History questions to someone, we first generated the set of answer choices to make sure there were no repeats and that everything was within canon, then assigned people to write questions for those specific answers. Of course, that year the response was that the questions were too short, easy, and sometimes non-pyramidal, when the previous year we had been told they were too long and difficult, with vague lead-in clues. I will look into the links you sent, and I'll see if I can put something together that I can present during my spring break. I'm sure some of my fellow alumni would also be glad to help, if the team is receptive.

Also, thank you Journey to the Planets for the ACF link.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by DumbJaques » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:34 pm

Ari, if you're referring to my posts when you cite condescending tones or nonconstructive criticism, I'd like you to point out specific things. I think the criticism I offered had a fair correlation to the things posted by the Centennial tournament director, and the general pattern of behavior, but because you're just launching into generalities, it's impossible for people to follow your arguments, or even know at whom they are directed. Actually, even if you're not talking about my posts, you should be specific about what/who you have in mind - doing so is not a personal attack, it's a necessary prequisite for a meaningful debate.

I mean, I get where you're coming from man, and you have a point that even by being just appropriately critical, we aren't going to convince Centennial to do things differently. But honestly, what else can we do? The best I can really hope for here is to make the correct arguments, and appropriately identify absurdity when it's posted by the TD or whatever (and defending your tournament with "whatever, take our crap questions and like it" is, as we've mutually agreed, absurd). That way it offers the maximum benefit for people who haven't been through these arguments before, and are open to logical argument from either side. If you think there's a way to get some collaboration going with the people actually running the Centennial program, that'd be super - as Matt most astutely points out, everyone here wants this tournament to do well! I know for a fact that college students who have offered to help out have been turned away in the past, and frankly the argument of wanting to get current players more experience is false; it's clear that basic principles of question writing - like identifying useful, buzzable information that's part of the high school canon - aren't being followed. And if you aren't doing that, it's not just hurting the teams playing the questions, but the player writing it as well. This is what I'm not sure if you're getting - writing a good question on, say, Babbit will put you in a great position to get most high school tossups on Babbit early. Writing a bad question on Babbit maybe teaches you enough to get it off the giveaway or close to it. Keep in mind that this is a purely realist (BRUUUUUUUUUCE) argument for writing good questions; there are lots of other reasons, from the selfish to the altruistic, to write good questions.

Based on what you've claimed about why it's supposedly (somewhat, if I read you correctly) reasonable for Centennial to be so dismissive of assistance, could you explain how having an experienced writer offering guidance and advice to the team would be in any way a negative? I'm not talking about bringing in other people to write questions, I'm talking about people (maybe just one person) working with the players to improve their own question-writing, even fitting within a Centennial-chosen tournament goal (very easy difficulty, relatively short questions, whatever). There are plenty of people who would be happy to do this, yet I see no interest in it from Centennial, and since the only person who's making reasonable posts on behalf of the team is you, it doesn't seem like any is forthcoming.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by square635 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:08 am

You know, I have to say that after rereading the thread, I hadn't realized that almost all of the posts that I objected to came AFTER Ana's post. Part of that was that I initially missed her post because it was edited/deleted, and I have to admit that I wasn't reading the thread in a vacuum. There have been plenty of criticisms, both constructive and not constructive, in the past, which I'm sure affected my mindset. Honestly, from what I can piece together from Ana's original post, she mostly deserved the specific response you gave her, although the ensuing dogpile soon turned to unrelated attacks (such as saying that Centennial has never responded to criticism, that the decision to make a 16-team playoff was purely selfish, that I am a "histrionic" soldier in an "alumni army", etc.) that were obviously false. I just think it is a mistake to think that there is only a single voice representing everyone at Centennial. I have actually received positive responses from some Centennial people who are following this thread, even if they aren't writing anything. At the same time, I wasn't at this tournament, so I don't feel I'm in a position to say that Ana and the rest of the current students did anything other than their best, which In my opinion seems to have been an admirable job. Jeff Amoros read at the tournament and said that the questions have generally improved, and I trust his judgment.

That said, with the graduation of several of the key organizers of this year's tournament, there is certainly potential for the tournament to move in a completely different direction next year. That is, of course, a double-edged sword, as the lack of a constant authoritative presence has likely affected the tournament's consistency from year-to-year. Even though it's been said that Centennial has not responded to criticism, I think for the most part history has shown that we've responded TOO much, swinging from one side to the other in alternating years.

I too am baffled as to why guidance and advice are regarded as negative. I don't know anything about the circumstances in which college students offering help have been previously turned down. It must have happened since I graduated three years ago. As I've said before, my younger brother will be a senior next year, and he is likely to have a heavy influence in the tournament organization (how much depends on the results of elections within the club at the end of the year). If help was turned down in the past due to pride or hubris from students, then I'm sure something can be worked out similar to what you suggest. If, as I suspect, the resistance is not coming from the Centennial students but from higher up, then college students (especially those who are not Centennial alumni) offering help will likely be turned down again. That doesn't mean that it can't occur, however. My older brother played Quiz Bowl at MIT (at least up until he graduated I think), and even though I didn't play in college, I've been around for a while between my own high school experience and my brothers'. For various reasons, in my case mostly related to time, we were negligibly involved with the tournament the last two years (except the coach's round, which my dad mostly writes and has us check through). But I know that I, at least, plan to be more involved this year, partially because of things I've read here, and partially because my younger brother probably can't ignore me very easily. I'm sure my older brother would also agree to help run a writing workshop for the students; he did it once before when I was still on the team, but he was inexplicably discouraged from helping in future years.

Hopefully, with our help (and the help of the community here if it is ultimately accepted), we can help the students fix the problems that have occurred and make the upcoming question set the best in our tournament's history. It probably won't end up being perfect, but I think the students do deserve some respect for at least working very hard to do the best they can. One thing I'd like to point out is that if there are other teams at Centennial's competitive level that are writing vastly superior housewritten tournaments, they are few and far between. Comparing this set to one written by Dunbar or Maggie Walker, let alone NAQT, is not very fair. The reason that so few tournaments are housewritten is because it takes a lot of work, and even then the resulting set usually has flaws and is met with criticism and scorn. Maybe when a team puts forth that effort -- as a necessity to stay on the local Quiz Bowl circuit, no less -- we should also recognize what was done well in addition to making civil suggestions.
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Re: Centennial It's Academic Tournament (12/13)

Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:21 am

That's a very thoughtful reply. I'll add my name to the list of people willing to provide some help if asked.

I do want to make a note about your last point. I don't think it's necessarily more difficult for an "average" team (and btw, Centennial is usually around the top 10% in the country based on the ratings that exist, so don't sell them short) to write a good tournament than it is for a national championship contender. At the college level, I can name dozens of great players who write awful questions, and an equal number of average players who are among the best writers. As a counterpart to this point, I have found that writing good questions is by far the best way to get better at quizbowl, so you won't be an average team for long if you do it.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org

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