HI 2010 Discussion

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HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:19 pm

I'd like to thank my co-writers Ted Gioia, Bruce Arthur, and Dallas Simons. I'd also like to thank Shantanu Jha, who came late to the party but ended up writing a lot of questions for us. Other contributors included George Berry and Auroni Gupta.

I'd like to personally thank my playtesters, chief among them being Surya, Lily, Susan, Mehdi, and Nate. They gave fantastic feedback on a wide variety of the science; many of the demerits of the science were concentrated in questions that I had no time to show them.

I'd like to give special thanks to Shantanu, Dallas, George, and Ted for all their hard work the night before the tournament. George in particular was instrumental in putting Bruce's question in Google docs; Shantanu (with some contributions from me, Auroni, and George) made a tournament's worth of social science appear in what seemed to be a day.

I think my writing still isn't great at this difficulty level. That said, I think this year's science represents a marked improvement over last year's. There were certainly some clues in physics and other science that ought to be criticized for excessive reliance on named things (or for not meaning much), and certainly for other issues; I hope they didn't befoul anyone's playing experience too much. I tried to do interesting, new things in biology and chemistry both; I hope they were appreciated (and I hope that people perceived my questions as less impossible).

That's all I have to say; discuss away!
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:52 pm

Is this set posted or will it be soon?
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:52 pm

Just now sent it to George.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:05 pm

I am back in the United States and accepting feedback; I wrote most of the History, Religion, and Trash.

One thing that I've heard already are complaints that tossup length was inconsistent. This is probably my fault. I'm currently going through a minimalist phase where I like to write shorter tossups. I had a lot of 6-liners in the set. This didn't stand out as an issue to me when I submitted my questions, but when I looked at the final packets it was really obvious that my tossups were way shorter than the rest.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:33 pm

I'd also be curious to hear from teams as to why they DIDN'T attend the tournament. This was held at the same time as FICHTE was last year, but got only a fraction of the teams that FICHTE got. I'm curious as to why.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:55 pm

Whig's Boson wrote:I'd also be curious to hear from teams as to why they DIDN'T attend the tournament. This was held at the same time as FICHTE was last year, but got only a fraction of the teams that FICHTE got. I'm curious as to why.
I might have gone if there was a west coast mirror or midwest mirror at a location more convenient to get to than Urbana.

In general I think the larger problem is "quizbowl fatigue" which has afflicted a lot of tournaments this year. The big events (ACF Fall, SCT, Penn Bowl) have been successful in attracting a large number of teams, but the relative glut of regular tournaments have seemed to sap a lot of fields of their strength. I think in some sense teams feel "there's always a tournament every weekend" so they don't make any special effort to get to any of them.

Also, March is just a kind of crappy time to host a tournament. Pretty much every weekend in March is going to be part of some school's spring break, and schools on the quarter system have trouble sending teams pretty much all month because of finals.

Finally, I'm sure there are some teams that aren't coming because they think HI is too hard for them compared to FICHTE. This can be partially attributed to the long-standing notion that NAQT is easier than ACF (perhaps due to people remembering playing on DII questions or the shortness of the questions) and also partially attributed to how insane HI was last year.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:36 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:I'm sure there are some teams that aren't coming because they think HI is too hard for them compared to FICHTE.
They would not be wrong. There were lots of questions at this tournament that were just really fucking hard, including bonuses that featured basically 3 impossible parts. If this is the kind of tournament that HI wants to be (something I'll discuss at greater length later), no one should be surprised that only the hardest-core teams show up.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Windows ME » Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:52 pm

Whig's Boson wrote:I'd also be curious to hear from teams as to why they DIDN'T attend the tournament. This was held at the same time as FICHTE was last year, but got only a fraction of the teams that FICHTE got. I'm curious as to why.
For what it's worth Toronto (+ Will N) was extremely close to sending a team to the Harvard site but a last minute non-quizbowl conflict came up.

Kind of disappointed that the consensus for this tournament was that it wasn't that good. Would make me hesitant to come to non-ACF events in the U.S. in the future :(
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:55 pm

I mean, the consensus so far has been Jerry posting twice, so it's a consensus of one. Not to say that the set was without its issues, but I think there were some very good questions in this set.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:22 pm

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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:27 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I mean, the consensus so far has been Jerry posting twice, so it's a consensus of one. Not to say that the set was without its issues, but I think there were some very good questions in this set.
There were certainly some very good questions in this set. There were also a lot of questions that seemed rather poorly conceived, a few that were just poorly executed, and several others that were coming from left field and left you wondering what the hell was going on here.

I'm not trying to condemn this tournament wholesale or anything like that. Perhaps my biggest problem with this set aside from some issues having to do with the science questions was just how uneven it was. It seemed to me that no one had a really firm grasp of what kind of set this was supposed to be and what audience it was for. On the one hand, it seemed to be a set that was trying to explore a lot of new territory that wasn't necessarily being covered by other sets. I saw that in the literature and arts, where there were questions on Giambologna, van Ruisdael, Vile Bodies, and so on. On the other hand, large parts of this set (mostly the tossups) would not have been out of place in a high school tournament. I'm not sure what really easy questions on Marius are doing in the same tournament as a tossup on Harihara I, but whatever it is it probably shouldn't be happening.

For me, this tournament was just basically a confusing experience. If you want to write a tournament that breaks new ground, great; if you want to do a back-to-basics kind of thing (of the sort I think we did with Regionals), that's also fine. But the way in which this tournament mixed those things made it really frustrating to play at times and it was obvious that there was no real unifying vision of what HI was supposed to be about. I think if there had been such a level of coordination HI would have probably ended up a lot better than it was.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:39 pm

grapesmoker wrote:On the other hand, large parts of this set (mostly the tossups) would not have been out of place in a high school tournament.
I don't really have any investment in this tournament, nor am i siding with any camp here, but i can say that after looking through Rounds 1 to 3 so far, this statement doesn't really seem to be true to me. There seem to be very few "easy" tossups at all (with whatever nebulous gauge of difficulty we're using now), at the most just as 15-20% of the tossups, and even these "easy" answers appeared to be written in such a way that there were no "easy" clues given until somewhere around the FTP mark, i.e. they're done with the "hard tossups on easy answers" sort of way that some of us like and some of us don't.

I will agree that there were things asked about that were way way harder than other questions, and that this variance seems a little more extreme in these sets i've looked at so far than in other tournaments... so perhaps the point about this tournament lacking a direction or identity may be partially accurate.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:41 pm

I think you're right. I think a lack of coordination has been endemic to Harvard-produced sets in the past (both HFTs I've been in charge of; last year's HI) and that's all on me, as notional head editor of each of those. That's something I'm going to try to work on a lot.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by olsb25 » Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:53 pm

Just to say, this is the kind of tournament we would have loved (or at least I) to attend, but we were on spring break, and in any case I've spent the whole weekend doing Buzzerfest things.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by setht » Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:09 am

grapesmoker wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I mean, the consensus so far has been Jerry posting twice, so it's a consensus of one. Not to say that the set was without its issues, but I think there were some very good questions in this set.
There were certainly some very good questions in this set. There were also a lot of questions that seemed rather poorly conceived, a few that were just poorly executed, and several others that were coming from left field and left you wondering what the hell was going on here.
...
Perhaps my biggest problem with this set aside from some issues having to do with the science questions was just how uneven it was.
I'll go ahead and double Jerry's consensus on these points.

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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by fleurdelivre » Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:11 am

Whig's Boson wrote:I'd also be curious to hear from teams as to why they DIDN'T attend the tournament. This was held at the same time as FICHTE was last year, but got only a fraction of the teams that FICHTE got. I'm curious as to why.
Just a second. How is it that you wanted more teams at this tournament? How would we have run it? And whose idea was it to schedule the thing for our own break, anyway?

Also, because the general trend has been so good, I almost wonder if this is just a comparative slip-up rather than a return to the unhappy old days, but there were a number of small-but-confusing proofing errors ("he won he lost battle x but he won battle y," for example) which by late in the day really helped me trip over my tongue.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:26 am

Well, there were certainly some things that disappointed me in the physics that I wrote, and I think I'd learn a lot (and perhaps people reading would too) from specific discussion thereof. For example, I wasn't terribly happy with my tossup on convection; fairly quickly it became "this mode of heat transfer that is mediated by fluids." I'm not sure how to write a better one; how should I have improved it? Similarly, the curl tossup (classified as other science, actually) fairly quickly became "this operator you would have reason to apply to a magnetic field."

While I think I removed many unjustified eponym clues from tossups, I did suffer from insignificant third parts in bonuses. (One that jumps to mind is the clock model, which, while (from what I read to write that bonus) of some historical importance, isn't used today for anything and isn't even important for understanding the Ising model.).
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:30 am

The copy editing on this set was atrocious. Incomplete sentences (see the Irrawaddy tossup), the clue Katy cited, and there are more. Then again, this is merely another statistic in the endemic of tournaments being completed last-minute.

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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:23 am

setht wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I mean, the consensus so far has been Jerry posting twice, so it's a consensus of one. Not to say that the set was without its issues, but I think there were some very good questions in this set.
There were certainly some very good questions in this set. There were also a lot of questions that seemed rather poorly conceived, a few that were just poorly executed, and several others that were coming from left field and left you wondering what the hell was going on here.
...
Perhaps my biggest problem with this set aside from some issues having to do with the science questions was just how uneven it was.
I'll go ahead and double Jerry's consensus on these points.

-Seth
I'll agree here as well. A few more specific comments:
There were more physical geography questions in this set than in the rest of the sets I've played this year combined. I enjoy those questions, and think that knowing the locations of countries and important features in them is very important, but playing a set full of them felt weird after a year of hearing almost none.

A lot of the questions in science seemed very vague about what they were asking for. There were two that I think I remember well enough to comment on before looking through the set. The tossup on reaction rate started with what sounded like a catalyst particle, and said that "this quantity" depended on how filled up the sites on it were. I learned about how to model the steps of a reaction on catalyst particles in class on Thursday, but spent a line or two deciding that the question was referring to this and that the rate was the only "quantity" likely to be relevant to the situation.
The tossup on titanium gave a clue pretty early about how "its trichloride is used to make polypropylene." I assume this is trying to refer to Ziegler-Natta catalysts without naming them, but that is a really poor description. First, it isn't hard to make polypropylene with no catalyst whatsoever, and the important thing with Ziegler-Nattas is that they make the polypropylene usable (if formed from no catalyst you will get atactic polypropylene, which think is just a really viscous liquid and can't crystallize). Second, I'm pretty sure the same clue can apply to vanadium, so only QB fame would lead to anything other than a 50/50 chance at buzzing here.
Both of these questions gave clues on things I know, but weren't clear enough to make me immediately buzz, confident with my answer. Clues should allow you to buzz when you understand them, not let you buzz after thinking through the probability that it refers to what you think it does.

Finally, Trash. First, I was somewhat surprised to see it, since this tournament was advertised as "Fake ACF," and ACF Nats is not going to have any. Second, I don't know it. I've moderated trash tournaments in the past, and I think I would average about 3 tossups per tournament in them. However, I 30'd two different trash bonuses without much difficulty yesterday in a tournament where the best I could hope for on anything else was 20. The bonus on Coach K, Sarkisian, and Ferentz was especially bad, since it asks for coaches of recently successful teams in major sports at major universities. The one on Milwaukee Bucks players and that guy who skipped college to play in Israel was obviously written in the day or two before the tournament, since Tyler quit his team in the last few days. If you are going to have trash at a tournament, you shouldn't have a team not very good at it get more 30s in it than the rest of the tournament combined.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:45 am

Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat wrote:A lot of the questions in science seemed very vague about what they were asking for. There were two that I think I remember well enough to comment on before looking through the set. The tossup on reaction rate started with what sounded like a catalyst particle, and said that "this quantity" depended on how filled up the sites on it were. I learned about how to model the steps of a reaction on catalyst particles in class on Thursday, but spent a line or two deciding that the question was referring to this and that the rate was the only "quantity" likely to be relevant to the situation.
Yeah; I'll can understand that. I think I gave too much weight to the sheer fact that surface chemistry never comes up in quizbowl. That said, if you can make the above inference, you know something about how chemistry works and deserves points--a clue quite like that just should have been a bit later.
The tossup on titanium gave a clue pretty early about how "its trichloride is used to make polypropylene." I assume this is trying to refer to Ziegler-Natta catalysts without naming them, but that is a really poor description. First, it isn't hard to make polypropylene with no catalyst whatsoever, and the important thing with Ziegler-Nattas is that they make the polypropylene usable (if formed from no catalyst you will get atactic polypropylene, which think is just a really viscous liquid and can't crystallize). Second, I'm pretty sure the same clue can apply to vanadium, so only QB fame would lead to anything other than a 50/50 chance at buzzing here.
Nah, if I were going to refer to Ziegler-Natta catalysts I wouldn't have done that--even the most quizbowl-famous ZN catalysts are aluminum-titanium anyway, right? So that would be terrible! I can't find it right now, but I think the polypropylene clue came from a paper that seemed novel enough. I think I may have cut a description of the mechanism (which would have given people some clue to what metal it was) for length, which was obviously a poor move.
Finally, Trash. First, I was somewhat surprised to see it, since this tournament was advertised as "Fake ACF," and ACF Nats is not going to have any.
The decision to omit trash from ACF Nationals was made long after a lot of questions were written for this tournament. Considering that the tremendous majority of the social science and geography were written the night before, I think the net benefit associated with not adding another 1/1 misc academic shouldn't be discounted.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:24 am

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: Considering that the tremendous majority of the social science and geography were written the night before
This really showed. These topics and history--none of which I'm good at but all of which at least one of my teammates at HI is good at--suffered significantly more than any other topic from weird answer choice or trends in answer choice, miserable copy editing, and difficulty variability.

Also, Wonderbread as a history tossup? I was positive it was trash until I was informed otherwise.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:38 am

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:Also, Wonderbread as a history tossup? I was positive it was trash until I was informed otherwise.
Yeah, this was a stupid idea. In general, I felt like much of the history for this tournament was typical "Bruce being Bruce." Oh look, another tossup on Hungarian things, how very Arthurian. Maybe that's just me, but I find this supremely annoying. At least make an effort not to include your favorite things in every tournament you write; every other writer does it. This is frustrating because I generally think Bruce is a pretty good writer and I've enjoyed his history and RMP sets, but I felt like a lot of this stuff was either simply lazy or overly indulgent.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:53 am

grapesmoker wrote:
Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:Also, Wonderbread as a history tossup? I was positive it was trash until I was informed otherwise.
Yeah, this was a stupid idea. In general, I felt like much of the history for this tournament was typical "Bruce being Bruce." Oh look, another tossup on Hungarian things, how very Arthurian. Maybe that's just me, but I find this supremely annoying. At least make an effort not to include your favorite things in every tournament you write; every other writer does it. This is frustrating because I generally think Bruce is a pretty good writer and I've enjoyed his history and RMP sets, but I felt like a lot of this stuff was either simply lazy or overly indulgent.
There was a strict 4:1 ratio of non-Eastern European to Eastern European history. Of these, there was exactly one tossup on Hungary, and it was on something I had never written a tossup on before. I don't think this is outrageous.

As for the answer choice, I consciously made an effort to do what magin calls "using the entire answer space". I wrote some tossups on easy things (e.g., Elizabeth I) and I wrote some tossups on hard things (e.g., Epistle to the Son of the Wolf). I think both kinds of tossups used early clues that challenged good teams and that would be out of place at a HS tournament.

My theoretical basis for doing this was two-fold:
(1) To ensure that if any non-top teams played this tournament, they would get a few tossups
(2) To ensure that you couldn't just Westbrook-rig this set and say "well, this is a type of x, and this is a hard tournament, so let's just buzz in with the most obscure type of x".

I do this "using the whole answer space" thing at most of the tournaments I write, including last year's HI and especially at EuroFest. It has generally been well-received by critics.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:57 am

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: Considering that the tremendous majority of the social science and geography were written the night before
This really showed. These topics and history--none of which I'm good at but all of which at least one of my teammates at HI is good at--suffered significantly more than any other topic from weird answer choice or trends in answer choice, miserable copy editing, and difficulty variability.

Also, Wonderbread as a history tossup? I was positive it was trash until I was informed otherwise.
I also consciously tried to be creative with a lot of the history answer choices, especially in US and World history. Hence, the social history tossup on "Wonder Bread", the tossup on Al Capone, the bonus on flappers, the Incan social history bonus, etc. Privately, I've gotten some good feedback on that, and I thought it was fairly similar to some of the critically well-received things I did at July Crisis.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:01 am

As for the identity of this tournament, I've always conceived of HI as being an "ACF Nationals Preparatory tournament" in the spirit and tradition of Manu Ginobili Open. Indeed, in this year's set I made a direct tribute to Manu, in the form of a bonus part on Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, which was a tossup answer at Manu.

That said, I do think (hope?) that it is possible for a difficult tournament to include some "hard questions on easy things" without becoming an abomination in the process.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by millionwaves » Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:57 am

Whig's Boson wrote:
Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: Considering that the tremendous majority of the social science and geography were written the night before
This really showed. These topics and history--none of which I'm good at but all of which at least one of my teammates at HI is good at--suffered significantly more than any other topic from weird answer choice or trends in answer choice, miserable copy editing, and difficulty variability.

Also, Wonderbread as a history tossup? I was positive it was trash until I was informed otherwise.
I also consciously tried to be creative with a lot of the history answer choices, especially in US and World history. Hence, the social history tossup on "Wonder Bread", the tossup on Al Capone, the bonus on flappers, the Incan social history bonus, etc. Privately, I've gotten some good feedback on that, and I thought it was fairly similar to some of the critically well-received things I did at July Crisis.
Yeah, I really liked the social history, but I didn't hear the Wonderbread tossup; I doubt I'd have had the same positive reaction to that one that I had to the flappers and Incan bonuses.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Ringil » Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:58 am

I personally thought the history was fine, if perhaps a bit easier than the rest of the tournament. I mostly got this impression because history tossups rarely went dead, unlike many other tossups in this tournament. However, that said, some of the easy answers you had didn't really have very difficult clues. For example, the already mentioned Marius tossup along with the tossup on Parnell (Killmainham really soon!). Most of the tossups on easy answers seemed to be pretty good though.

Furthermore, the history bonuses as a whole seemed easier than the other bonuses in this set. We managed to 30 some history bonuses, but never 30ed anything else but trash. This might just be an indication of our team's strengths, but I wonder if other teams felt the same.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:13 am

grapesmoker wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I mean, the consensus so far has been Jerry posting twice, so it's a consensus of one. Not to say that the set was without its issues, but I think there were some very good questions in this set.
For me, this tournament was just basically a confusing experience. If you want to write a tournament that breaks new ground, great; if you want to do a back-to-basics kind of thing (of the sort I think we did with Regionals), that's also fine. But the way in which this tournament mixed those things made it really frustrating to play at times and it was obvious that there was no real unifying vision of what HI was supposed to be about. I think if there had been such a level of coordination HI would have probably ended up a lot better than it was.
I agree with some of what Jerry says, but this paragraph offers a false dichotomy. Tournaments do not have to be "back to basics" or cutting edge, I think a tournament can be both. Like Bruce I tried to have a range of answers in the tournament. I think Jerry's characterization as the lit and arts as all challenging is misleading. I wrote many tossups on new, (hopefully) interesting things for HI, but wrote many more tossups on easy answers from the core academic canon such as Shakespeare, Beckett, Becky Sharp, Rilke, Joseph Conrad, Three Sisters, The Lion and the Jewel, etc etc. I also tried to find new ways of asking about core material such as tossups on Hickey from Iceman Cometh, Doctor Aziz from A Passage to India. And I tried to write most of my tossups on middle range subjects that might not be easy as Beckett but are a typical answer choice at a higher difficulty tournament. Having this range of answers in my categories was meant to deliberately create the confusing experience Jerry describes because I feel like it reduces transparency if you know a tossup could be on Shakespeare or A. R. Ammons. Basically it forces one to buzz when they actually know an answer and (hopefully) reduces guessing.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:05 am

Yeah, I actually enjoyed reading the literature at this tournament a lot more than I usually do reading tournaments precisely because of that element of variety. I think Jerry's "confusing experience" might be more a question of "this isn't even a hard tossup on an easy answer," and I wouldn't support that, but I don't think that happened in the lit--at least not that I noticed.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:11 am

Magister Ludi wrote:I agree with some of what Jerry says, but this paragraph offers a false dichotomy. Tournaments do not have to be "back to basics" or cutting edge, I think a tournament can be both.
I suspect this is a relevant aesthetic difference between us. I like tournaments that are uniform across the board not because I object to well-written tossups on Shakespeare of Becky Sharp but because it makes it a lot less confusing to play on Karl Popper tossups that begin with a thesis from one of his major works. Good questions are typically going to be fine; bad questions tend to stand out.
Like Bruce I tried to have a range of answers in the tournament. I think Jerry's characterization as the lit and arts as all challenging is misleading. I wrote many tossups on new, (hopefully) interesting things for HI, but wrote many more tossups on easy answers from the core academic canon such as Shakespeare, Beckett, Becky Sharp, Rilke, Joseph Conrad, Three Sisters, The Lion and the Jewel, etc etc. I also tried to find new ways of asking about core material such as tossups on Hickey from Iceman Cometh, Doctor Aziz from A Passage to India. And I tried to write most of my tossups on middle range subjects that might not be easy as Beckett but are a typical answer choice at a higher difficulty tournament.
I don't think I said it was all challenging. Obviously the questions you mention were lower in their difficulty.
Having this range of answers in my categories was meant to deliberately create the confusing experience Jerry describes because I feel like it reduces transparency if you know a tossup could be on Shakespeare or A. R. Ammons. Basically it forces one to buzz when they actually know an answer and (hopefully) reduces guessing.
I don't think this is a proper understanding of transparency; I have no idea how you can guess Ammons to be an answer from anything. I didn't think that transparency in the sense of being able to laterally reason your way to an answer was at all a problem with this tournament. The whole reason why I didn't like the unevenness had to do with the fact that I was hesitant to buzz even when I knew the answer because I wasn't sure that the answer wasn't going to be some other thing.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:37 am

Where early clues were too easy, this probably came from the fact that I underestimated how well-known a given clue was. When I wrote the Marius tossup I thought the first few clues were fairly obscure. And I don't even consider "Parnell" an easy answer choice.

I certainly didn't set out to write a tossup that a high schooler could have first-lined.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by suds1000 » Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:52 pm

Producing
Magister Ludi wrote:Having this range of answers in my categories was meant to deliberately create the confusing experience Jerry describes because I feel like it reduces transparency if you know a tossup could be on Shakespeare or A. R. Ammons. Basically it forces one to buzz when they actually know an answer and (hopefully) reduces guessing.
Disclaimer: I haven't actively played quizbowl in at least a couple of years, and I haven't played or even looked at this set.

While I like the idea of having questions that test the full difficulty range of the canon, it really affects playability, especially on tossups. Answering a tossup comes from a combination of knowledge, speed, and the ability to narrow down possible answers based on the clues given. However, the idea of narrowing down becomes much more difficult and confusing when the possible answer space for a given topic is expanded to include almost every possible answer in the space. To hear a tossup on something extremely difficult followed by, say, Shakespeare, really throws (at least) me off to a large extent, because as Jerry notes previously, it confuses the issue and makes buzzing that much more difficult. Consistent tossup difficulty across the board prevents this from happening and results in appropriate buzzes on clues that are known by the player, without his/her questioning, "Could this easy/hard thing really be the answer after the other answer was so hard/easy?"

It seems that the place to explore difficulty and answer space in the course of the tournament comes in the bonus, where the team has more time to think and really consider the full answer space, and where it's maybe okay to confuse them a little bit more since the team is working as a collective to come up with an answer. But the game emphasizes the value of a tossup so much that, to "mess with" a player while he/she is trying to get it while trying to deal with an inevitably-placed difficulty filter would likely be more detrimental (to a team with superior knowledge) than not. Just my two cents.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:14 pm

Hey-- in the hustle and bustle I forgot to acknowledge all the trash Jeff Geringer wrote for our tournament. It was a big help, believe me.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:27 pm

suds1000 wrote:Producing
Magister Ludi wrote:Having this range of answers in my categories was meant to deliberately create the confusing experience Jerry describes because I feel like it reduces transparency if you know a tossup could be on Shakespeare or A. R. Ammons. Basically it forces one to buzz when they actually know an answer and (hopefully) reduces guessing.
Disclaimer: I haven't actively played quizbowl in at least a couple of years, and I haven't played or even looked at this set.

While I like the idea of having questions that test the full difficulty range of the canon, it really affects playability, especially on tossups. Answering a tossup comes from a combination of knowledge, speed, and the ability to narrow down possible answers based on the clues given. However, the idea of narrowing down becomes much more difficult and confusing when the possible answer space for a given topic is expanded to include almost every possible answer in the space. To hear a tossup on something extremely difficult followed by, say, Shakespeare, really throws (at least) me off to a large extent, because as Jerry notes previously, it confuses the issue and makes buzzing that much more difficult. Consistent tossup difficulty across the board prevents this from happening and results in appropriate buzzes on clues that are known by the player, without his/her questioning, "Could this easy/hard thing really be the answer after the other answer was so hard/easy?"

It seems that the place to explore difficulty and answer space in the course of the tournament comes in the bonus, where the team has more time to think and really consider the full answer space, and where it's maybe okay to confuse them a little bit more since the team is working as a collective to come up with an answer. But the game emphasizes the value of a tossup so much that, to "mess with" a player while he/she is trying to get it while trying to deal with an inevitably-placed difficulty filter would likely be more detrimental (to a team with superior knowledge) than not. Just my two cents.
I dunno. This is coming from a pretty inexperienced player, but if every tossup in a Nationals-difficulty tournament were on the level of Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, I don't think we'd be testing knowledge in the right way. Shakespeare is so well-known because he's the most important poet in the English language: are we really going to exclude him from the canon at hard tournaments because including him makes heuristics harder to use? Moreover, are we not going to reward the guy who's read all of Shakespeare's sonnets since it's easier to reward the guy who knows the author of The House by the Medlar Tree? I'm not making any comments about the quality of questions in this specific set, but I would much rather play a game that rewards both deep knowledge of core subjects in addition to broad knowledge of the "canon" than one that only rewards the latter.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by magin » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:26 pm

Cantaloupe (disambiguation) wrote:
suds1000 wrote:Producing
Magister Ludi wrote:Having this range of answers in my categories was meant to deliberately create the confusing experience Jerry describes because I feel like it reduces transparency if you know a tossup could be on Shakespeare or A. R. Ammons. Basically it forces one to buzz when they actually know an answer and (hopefully) reduces guessing.
Disclaimer: I haven't actively played quizbowl in at least a couple of years, and I haven't played or even looked at this set.

While I like the idea of having questions that test the full difficulty range of the canon, it really affects playability, especially on tossups. Answering a tossup comes from a combination of knowledge, speed, and the ability to narrow down possible answers based on the clues given. However, the idea of narrowing down becomes much more difficult and confusing when the possible answer space for a given topic is expanded to include almost every possible answer in the space. To hear a tossup on something extremely difficult followed by, say, Shakespeare, really throws (at least) me off to a large extent, because as Jerry notes previously, it confuses the issue and makes buzzing that much more difficult. Consistent tossup difficulty across the board prevents this from happening and results in appropriate buzzes on clues that are known by the player, without his/her questioning, "Could this easy/hard thing really be the answer after the other answer was so hard/easy?"

It seems that the place to explore difficulty and answer space in the course of the tournament comes in the bonus, where the team has more time to think and really consider the full answer space, and where it's maybe okay to confuse them a little bit more since the team is working as a collective to come up with an answer. But the game emphasizes the value of a tossup so much that, to "mess with" a player while he/she is trying to get it while trying to deal with an inevitably-placed difficulty filter would likely be more detrimental (to a team with superior knowledge) than not. Just my two cents.
I dunno. This is coming from a pretty inexperienced player, but if every tossup in a Nationals-difficulty tournament were on the level of Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, I don't think we'd be testing knowledge in the right way. Shakespeare is so well-known because he's the most important poet in the English language: are we really going to exclude him from the canon at hard tournaments because including him makes heuristics harder to use? Moreover, are we not going to reward the guy who's read all of Shakespeare's sonnets since it's easier to reward the guy who knows the author of The House by the Medlar Tree? I'm not making any comments about the quality of questions in this specific set, but I would much rather play a game that rewards both deep knowledge of core subjects in addition to broad knowledge of the "canon" than one that only rewards the latter.
I wholeheartedly agree with Matt. The problem at this level comes not when tossup answers are not of uniform difficulty (although writing on a bunch of impossibly hard tossup answers along with more reasonable ones is a poor idea that will frustrate players), but when the difficulty of clues in different tossups is unreasonably not uniform. For instance, if a 9-line tossup on Howard Hanson with extremely difficult clues appears next to a 6-line tossup on Hamlet that mentions very well-known clues in the second or third line, players will become confused about the tournament's difficulty. I think that it's most ideal for the clues in each tossup to have a reasonably uniform difficulty (obviously, there will be fluctuations, but comparing the difficulty of first clues of each tossup to one another, then the second clues in each tossup to one another, and so on should yield reasonably similar percentages where people buzz).

I really liked this tournament's tossups on the fourteenth amendment and general relativity (I'm no scientist, but I liked the way it asked about an important theory), and I think those tossups were better at testing knowledge than, say, the tossup on Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, which I'm skeptical that more than a scant few quizbowlers actually know anything meaningful about (although it seems important to Baha'i).
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:51 am

I guess I'll say my piece about what I was trying to do with this tournament and what I feel other upper difficulty tournaments should aspire to. HI is probably the last tournament I'll ever write (certainly the last one I'll write for a while). Accordingly that gave me a certain creative liberty to try some things maybe I wouldn't have done if I was more concerned with community approval. First of all I tried to write a number of questions on core academic material and was willing to spend ninety minutes to write that good Becky Sharp or Beethoven's piano sonatas tossup. Writers need to take the time to write good questions on well-known works rather than a quick and easy tossup on the latest Murakami novel. Sudheer is embarrassingly wrong to claim a Shakespeare tossup using clues from his sonnets is out of place at a hard tournament. I think many recent difficult tournaments (especially last year's MO and CO) featured disappointing answer choices and accordingly I tried to mix it up by writing on some easier topics in slightly different ways such as a lot of character tossups and other things such as the question on the Sartoris family. It is accepted practice that subject area tournaments need to have a range of difficulty in answers especially easy answers, but somehow this consensus hasn't seeped into harder tournaments. Also I tried to experiment with bonuses on literary aspects of major books (the Glass Menagerie bonus with the third part asking for "blowing out candles") and aspects of major works of classical music (the Eroica bonus asking for what instruments play different parts of the symphony). I feel like these bonuses are extensions of the kind of bonus I discussed in the Penn Bowl thread earlier this year. But at the same time we can't have a tournament consisting only of Anna Karenina tossups so I wrote my fair share of silly questions on Bessie Head or Steve Reich. I tried to keep much of the tournament within the standard canon of upper difficulty tournaments but simply included some easier and harder answers to reward different kinds of knowledge.

But my second major point falls in line with something Andrew Hart discussed in an earlier thread about the community's unilateral antagonism towards hard tossup answers. Sometimes people react too negatively to hard tossups. I don't mean that people should write lots of hard tossups or that someone should be able to justify any question because they claim it is important. Rather I think it is appropriate for experts to write some tossups on under exposed subjects that they know well, especially if that will help improve the canon. For example, I wrote a question on Elizabeth Bishop's collection Questions of Travel. I did this because I felt that the community had a skewed perspective of Bishop's poetry, maybe someone has read "One Art" (maybe even "The Fish" if they're a real go-getter) and think they know Bishop. Yet Bishop's real contribution and legacy to poetry is best exemplified by Questions of Travel. Essentially it was an attempt to correct the canon. So I think there is a value about asking questions on Questions of Travel or A. R. Ammons, because they are the important influences on contemporary poetry and the poets being taught in classes. Or the bonus on English professors whose third part was the New Yorker critic James Wood. If you follow contemporary literary culture at all you will be familiar with Wood because he is the most polarizing current critic who pretty much divides all the major contemporary literary figures into two camps. I think this is the kind of knowledge that quizbowl should try to reward and encourage. Basically, I think there are many valid kinds of real knowledge about books and arts and I think a range of difficulty in tossup choices is critical for rewarding them. Accordingly I tried to craft my portion of HI with this goal in mind.
grapesmoker wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:I agree with some of what Jerry says, but this paragraph offers a false dichotomy. Tournaments do not have to be "back to basics" or cutting edge, I think a tournament can be both.
Having this range of answers in my categories was meant to deliberately create the confusing experience Jerry describes because I feel like it reduces transparency if you know a tossup could be on Shakespeare or A. R. Ammons. Basically it forces one to buzz when they actually know an answer and (hopefully) reduces guessing.
I don't think this is a proper understanding of transparency; I have no idea how you can guess Ammons to be an answer from anything. I didn't think that transparency in the sense of being able to laterally reason your way to an answer was at all a problem with this tournament. The whole reason why I didn't like the unevenness had to do with the fact that I was hesitant to buzz even when I knew the answer because I wasn't sure that the answer wasn't going to be some other thing.
But this comment isn't a criticism of the questions, but a statement about your playing style. If you had problems with a clue being too vague to enable you to buzz with confidence then that strikes me as a valid concern. But, if you just didn't buzz because you thought it was too easy then I don't sympathize with your concerns. If I'm listening to a question and I hear the clue: This poet wrote about "Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang." I wouldn't say to myself, "Well that is a line from Shakespeare yet that strikes me as too easy for this tournament, so I won't buzz." I think having a range of difficulty for tossup answer choices for harder tournaments is important for the reasons I explained above and I'm completely unmoved by Jerry's or Sudheer's complaints. I don't really care about critiques essentially boiling down to, "Whoa, there was a tossup on Vile Bodies and Three Sisters in the same packet, how will I ever get a feel for this tournament!?!" I'm interested in hearing comments on the content of the questions.

EDIT: typos
Last edited by Magister Ludi on Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:47 am

I actually sort of agree with Ted here. I enjoy tournaments, especially when they are open tournaments and not national championships, mix the kinds of questions they use. I remember at CO last year I answered a tossup and a guy from the other team said in disbelief "Why is [relatively easy answer] being tossed up at CO?" which is not a productive attitude in my opinion.

I will say that if you're going to mix and match the difficulty of answer lines, care must be made so that this remains consistent throughout the distribution (i.e., if your history or literature writer is putting in some "easy" tossups, but your science person isn't, that leads to problems--I am not saying HI did this because I haven't seen many packets). Subject tournaments do not have this problem because being all of one subject, it does not matter per se that there are easy and hard tossups. In the aforementioned hypothetical example, a deep science person has an advantage in the game.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:05 am

I'll break my dogmatic silence on events I've played recently to say that I agree pretty strongly with what Ted's saying and I think that his areas were the best of the tournament. His two main points are dead on in substance: one should engage with a range of answers down from the maximum, even/especially if that blows up some heuristic play styles and one shouldn't be too afraid to innovate some. As Ted himself notes, the former becomes a big issue when questions are too vague to answer from knowledge, but I didn't think that was the case in Ted's areas.
My one beef (that anyone can do anything about: I guess I can't conscionably ask writers to stop pretty much completely missing things I've read!) was that I thought Ted's answers a bit too characteristic of their writer. Even on that head, they were less at fault than the questions of the other major contributors to this event and I didn't think they suffered too badly for it, again both in an absolute sense and relative to the questions of other writers . Also, even that's a prima facie impression of whose accuracy I'm unsure.

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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:50 am

It's weird that it seems we're having this discussion about the literature questions, which really weren't the target of my complaint at all. Maybe I'm just more confident playing/buzzing on literature than other areas, but I really didn't feel that there was much that confused me in that category. I'm referring to categories that Ted had nothing to do with, and I think my position that having questions on hard things mixed with not-very-hard questions on easier things makes for an annoying experience. Maybe this just means that those easier questions were problematic, I don't know. I didn't have any trouble buzzing on that Conrad question but the tossup on Popper left me very confused, and it's not like I know vastly more about the former than the latter. So sure, it looks like Ted pulled off his balancing act pretty well, but the tournament as a whole did not.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by setht » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:20 am

Magister Ludi wrote:But my second major point falls in line with something Andrew Hart discussed in an earlier thread about the community's unilateral antagonism towards hard tossup answers. Sometimes people react too negatively to hard tossups. I don't mean that people should write lots of hard tossups or that someone should be able to justify any question because they claim it is important. Rather I think it is appropriate for experts to write some tossups on under exposed subjects that they know well, especially if that will help improve the canon. For example, I wrote a question on Elizabeth Bishop's collection Questions of Travel. I did this because I felt that the community had a skewed perspective of Bishop's poetry, maybe someone has read "One Art" (maybe even "The Fish" if they're a real go-getter) and think they know Bishop. Yet Bishop's real contribution and legacy to poetry is best exemplified by Questions of Travel. Essentially it was an attempt to correct the canon. So I think there is a value about asking questions on Questions of Travel or A. R. Ammons, because they are the important influences on contemporary poetry and the poets being taught in classes. Or the bonus on English professors whose third part was the New Yorker critic James Wood. If you follow contemporary literary culture at all you will be familiar with Wood because he is the most polarizing current critic who pretty much divides all the major contemporary literary figures into two camps. I think this is the kind of knowledge that quizbowl should try to reward and encourage. Basically, I think there are many valid kinds of real knowledge about books and arts and I think a range of difficulty in tossup choices is critical for rewarding them. Accordingly I tried to craft my portion of HI with this goal in mind.
My problem with how Ted's writing played out in practice is that I think he went overboard on selecting canon-correcting tossup answers that would have been better-used as early clues/hard bonus parts. In order to effect change in the canon is it really necessary to write a tossup on Questions of Travel as opposed to a tossup on Elizabeth Bishop that spends a large chunk of the question talking about Questions of Travel? The latter tossup can be written to reward the few players that have a proper understanding of Bishop's poetry*, then there can be a transition where the rest of the field gets a whack at answering the tossup. When we're talking about something like 10-20% of the field being capable of buzzing with Questions of Travel (and I think we are), and when there were rounds with several tossups like Questions of Travel (and I think there were), I think we're talking about a tournament that is seemingly more concerned with ramming canon-correcting material down people's throats than with providing good, competitive matches. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with such tournaments (e.g. vanity events, which plenty of people enjoy), but I thought HI was supposed to be Nationals prep, which to me means "this tournament is about competing" ahead of "this tournament is about learning." I think it's great that Ted wants to reward "many valid kinds of real knowledge about books and arts," but I very much disagree with his claim that "a range of difficulty in tossup choices is critical for rewarding them"--it seems to me that sprinkling in non-canonical "real knowledge" material in hard tossup clues and hard bonus parts can do the job just fine.

Moving on: I don't think the mix of very hard and very easy answers caused problems for me in deciding when to buzz. What did cause problems for me were hopelessly vague descriptions and out-and-out lies. This isn't a tossup, but consider the following:
HI 2010 Round 5, Bonus 2, second part wrote:[10] The plasma parameter, capital lambda, represents this quantity. It must be greater than one for a substance to qualify as a plasma.
ANSWER: the number of particles with which a particle interacts [prompt on the number of particles nearer than a Debye screening length to a given particle; accept equivalents]
I believe this is wrong in at least two ways, on top of being vague about what it's asking for.

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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:43 am

Yeah, I will readily admit to trying sort of heterodox ideas for bonus prompts and sometimes totally failing. That's a good example of, well, that.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:28 pm

I think it's fine to mix in tossup answers of varying difficulties (as all tournaments do already) as long as you write and edit your questions properly so people aren't tempted to try to lateral out an answer. Since this tournament didn't appear to be edited at all, but rather was a jarring Frankenstein's monster of different distributional areas sewn together at the last minute with no coordination as to style or difficulty across writers, the lack of difficulty consistency provided yet more incentive to neg or sit on a buzz. The aforementioned Karl Popper question, which seemed engineered to be ungettable by anyone at all pre-FTP even if they have read Popper, is a weird thing to see alongside a Dmitry Donskoi question where basically every clue is "this medieval Russian fought Mongols at a river." Donskoi is, if anything, a harder answer than Popper in itself, but the way the clues were selected and arranged made the Popper question vastly more difficult to buzz on and the two questions completely unworkable in the same event.

This problem was even more pronounced in the bonuses. For some reason these questions have been replaced in the posted packets, but my team actually played a game at this "fake ACF Nationals" where our opponents were asked who painted the Ghent Altarpiece, and in the next bonus, which was ours, the "easy part" was on medieval Bulgaria's Asen Dynasty. This is prima facie evidence of the shortcomings of some of the practices used in constructing this tournament, such as letting people lord over their distributional areas without having a clear understanding of the tournament's overall difficulty goals, or "editors" of tournaments spending infinity hours reading their supra-Nationals science questions to high schoolers in IRC instead of using that time on something productive such as actually editing the tournament, or finishing the questions of your co-writers so that you aren't begging for anyone at all to write things the night before the event.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:28 pm

setht wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:But my second major point falls in line with something Andrew Hart discussed in an earlier thread about the community's unilateral antagonism towards hard tossup answers. Sometimes people react too negatively to hard tossups. I don't mean that people should write lots of hard tossups or that someone should be able to justify any question because they claim it is important. Rather I think it is appropriate for experts to write some tossups on under exposed subjects that they know well, especially if that will help improve the canon. For example, I wrote a question on Elizabeth Bishop's collection Questions of Travel. I did this because I felt that the community had a skewed perspective of Bishop's poetry, maybe someone has read "One Art" (maybe even "The Fish" if they're a real go-getter) and think they know Bishop. Yet Bishop's real contribution and legacy to poetry is best exemplified by Questions of Travel. Essentially it was an attempt to correct the canon. So I think there is a value about asking questions on Questions of Travel or A. R. Ammons, because they are the important influences on contemporary poetry and the poets being taught in classes. Or the bonus on English professors whose third part was the New Yorker critic James Wood. If you follow contemporary literary culture at all you will be familiar with Wood because he is the most polarizing current critic who pretty much divides all the major contemporary literary figures into two camps. I think this is the kind of knowledge that quizbowl should try to reward and encourage. Basically, I think there are many valid kinds of real knowledge about books and arts and I think a range of difficulty in tossup choices is critical for rewarding them. Accordingly I tried to craft my portion of HI with this goal in mind.
My problem with how Ted's writing played out in practice is that I think he went overboard on selecting canon-correcting tossup answers that would have been better-used as early clues/hard bonus parts. In order to effect change in the canon is it really necessary to write a tossup on Questions of Travel as opposed to a tossup on Elizabeth Bishop that spends a large chunk of the question talking about Questions of Travel? The latter tossup can be written to reward the few players that have a proper understanding of Bishop's poetry*, then there can be a transition where the rest of the field gets a whack at answering the tossup. When we're talking about something like 10-20% of the field being capable of buzzing with Questions of Travel (and I think we are), and when there were rounds with several tossups like Questions of Travel (and I think there were), I think we're talking about a tournament that is seemingly more concerned with ramming canon-correcting material down people's throats than with providing good, competitive matches. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with such tournaments (e.g. vanity events, which plenty of people enjoy), but I thought HI was supposed to be Nationals prep, which to me means "this tournament is about competing" ahead of "this tournament is about learning." I think it's great that Ted wants to reward "many valid kinds of real knowledge about books and arts," but I very much disagree with his claim that "a range of difficulty in tossup choices is critical for rewarding them"--it seems to me that sprinkling in non-canonical "real knowledge" material in hard tossup clues and hard bonus parts can do the job just fine.

Moving on: I don't think the mix of very hard and very easy answers caused problems for me in deciding when to buzz. What did cause problems for me were hopelessly vague descriptions and out-and-out lies. This isn't a tossup, but consider the following:
HI 2010 Round 5, Bonus 2, second part wrote:[10] The plasma parameter, capital lambda, represents this quantity. It must be greater than one for a substance to qualify as a plasma.
ANSWER: the number of particles with which a particle interacts [prompt on the number of particles nearer than a Debye screening length to a given particle; accept equivalents]
I believe this is wrong in at least two ways, on top of being vague about what it's asking for.

-Seth
I find Seth's response kind of silly because he just ignored my whole first paragraph, which is the crux of my point. If anything I was concerned about keeping my answers very canonical and writing many tossups on easier material hopefully in some slightly different ways. And then I balanced that with two or three tossups on harder "canon correcting" material. I feel like a few tossups per tournament on harder topics is acceptable if they are on important material.

If anything I think Seth's response is exactly the kind of misguided reaction to a few difficult questions that Andrew Hart was talking about in an earlier thread. People ignore the bulk of the tournament and rail against one or two overly difficult tossups that they hold up as the paradigm for the entire tournament. Honestly, I don't really want to have an argument about this issue; I just wanted to explain my writing philosophy before I bow out, but I had to respond to this post because it misinterpreted my writing into the opposite of what I was trying to promote.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:36 pm

Matt Weiner wrote: and in the next bonus, which was ours, the "easy part" was on medieval Bulgaria's Asen Dynasty.
To be fair, the easy part of this bonus was intended to be "Kaloyan the Romanslayer", who has come up at easy ACF tournaments.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:44 pm

A packet search for Kaloyan reveals he came up (always as a clue, never as an answer line) at CO History 2006, VCU Open 2008, J'Accuse 2005, CO 2006, and, yes, ACF Fall 2008. Granted, packet search isn't always reliable, but I don't know if this is as easy as you suggest it is.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:46 pm

It comes up all the time, dude. You just said so yourself.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:47 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:I think it's fine to mix in tossup answers of varying difficulties (as all tournaments do already) as long as you write and edit your questions properly so people aren't tempted to try to lateral out an answer. Since this tournament didn't appear to be edited at all, but rather was a jarring Frankenstein's monster of different distributional areas sewn together at the last minute with no coordination as to style or difficulty across writers, the lack of difficulty consistency provided yet more incentive to neg or sit on a buzz. The aforementioned Karl Popper question, which seemed engineered to be ungettable by anyone at all pre-FTP even if they have read Popper, is a weird thing to see alongside a Dmitry Donskoi question where basically every clue is "this medieval Russian fought Mongols at a river." Donskoi is, if anything, a harder answer than Popper in itself, but the way the clues were selected and arranged made the Popper question vastly more difficult to buzz on and the two questions completely unworkable in the same event.
I mean, in my room I'm pretty sure the buzz followed the description of The Self and Its Brain, whose main thesis I pretty much wrote into the question.
or "editors" of tournaments spending infinity hours reading their supra-Nationals science questions to high schoolers in IRC instead of using that time on something productive such as actually editing the tournament, or finishing the questions of your co-writers so that you aren't begging for anyone at all to write things the night before the event.
Last year the tournament lacked in playtesting. This year, it did not (and the playtesters included several college players, including noted person who knows things Susan Ferrari), so I was pretty sure I was doing something productive in reading those people questions. And, like, I didn't really understand the fact that writing a lot of social science was going to be my responsibility until the day or two before, so I don't really know when else I could have done that.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by magin » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:48 pm

I really liked what Ted (and Dallas) did with the literature questions at HI; a lot of them described incidents from novels/plays that were memorable and buzzable, and I enjoyed the poetry questions because they generally made an effort to describe and quote notable and interesting lines from poetry. I will say that the tossup on Questions of Travel seemed poor to me, since I knew immediately that it wanted an Elizabeth Bishop poetry collection, but could only pull the name "travel," not the full title, which I don't think really rewarded anyone's knowledge of Bishop at the tournament. I agree with Seth that a tossup on Bishop would have been converted much better; in this case, despite reading the complete poems of Elizabeth Bishop (http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Poems-19 ... 0374518173), I was unable to answer the tossup, and I doubt that anyone else answered it either. I like the idea of writing about important and underasked poetry, but I think asking about Bishop would have more accurately measured people's knowledge.

Also, I really liked that bonus on the Eroica symphony, especially the way it asked about notable instruments that people could know by listening to famous parts of the symphony. I think it did a much better job of rewarding classical music knowledge than, say, bonuses requiring super-obscure titles.
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by setht » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:51 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:I find Seth's response kind of silly because he just ignored my whole first paragraph, which is the crux of my point. If anything I was concerned about keeping my answers very canonical and writing many tossups on easier material hopefully in some slightly different ways. And then I balanced that with two or three tossups on harder "canon correcting" material. I feel like a few tossups per tournament on harder topics is acceptable if they are on important material.

If anything I think Seth's response is exactly the kind of misguided reaction to a few difficult questions that Andrew Hart was talking about in an earlier thread. People ignore the bulk of the tournament and rail against one or two overly difficult tossups that they hold up as the paradigm for the entire tournament. Honestly, I don't really want to have an argument about this issue; I just wanted to explain my writing philosophy before I bow out, but I had to respond to this post because it misinterpreted my writing into the opposite of what I was trying to promote.
You could be correct in claiming that you limited yourself to two or three tossups on harder "canon correcting" material--that certainly wasn't my impression of the literature and fine arts tossups in the set, but I could be wrong about that. Regardless, I think I am correct in claiming that there were some packets with several very hard tossup answers, not necessarily in literature and fine arts. Those tossups (again, not necessarily limited to literature and fine arts) do not represent the bulk of the tournament, but I think they represent a large-enough portion to be cause for concern, especially when coupled with variations in packet assembly.

-Seth
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Re: HI 2010 Discussion

Post by marnold » Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:00 pm

magin wrote: I will say that the tossup on Questions of Travel seemed poor to me, since I knew immediately that it wanted an Elizabeth Bishop poetry collection, but could only pull the name "travel," not the full title, which I don't think really rewarded anyone's knowledge of Bishop at the tournament. I agree with Seth that a tossup on Bishop would have been converted much better; in this case, despite reading the complete poems of Elizabeth Bishop (http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Poems-19 ... 0374518173), I was unable to answer the tossup, and I doubt that anyone else answered it either. I like the idea of writing about important and underasked poetry, but I think asking about Bishop would have more accurately measured people's knowledge.
I'm sorry, I just can't resist this. In the earlier discussion about Boll and St. Anthony's Abbey, Jerry and I said "these questions are annoying. We've read the work in question, remember a good deal of the real substance and even some of the words comprising the particular answer but not the exact name," to which Jonathan responded "if you don't remember names you don't deserve points." This post says "I've read the subject in question, remember a good deal of the real substance and even some of the words comprising the particular answer but not the exact name. DONDE ESTAN MIS PUNTOS!?!?"
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