Giveaways

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Cheynem
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Giveaways

Post by Cheynem »

While playing through VCU Open, one mild complaint I had at times was that giveaways occasionally did not conform to my aesthetic conception of what giveaways should be. I will refrain from specific complaints until I have the set and it is cleared, but I wanted to start this thread to see what people think about giveaways. I personally think the art of writing a solid giveaway could stand to be better explicated and taught. In this thread, I'll outline a few points about what I think makes a good giveaway and then pose some questions for discussion.

I think a good giveaway does this:

*Does not resort to cheap ways to affect conversion, such as "which may remind you of" or "sounds like" or "should not be confused with." These "cutesy" ways of writing giveaways are generally and rightfully derided by good quizbowl nowadays and are rarely a problem aside from odd portions of NAQT questions.

*Does not assume that the question has already been answered before it. This sounds obvious, but I've seen a number of very perfunctory giveaways in tournaments that seemingly assume most players have either already answered the question or are sitting on it and are waiting for just one more buzzword. To give a made up-example, "For 10 points, name this guy who created Nick Carraway" is not a good giveaway for Fitzgerald. While most quizbowlers probably are aware that this is the protagonist from The Great Gatsby, I see no harm in just saying "The Great Gatsby" in the giveaway (perhaps this does not apply on harder level questions, which I'll get to at the end).

*Is written pyramidally. Again, sounds obvious, but sometimes in writing a question's giveaway, it's tempting to just slap a quick explanation or phrase on there without really breaking down how the question pyramidally plays out to people who need the giveaway to answer the question. Authors should take time to consider--"Hmm, should I say the protagonist before the author?" Even though it might be easy to say "For 10 points, name this Salman Rushdie work about _____," sometimes this may result in a mild case of anti pyramidality.

*Does not penalize people for waiting to the end. Let me explain this. There are certain questions in which for the uninitiated or those who have to wait, the question actually becomes HARDER after the giveaway. A number of these are the "accept ____" before mentioned" questions, which sometimes obviously are needed, but sometimes I feel just make things harder for people. An example might be one on Louis the Spider King, in which someone waiting to the end realizes it's the Spider King, but bam, the question says "Spider King" and while it was acceptable before that, now you can't say that anymore. I'm not a fan of those questions.

*Does not necessarily need to be a laundry list. While I appreciate a solidly explained giveaway, there are some questions that feature extraordinarily long giveaways. A tossup on author does not need to mention four titles or works in the giveaway, generally speaking, for example.

Here are some aesthetic questions that I have:

*How "giveaway" should giveaways be? At some levels (ACF Nats, Chicago Open, etc.), it seems reasonable to assume that giveaways can be a little less charitable. I believe that regular difficulty or below questions and even Nats to an extent should be fairly comprehensive in a giveaway (i.e., give the most notable works of an author even if the question is primarily not on those works). How much is too much?

*How much of a giveaway should be after the "for 10 points"? There are a few questions that use the minimalist strategy in this regard, in which you get the "For 10 points, name this conflict between two European powers" or something like that. These are generally derided nowadays, but there is still a gradation at work here--should any of the giveaway portion be before "for 10 points"?
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

I'm a fan of generous giveaways that tell you the most famous thing about the answer. It's just not a good idea to have tossups go dead.

I'm OK with a little cuteness too. The first time I wrote a tossup on Transylvania, I used the giveaway "FTP, name this region of Romania not actually home to Count Dracula" and the second time I wrote a tossup on Transylvania I used "FTP, name this region of Romania associated with vampires". I feel this is less awkward and more likely to result in conversion than "FTP, name this north-western region of Romania".
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Mike Bentley »

I don't really see giveaway as different from any other clue in the question. They should reveal more information than the clue before them, but they ideally shouldn't drop off a cliff, either. If that means you've written a hard tossup on F. Scott Fitzgerald where very few teams are buzzing before the FTP, it's not a great idea to end with just "FTP, name this author of the Great Gatsby" in my opinion. If, instead, the last few clues in the tossup were along the lines of "This author of Tender is the Night also wrote about Nick Carraway and residents of West Egg, FTP," then it's perfectly fine to have that sort of giveaway. Otherwise you're just going to get buzzer races, and I'd rather have lower conversion than matches coming down to who is fastest to identify Great Gatsby.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by cvdwightw »

I agree with Mike Bentley. A giveaway should be treated just like any normal clue - it shouldn't be the place to put a giant difficulty cliff, which is what happens in a lot of poorly-constructed tossups (5-6 lines of hard stuff, a line of hard-middle clues, and an easy giveaway). Tossups on inherently "harder" answers, or "lower-level" answers at "lower-level" tournaments, should have very easy giveaways. Tossups on inherently "easier" answers at higher-level tournaments should have a giveaway that might be a late-middle clue at an easier tournament, unless you're already tapering down that pyramid pretty fast before FTP. Sure, dead tossups are the bane of any good tournament, but also consider that every tossup that comes down to a buzzer race turns into a speedcheck tossup at the point of the buzzer race, and that obelisk/Eiffel tossups end up doing that in many more rooms than well-constructed tossups.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

I think Mike's first question, regarding how easy the giveaway should be, is important for us to consider. For example, in my recent writing of questions for Sun n Fun, I've been trying to keep in mind that at the (hoped-for!) Valencia mirror in Orlando, at least half the teams will comprise CC players, and at least in Valencia's case, very inexperienced CC players (the starters of last year having moved on). Thus, I tried to make some easy giveaways (after the "FTP," which in many cases appears in the middle of the last sentence), sometimes by using definitions or metaphors to help those who might be completely unfamiliar with the question answer to have a guess at it. A hypothetical (and bad) example might be something like, "FTP name this brief poem, the title of which evokes a farm implement one might use to move manure."

I can imagine that this would be considered bad form by some experienced players and/or at more competitive sites, as it could be considered cutesy or rewarding of non-content knowledge. But I'd rather see some matches between newbie teams exceed 50-30 outcomes. And I'm with Bruce in that minor amounts of cutesiness are not necessarily terrible if used sparingly and with judiciousness; the stronger players should answer before such a clue comes up, and if they haven't, well, the buzzer race is on.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Nicklausse/Muse »

I agree with Bentley and would also like to add that giveaways along the lines of "Name this thing whose name translates to X" are abominable.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Cheynem »

Sometimes metaphors work as giveaways, sometimes they don't. As long as they don't get too torturous, I'm okay with it, if they help in jogging someone's memory rather than just spoon feeding them an answer line (like I answered tossups at ACF Nats on Shoemakers Holiday by hearing "special day for cobblers" and Germanicus by hearing "name refers to area by the Rhine" because those helped me apparently dredge up those titles from my psyche, but neither I guess truly shoot the answers at you in a way that rewards no knowledge).
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Re: Giveaways

Post by cchiego »

Please avoid using some absurdly simple binary at the end of a question like a geography TU that ends with both teams going "huh" until they hear the last word- the capitol, and a mad buzzer race ensues. If they can't figure out the country based on very obvious location clues, then don't reward them for simple memorization. Find a more creative way to end the question instead.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by DumbJaques »

Please avoid using some absurdly simple binary at the end of a question like a geography TU that ends with both teams going "huh" until they hear the last word- the capitol, and a mad buzzer race ensues. If they can't figure out the country based on very obvious location clues, then don't reward them for simple memorization. Find a more creative way to end the question instead.
I disagree pretty strongly with this. Never mind the subjective definition of "obvious" here (which is "obvious to the presumed geography enthusiast who has just spent 30 minutes reading about the answer"), you're basically saying that "if people can't get it from these geography clues I judge to be easy, than they don't deserve to get it from an easier geography clue." That's what giveaways are for, man! A capital happens to be the logical giveaway clue for almost all country tossups, but it's not because people memorize lists, it's because it's usually the most basic geography fact about a given country. Why would you hold back that piece of information - if you're talking about two other cities in Botswana or some shit, I sure hope you wouldn't neglect to mention the one city in the country people might marginally have a chance of knowing just because you don't want to reward simple memorization.

I mean, think of the implications of what you're saying here - this is like saying that you shouldn't give (to use a previous example) Fitzgerald at the end of a tossup on The Great Gatsby. This is contrary to the entire concept of the giveaway. The one valid argument I see here is that it sucks when geography tossups come down to who can buzz in first as the capital is spit out by the moderator at the end of the question. But the solution to this problem is for people to stop writing such shitty geography tossups - we'd never be having a discussion over whether saying Fitzgerald at the end would cause 90% of rooms to buzzerrace at the end or whatever. Stop writing tossups on countries that nobody knows balls about - I'm sorry people, but some countries have just not done much with themselves and do not need to be immortalized in your 18 line tossups (9 lines on rural airports!). Stop putting in boring clues about provinces and random towns/rock groupings in Africa that nobody will ever convert. If you've written a geography tossup on a country, and you're concerned that it won't be answered before the last word in upwards of 50% of the rooms, reevaluate the life choices that have led you to know the name of the commuter train serving western Suriname. This stuff is certainly aggravating, but I don't think it's at all a result of the giveaway issues Mike raises in this thread.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Cheynem »

What I take from Chris C. and Chris R. is the basic idea that "Don't write an absurdly hard or dumb tossup, then throw in an easy giveaway and expect it to be mo' better." I would say country tossups should indeed feature the capital as a giveaway, which may indeed incite buzzer races among teams who just don't know much about a country's geography (this sometimes happens with all giveaways), but ideally, a tossup should gradate knowledge so someone who even knows a little bit about the country will be buzzing before the capital.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by grapesmoker »

DumbJaques wrote:I disagree pretty strongly with this. Never mind the subjective definition of "obvious" here (which is "obvious to the presumed geography enthusiast who has just spent 30 minutes reading about the answer"), you're basically saying that "if people can't get it from these geography clues I judge to be easy, than they don't deserve to get it from an easier geography clue." That's what giveaways are for, man! A capital happens to be the logical giveaway clue for almost all country tossups, but it's not because people memorize lists, it's because it's usually the most basic geography fact about a given country. Why would you hold back that piece of information - if you're talking about two other cities in Botswana or some shit, I sure hope you wouldn't neglect to mention the one city in the country people might marginally have a chance of knowing just because you don't want to reward simple memorization.
Yeah, this is very correct. At the end of the question, the only reason to be coy is if you're trying to write a really hard tossup for some reason. Otherwise, just give the most well known fact.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by cchiego »

The one valid argument I see here is that it sucks when geography tossups come down to who can buzz in first as the capital is spit out by the moderator at the end of the question. But the solution to this problem is for people to stop writing such shitty geography tossups
See that's the problem- many teams, particularly at the high school level, only have such binary knowledge and no matter what excellent clues I use earlier in the question, won't be able to buzz before the capital because they know nothing about the country other than the capital. I wish I had quantitative evidence to back this up, but from my personal experience this happens far too often.

The author analogy doesn't work because authors usually have more than one work. For instance, let's say Hemingway novels. There isn't a one-to-one match between Hemingway and one particular book. Thus, to get a TU on a "Hemingway" giveaway, you either have to guess correctly out of several possibilities or actually recognize the clues that went before hand. Similarly, for chemical reactions, there isn't a an easily accessible list of one-to-one match between one giveaway word and a single reaction. My argument here is that geography, particularly capitols/countries, is uniquely vulnerable in a way that other areas aren't and that questions should be written to avoid that.

For a surprisingly high number of countries, the capital becomes an enormous difficulty cliff. Let's say I did write a TU on, say, Malawi. I'd have plenty of clues in there about various ethnic groups, rivers, perhaps a cultural tradition or two (they have several interesting democratic innovations), etc. For the final line I'd probably say:

"Bordering Lake Nyasa, for 10 points identify this African country also bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia."

That to me is much more fair and rewards knowledge more than adding "has a capital at Llongwe" at the end because it makes people figure out where it is based on geographic knowledge and not on a simple word association. This is similar to ending a TU on the "Pig War" with "named after a namesake animal" rather than "named after a namesake animal that oinks."
Stop writing tossups on countries that nobody knows balls about - I'm sorry people, but some countries have just not done much with themselves and do not need to be immortalized in your 18 line tossups (9 lines on rural airports!). Stop putting in boring clues about provinces and random towns/rock groupings in Africa that nobody will ever convert. If you've written a geography tossup on a country, and you're concerned that it won't be answered before the last word in upwards of 50% of the rooms, reevaluate the life choices that have led you to know the name of the commuter train serving western Suriname.
While I appreciate the sentiment here to write on important things, this is something that should apply to the entire QB canon in general, not just geography. Yet plenty of TUs about not-that-important novels, works of art, pieces of music, etc. proliferate, particularly at the upper end of the canon. It's just that geography, particularly countries/capitols, has a unique binary match list unlike other areas of the canon. I try to write geography (like I did for VCU Open) that had interesting, relevant clues rather than lists of names of unimportant things- but I (and many geologists/geographers too) consider some rock groupings in Africa to be extremely important and interesting, so I will include them as early clues in a question and then add more well-known things. In the end, I believe it to be better for a TU to go dead (as many questions from other areas often do) than to add a needless buzzer race off a cutesy word association or binary giveaway at the end.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by grapesmoker »

Stop trying to be all clever about it. Giveaways are just that, giveaways. They are meant to be the easiest legitimate clues (that would exclude such things as "sounds like," and so forth from being used) from which one can get the answer. That's all; there's no need for a grand theory of giveaways that operates on 5 different levels of knowledge. This isn't some complicated technical point, it's just a matter of realizing that most of the time an answered tossup is better than an unanswered one. If it triggers a buzzer race, well, them's the breaks; it means two teams had equivalent knowledge and one of them will win the race and that's ok.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas »

Swank diet wrote:That to me is much more fair and rewards knowledge more than adding "has a capital at Llongwe" at the end because it makes people figure out where it is based on geographic knowledge and not on a simple word association. This is similar to ending a TU on the "Pig War" with "named after a namesake animal" rather than "named after a namesake animal that oinks."
False parallel! Even if a capital is not your idea of "geographical knowledge," it is "real knowledge," although whatever the hell that last thing even means is unclear. I mean, the actual equivalent would be a geo tossup on Turkey where you end with "FTP, name this country that shares its name with something that gobbles." That's word association.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Charbroil »

Swank diet wrote:Let's say I did write a TU on, say, Malawi...
Isn't that the issue here--that you're writing a high school tossup on Malawi?
Swank diet wrote:Yet plenty of TUs about not-that-important novels, works of art, pieces of music, etc. proliferate, particularly at the upper end of the canon.
I would say that this is a false parallel (as Isaac mentioned)--just like you wouldn't write a tossup on something which high schoolers (or whatever your target audience is) only know one thing about, you shouldn't write questions on countries which people only know one thing about--in this case, the capital.

Besides, on a broader point, why do you think that knowing capitals isn't knowledge worth rewarding, or that it's some form of binary association to be uniquely penalized? I imagine everyone gets questions (I'd suspect, a fairly large number of questions) on topics that they don't know terribly much about via binary association; why is binary association of capitals with countries uniquely wrong, in that case?
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Re: Giveaways

Post by Ras superfamily »

I don't feel like binary association is a terrible way of answering a question on the giveaway, as long as there are no difficulty cliffs as has already been mentioned.
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Re: Giveaways

Post by cvdwightw »

Charbroil wrote:
Swank Diet wrote:Yet plenty of TUs about not-that-important novels, works of art, pieces of music, etc. proliferate, particularly at the upper end of the canon.
I would say that this is a false parallel (as Isaac mentioned)--just like you wouldn't write a tossup on something which high schoolers (or whatever your target audience is) only know one thing about, you shouldn't write questions on countries which people only know one thing about--in this case, the capital.
Um, this has absolutely nothing to do with what Chris is saying. Everyone who's been playing quizbowl for more than a couple of years (and some people who have played less than that) has a favorite "underrepresented" and "overrepresented" part of the canon. Chris is equating "Malawi" with, say, "William Dean Howells." What Chris is arguing is that there are plenty of things that aren't all that notable in the "real world" or the "academic world" or whatever non-quizbowl world you're using as your basis for significance. The difference is that with most of those things, the easiest possible giveaway clue is still too hard for most of the field, because that answer's importance within quizbowl is so inflated that only people who have been around quizbowl for a while have a good chance of answering the question. With countries of equal less-importance, the easiest possible giveaway clue is not, in fact, too hard for the field, because a significant portion of the field comes with country-capital associations that they learned wherever. I think Chris is arguing (and correct me if I'm totally mischaracterizing it) that the same standards should apply to geography as apply to other fields - "Stop writing on countries that no one knows balls about" should equally apply to "Stop writing on authors/battles/concepts/etc. that no one knows balls about," and the reason that it doesn't happen is because geography has a large enough low-level canon and a small enough packet allotment that the "trickle-down effect" is far less salient in geography. Think about it - for topics like World Literature or Social Science or Chemistry, we expect there to be 1/1 per packet and there ain't 1/1 per packet that's accessible before FTP at the lower levels. So we start filling packet sets with things that the target audience maybe knows one thing about, and no one really complains because hey, those tossups are getting converted (hopefully) and we're filling a tough distribution to fill; eventually, those new answers become so widespread that now practically everyone who's played a set in the past six months can pull the answer before FTP and we pretend that those answers are now "part of the canon" at that lower level, even though most new teams are still going to get the answer after FTP if they get it at all. We do the same with geography - for which we expect there to be no more than 1/1 per packet and there are plenty of important countries, cities, bodies of water, etc. with which to fill that distribution - and people complain because we write on "too hard" stuff when there was easy enough stuff to write about.

The divisive point that Chris brings up is, "Is it better to have a buzzer race between two teams that know exactly one thing about the answer, thus turning 6+ lines of clues into a massive speedcheck, or is it better to require some slightly higher level of knowledge (in this case, knowledge that could be gleaned by looking at a basic map) and allow the tossup to go dead in rooms where teams don't have that level of knowledge?". I think there are two schools of thought here. The first - held by Jerry and most other people in quizbowl - holds that an answered tossup is infinitely preferable to an unanswered one, and that the writer should therefore define the threshold of knowledge necessary to answer the question based on the minimal level of knowledge that a low-level team might reasonably have. The second - held by Chris, I guess, Mike Bentley, I'm not sure who else - holds that the ability of a team to answer the question should be dependent on whether or not the team meets some a priori threshold of knowledge, and that the writer therefore should not lower that threshold of knowledge for the sake of allowing more teams to answer the question.
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