Penn Bowl/Sword Bowl blew ass

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Penn Bowl/Sword Bowl blew ass

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:18 am

And Charlie Steinhice is a terrible editor.

I've played in quite a number of tournaments now, and without a doubt this was the worst set of questions I've ever had the displeasure of playing on. Really, hands-down worst. That other time, when those other questions were the worst? That was nothing. That was just a warmup to the soulcrushing, mind-obliterating crap that was served up to us at this event.

Let me just say first that I don't blame the Penn people at all. To the best of my knowledge, they didn't know any better. And they were nice folks who were really trying to keep the show running, even though I think about halfway through they realized what an unmitigated disaster every packet was. My public apologies to the one moderator I got mad at. I was stressed and angry; it was my problem, not yours.

I can't emphasize how bad this set was. It was like playing at a CBI event. These packets were objectively awful, by any measure of question quality. I encourage everyone to take a look at them just so you know what not to do.

Of course, some people will respond to my angry, sleep-deprived post by telling me that I should have expected as much, or that I'm an obnoxious asshole, or that I'm just bitter. Those people will be correct; I'm probably the type of guy that will club a baby seal with an endangered panda and then push a bus full of nuns off a cliff. And sure, I'm bitter, but who wouldn't be? And for the "I would have told you so" crowd, well, deep down inside, I knew this would happen. I suspected the questions would suck, but I managed to convince myself otherwise.

Why did I do it? See, I played on Penn Bowl questions in 2003 and 2004. And they weren't awful. They weren't great, but they weren't awful, and in 2004, I even enjoyed myself. I didn't play in 2005, but I got the impression that much of the problem resulted from the fact that Samer had dumped a lot of editing on people who weren't prepared for it. This year, Charlie Steinhice was supposed to be editing, and I thought, what the hell? Charlie's about a million years old, he's been around the circuit, he knows what to do and not to do; maybe he'll get it right. Anyway, he couldn't get too wrong, could he? Not with all the talk that's been going on lately about question quality and a whole thread about how not to write questions. Surely, I said to myself, he could at least hit mediocrity.

But no. You may not believe that anything could suck as much as Heinrich Bowl did this year. Well, believe it, o my brothers. This set was shittacular. It was like every point that I'd made in that question writing thread was taken and reversed, producing a set that consisted of 75% speed checks and giveaways in the first line, vague clues, useless clues, and plain wrong clues. It was like a whole smorgasbord of crapulence all concentrated in a single packet set. You may want examples; I have them:
  • I knew this was going to end poorly when the first tossup, to which the answer was Charlemagne, began with the words "This man's biographer, Einhard," or a very similarly-worded clue.
  • A tossup on the Venus de Milo began with the clue about its misattribution and the name of its sculptor, who is known for one thing only, the Venus de Milo.
  • A tossup on Foucault gave some vague clue followed by something like "this guy studied sex in history."
  • Edward Ferrars named in the first clue to "Sense and Sensibility."
  • The Intolerable Acts is apparently an "it," not a "them."
  • A tossup on Miller-Urey experiment beginning with a description of how gases were contained in an airtight vessel.
  • A question on Constable that started off talking about how he did some oil paintings and some other kind of paintings but art critics liked his smaller paintings more or some equally vague bullshit. Not one title; not a single clue that might have placed him in a particular time period or country.
  • A tossup on "Paradise Lost" that began with the clue quoting the first line.
There is so much of this I don't even know where to end. Virtually every question had something wrong with it. But wait, there's more! Endless shitty list bonuses on African capitals and bond hybridization (there must have been at least three). Bonuses that gave 30 points to anyone who was even remotely conscious after getting the tossup. Constant, and I mean constant repeats: material from earlier questions came up in every round during the second half of the day.

And I know exactly who to blame: the editor, Charlie Steinhice.

See, I don't hold it against Shorter College when they submit a packetload of crap. They don't know any better; it's an honest mistake. But an editor's job is to take the questions he got and turn them into something that can be played on in a tournament. Especially considering that a tournament like this will pull in probably around $2500 for UTC, a team, by the way, whose presence I have yet to see at any major nationals tournament. Where does that money go, guys? When you pull in that kind of cash, plus whatever mirroring fees you are charging, a little something, like, maybe, quality, is expected of you. Not the steaming pile of shit that you spit up on us. Especially if you know better, as someone who has been on the circuit for decades clearly should.

Now, I realize that some people will post and say that this was a novice-oriented tournament. I wish to preempt this argument by saying that none of this excuses the awful questions. Novices, as much as anyone, deserve to play on quality questions; perhaps this will serve as an example to everyone of how not to write. ACF Fall gave everyone an example of how a tournament could be accessible and still written well. I wouldn't expect a one-man-edited tournament to be as polished as ACF Fall, with its many editors was, but you can at least look to it for examples.

But from the appearance of this set, Charlie decided essentially to take all the awful stuff that was submitted and just pass it along without any editing whatsoever. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, he took the one quality packet that I submitted to him (granted, it was a little rough around the edges from the parts that my teammate wrote, but there were easily 20/20 usable questions in it) and merge it with an awful Georgia Tech packet (apparently Stephen Webb is also keen on ignoring question-writing criteria; after all, why make an effort when you don't have to?). Good job, chief. It wasn't enough to just pass unedited garbage along to the players; you had to fuck up a quality packet that I spent time writing. It's good to know you took the time to do that instead of, I don't know, EDITING THE GODDAMN QUESTIONS YOU GOT.

Why am I writing this? What do I hope to achieve with this screed, other than to potentially make myself a pariah by attacking someone who apparently "does so much for the game." Or so I've heard. Well, here's the thing: almost everything that I've ever played on that's come out of UTC tournaments has been at best sub-standard. Any good packets were the result of efforts by teams such as Kentucky and Florida; most other things were substandard. Last year, Matt Weiner, Eric Kwartler, and I edited the J'Accuse/BLaST/Moon Pie extravaganza that took place last spring. I'm not going to complain that I didn't see penny one of whatever money UTC made on Moon Pie that year because I never asked for anything. But it would have been nice, speaking strictly for myself, to have received at least a little recognition for taking part in the construction of what I am confident was the best Moon Pie in years. Just a mention in the results page. Just a brief note of thanks to three guys who worked quite hard to make your tournament work and didn't ask any money for it.

I brushed it off at the time, but this set gives me a more complete vision of what UTC does. UTC (and wherever I mention UTC I really mean Charlie, its public face) just sucks. Figuratively it sucks by producing a crappy product, and literally it sucks money and time from teams that play on its events. Given how terrible most of UTC's product is it the case that most teams in the Southeast really don't care and are happy to play of it (in which case you may be happier just going to CBI)?

I refuse to accept that Charlie didn't know what he was doing or that he doesn't know good questions from bad. I refuse to accept that a veteran of the circuit with his kind of seniority could remain ignorant of the changes the game has undergone in the last ten years or so. I can only come to the conclusion that knowing everything that has been written about question quality on this forum, he has chosen to ignore it.

And I'm fucking angry about it. And everyone who played on this set should be angry too. And that's my goal - to make people angry enough not to take this kind of shit anymore. Either you demand quality and vote for it with your money and time, or you will get the kind of crap that I played on today. We hold NAQT writers to a high standard for their work, and we complain vociferously when they don't meet that standard. ACF writers are held to an incredibly high standard, and when it was our turn to stand and deliver, we did, and made every effort to heed your suggestions, falling over ourselves to answer your questions. We hold invitationals to similarly high standards; witness Andrew's and Charles Meigs' comments on WIT and Technophobia. Why shouldn't we hold someone to as high a standard just because they're old? If anything, the standard has to be even higher.

Flame away. I will not regret this post in the morning.
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Post by MCDoug » Sun Jan 22, 2006 2:25 pm

I didn't think most of the questions were that bad. Granted, there were a few hoses here and there, and some had very easy leadins, but overall, I did not think the set was nearly as bad as you're claiming. Is it possible that Penn was edited differently than Sword?

--I do not remember hearing a single African capital bonus.*

--The Constable question starts with "Born in Suffolk" which narrows it to Constable or Gainsborough and goes on to tell how he painted by doing sketches outdoors and finished his paintings in his studio. I agree with the complaint that there was not a work mentioned until after the FTP. Someone on my team got it before the FTP line, so I guess it wasn't impossible to get early.

--The Miller-Urey I'll take full responsibility for. I wrote that one, and to be honest, I just heard about it a month or so ago and thought it was pretty cool. I didn't know that first line was common knowledge in the quizbowl cannon. My bad, I'm sorry.

--For the "Sense and Sensibility" tossup, Edward Ferrars isn't mentioned until the 3rd line. He most definately is not the first clue mentioned, he isn't even the first character mentioned.

But as long as people are complaining, I'll jump on the bandwagon. A lot of the bonuses had difficulty problems, like Jerry mentioned. Some were ridiculously easy 30s. I think a larger problem with some of the bonuses were that they were just too long and the first word to them made it clear what the answer was. Ex: Bonus 8 in the Vandy A/OU packet. (it's attributed to OU) It was basically 'Identify the Fitzgerald works from a "BRIEF" description.' Each part is a full 3 lines long and each starts with the main character, i.e. Dick Diver, Anthony Patch, and Amory Blaine. There is no need for 3 lines after stating the main character.

Like you said, and I echoed, some of the leadins were pretty bad. Ex: "Some have suggested that it is a yew to match the description in the Poetic Edda" This is the first line of tossup 5 in the UNC B/OU round (attrributed to OU). So the first clue is saying, "This norse tree..."?

Factual errors were also a problem at times. Ex: The Florence Cathedral tossup, which I believe is yours Jerry. "the design of this building was created in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio" when actually it was 1294, and this is confusing because a year or two after starting work on the Florence Cathedral he began work on Santa Croce. Also, Francesco Talenti didn't take over until 1351, not 1343.** I'm sure there were other factual errors and I may have even made a few, but I guess sometimes that happens.

The art balance was a little skewed towards the Italian Renaissance, around 30% of all the art tossups and bonuses were from that period.

I liked the questions for the most part and didn't think they were any better or any worse than any other UTC tournament that I've been to or read.

*--Upon looking through all of the packets, I found two bonuses which were name the capitals, bonus 17 from Maryland A and bonus 14 from UF B/UNC A, but Div. 1 never got to these packets at Sword.

**-- "The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance" by Peter Murray

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Re: Penn Bowl/Sword Bowl blew ass

Post by Kilby » Sun Jan 22, 2006 3:05 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Especially considering that a tournament like this will pull in probably around $2500 for UTC, a team, by the way, whose presence I have yet to see at any major nationals tournament.
Since I have been at UTC, we have played at the 2005 and 2002 NAQT ICT's. We showed up at the 2004 NAQT ICT as volunteers willing to play if a team didn't show up or assist in moderating/scorekeeping (we did the latter).

This year, UTC has sent teams to tournaments at UTK, Berry, Georgia Tech, Florida, and UGA. We plan on fielding teams at the upcoming NAQT Regionals at UGA and will be making one more distant trip (either to a Nationals event or other long-distance tournament like FUCT) as we do every year. I wanted to point this out just in case anyone got the impression from this comment that we only run tournaments to make money and not fund our team expenses.
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Post by grapesmoker » Sun Jan 22, 2006 6:24 pm

MCDoug wrote: Factual errors were also a problem at times. Ex: The Florence Cathedral tossup, which I believe is yours Jerry. "the design of this building was created in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio" when actually it was 1294, and this is confusing because a year or two after starting work on the Florence Cathedral he began work on Santa Croce. Also, Francesco Talenti didn't take over until 1351, not 1343.** I'm sure there were other factual errors and I may have even made a few, but I guess sometimes that happens.
Janson's History of Art, fourth edition, page 373 wrote: The original design, by the sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio, which dates from 1296 - about the same time construction was begun at Sta. Croce - is not known in detail; although somewhat smaller than the present building, it probably showed the same basic plan. The building as we know it, however, is based largely on a design by Francesco Talenti, who took over around 1343.
Those are the facts to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps Janson is wrong, but I would consider his book a reliable source. If you were misled by the dates, I'm sorry; but if your knowledge is that good, then the Talenti clue should have been enough.
Since I have been at UTC, we have played at the 2005 and 2002 NAQT ICT's. We showed up at the 2004 NAQT ICT as volunteers willing to play if a team didn't show up or assist in moderating/scorekeeping (we did the latter).
I stand corrected. I mistakenly only checked the DI attendance records. Still, you've gone to only three national events over the course of four years, one that you didn't even play at, and you haven't sent a DI team even to those events you did go to.
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Post by recfreq » Sun Jan 22, 2006 7:51 pm

MCDoug wrote:Factual errors were also a problem at times. Ex: The Florence Cathedral tossup, which I believe is yours Jerry. "the design of this building was created in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio" when actually it was 1294, and this is confusing because a year or two after starting work on the Florence Cathedral he began work on Santa Croce. Also, Francesco Talenti didn't take over until 1351, not 1343.
I think Janson may be a more credible source. According to Encyclopedia Britannica's article on Florence, the year is also 1296. Even dates, I think, can have no completely objective background, e.g. if a work of lit was written b/t 1202 and 1205, then mentioning any one of those years in between should be ok as long as you don't say "publish." It's probly not worth while to dissect these facts unless someone is off by a century, not to mention that dates are frequently not the best clues.

Regarding Sword Bowl, perhaps someone else has a better idea, but from my past experience (using last year's Sword Bowl for a novice tourney), the questions from that installment seemed ok, adequate--if barely so--for novices. I have no idea how more veteran players would have felt about it, other than the observation that some of our moderators didn't like it. I personally thought they were ok; I didn't remember anything particularly offensive, though depth was lacking. I haven't seen this year's set though.
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Post by mrsmiley4 » Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:03 pm

"Worst ever?" I think that's hyperbole. Certainly the editing had its flaws (most egregiously in the large number of repeats, which should be the easiest thing to fix in the editing process, as well as in the easy, EASY bonuses in many of the packets) but I thought that there were enough worthwhile questions to make it possible to overlook the awful ones to some extent.

Perhaps I am just spoiled after the debacle that was Penn Bowl 2005 ;)

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Post by ericblair » Sun Jan 22, 2006 9:38 pm

OH EMM GEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! COLLEGE QUIZ BOWL IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!!! REALLY!! IT IS!!!

I am so glad that grapesmoker didn't attack any of the questions that I submitted to the tournament. That would really break my heart. Really, it would. Seriously. Not kidding.
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Post by kelli » Sun Jan 22, 2006 9:50 pm

I definately would not call Sword the "worst ever" either. I thought the tournament was fine, with the most annoying problem being the bonus difficulty level being so varied. I was excited to get to leave by 8:30 (because of our 7 hour drive), which is earlier than I was expecting for things to end. Concerning the GT round, that actually was one of my favorites all day.

On a side note, the F. Cathedral plan definately was began in 1294, and Murray is considered one of the most reputable sources on Italian renaissance archtitecture, unlike Janson, which being a decent survey book, isn't an authority on the subject. Its really not a big deal, I wasn't stopped from answering correctly (maybe because I answered before most of the errors) , I just happened to notice the error and I think the point was more to say everyone makes mistakes. Since it was a junior-bird tournament, it was easy to see that no one was going to ask Sta. Croce as a TU.
Last edited by kelli on Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Kilby » Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:54 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Still, you've gone to only three national events over the course of four years, one that you didn't even play at, and you haven't sent a DI team even to those events you did go to.
As for the "one that [we] didn't even play at," we WANTED to play and came as a standby team because we didn't qualify. My apologies if showing up at a national tournament willing to either fill in for a missing team or volunteer our services promotes a negative image of our program.

The original reason you brought this up is because you wanted to know "where does that money go, guys?" In my reply, I listed five academic tournaments that UTC has attended since last fall as well as some of the tournaments we will be attending later this spring. I don't understand the point you are trying to make with your complaint about not fielding a DI team at every national championship. Please explain.
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Post by recfreq » Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:59 pm

kelli wrote:On a side note, the F. Cathedral plan definatly was begun in 1294, and Murray is considered one of the most reputable sources on Italian renaissance archtitecture, unlike Janson, which being a decent survey book, isn't an authority on the subject. Its really not a big deal, I wasn't impeaded from answering correctly (maybe because I answered before most of the errors) , I just happened to notice the error...
I don't think you can say definitely anything here; for every 1294 I can find a 1296 (e.g. http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings ... edral.html). The point is that whether it's an error is subject to debate. I personally would not call this a factual error. We need to be criticizing merits of questions, not one or two years in some obscure time line that you "happened to notice." Thanks for noticing, but I don't care.

My apologies if I'm off line. Peace.
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Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:08 am

ericblair wrote:OH EMM GEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! COLLEGE QUIZ BOWL IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!!! REALLY!! IT IS!!!

I am so glad that grapesmoker didn't attack any of the questions that I submitted to the tournament. That would really break my heart. Really, it would. Seriously. Not kidding.
Way to contribute to the discussion. I personally have been swayed to your position of making incoherent comments mocking participants in a discussion. Image.

Oh, and protip: you're mocking people for discussing quiz bowl on a quiz bowl forum. Last time I checked, that's rather frowned upon here and is grounds for a ban.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:46 am

I just read a few of the packets. Tip to writers: Wikipedia is not a good source for anything, but especially not for quizbowl questions. Even if it was, do not write your WHOLE packet out of Wikipedia, as it appears some teams did. Even if you do that, don't directly plagiarize choice phrases. And even if you do that, don't pick phrases that use complex words and awkward, non-quizbowl phrasing which make it supremely obvious that you plagiarized the question out of a fake encyclopedia and lead me to search Wikipedia and find out about it.
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Post by solonqb » Mon Jan 23, 2006 4:03 am

If you're going to use Wikipedia as a jumping-off point for writing questions, try clicking through the reference links and writing on the less obvious clues that arise there.

If the entry has no reference links, it's obviously not worth writing anything off of.
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Post by kelli » Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:42 am

I do call the several errors factual, but I don't think this is the appropriate place to have a debate over the provenance of the F.C., so I invite you to IM me or email me to continue the debate, if you like.

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Post by geekjohnson » Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:46 am

I am not very familar with how the packets should be, as this was my very first packet-submission tournament. The only thing I can comment on was the fact the the bonus difficulty was very inconsistent. I remember one round were my team had bonus's that we had no comprehension as to what they were talking about, while there were some that were insanely easy, such as the final one about Achilles, where the answers were "Achilles, Agamemnon, and Patroclus." I suppose our team needed to get the right toss-ups.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl » Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:50 pm

I'm loath to get involved in this thread, but it has provided me with an opportunity to point out a trend that is growing not in our game itself but in its attendant pieces (this board, most particularly): when did absolutely outraged, righteous indignation become a virtue? At the end of Jerry's original message, for example, he insists he will not regret what he has said; the fact that he says this and other earlier metacommentaries show that he's fully aware of the effect of his tone, even proud of it. Apparently, the suckiness of the packets for him means that outrage, profanity and personal insult are the proper response; he even calls for more of the same from more in the community.

I'm not going to get involved in any discussion of the packets, as I haven't seen them. But I have coached and/or played in many UTC-sponsored and edited tournaments, and of course I have had complaints sometimes. Sometimes I mentioned things to Charlie, and sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I mentioned things to a pack's author, and sometimes I didn't. But if you can forgive my show of empathy (which I somehow think many will read as weakness, sadly), I never thought to viciously attack someone publicly. Jerry will not be able to convince me it's constructive--he can argue that the things that outrage him continue even after more constructive attempts, but that just means that even more constructive attempts must be made. This game is not politics, it's not life and death. I don't say that to diminish it's importance--I take it VERY seriously, as anyone who knows me is aware, but unlike, say, fighting against a political move that you think will hurt your fellow man or yourself and deserves a tenacious if not vicious response, this game we play is recreational and optional.

I've known Charlie for nearly 20 years (if he's a million, as Jerry asserts, then I reckon I'm about 850,000), and one thing I can unequivocally say about him is that he's a nice guy who has made a lot of people love our game. He's as equally friendly to great players like Seth Kendall as to nobody freshmen from Valencia (something I can attest is not always so among great players, who often seem to act puzzled or displeased when casually spoken to by someone not of their "class" at a tournament, though I'm not sure if that's due to arrogance or lack of social skills). When I wrote some bonus parts back in the early 90s that had problems, Charlie contacted me before using them (anonymously, even) in a message with examples of how to fix some common errors (I hope Jerry's not having an aneurysm to hear that Charlie has offered question-writing advice in the past). This shows him to be a good guy, wanting to improve people but not humiliate them.

But I did say this is a trend: why do so many of our regularly posting, 19-24 year-old, usually excellent players write such dicky messages? Who is this helping? Do you actually believe that it's going to make players want to follow your advice?

Having said this, I've very briefly met Jerry, and he seems like an okay guy with a good sense of humor. And I'm willing to still think that. But I have a hard time thinking that bashing Charlie is going to change anything about him or his tournaments or the desire of Southern teams to attend them (hey, Valencia will be at Moon Pie once again, Charlie!). I'm sure Jerry and like-minded associates will avoid such tournaments. No sweat.

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Post by ericblair » Mon Jan 23, 2006 1:47 pm

leftsaidfred wrote:
ericblair wrote:OH EMM GEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! COLLEGE QUIZ BOWL IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!!! REALLY!! IT IS!!!

I am so glad that grapesmoker didn't attack any of the questions that I submitted to the tournament. That would really break my heart. Really, it would. Seriously. Not kidding.
Way to contribute to the discussion. I personally have been swayed to your position of making incoherent comments mocking participants in a discussion. Image.

Oh, and protip: you're mocking people for discussing quiz bowl on a quiz bowl forum. Last time I checked, that's rather frowned upon here and is grounds for a ban.
I don't want to be banned, of course, because I like to add to a thread occassionally. This guy, however, attacked Charlie (not so much the questions) in a terrible way. If it would've been an attack on the questions and "nice" advice to Charlie then it wouldn't have been so bad, but that's not the case. I don't think someone who treats another person like shit should be treated with respect.

MY INPUT TO THE THREAD: I thought the questions were okay. One thing that really peeves me, though, is when there are bonuses about obscure movies that maybe one percent of the U.S. (if that) has seen. Someone may be able to refresh my memory on this. There was a bonus on one particular old movie that was just mindboggling. Aren't the bonuses supposed to at least be answerable, especially by rather good teams? I mean, at least 10 points? That was my major dislike of the questions. Either folks should learn to write questions not so obscure or the editor should exclude such waste of packet space. I'd imagine that that bonus was meant to be a popular culture question, but where is the popularity?
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Post by NotBhan » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:33 pm

ericblair wrote: ... There was a bonus on one particular old movie that was just mindboggling. Aren't the bonuses supposed to at least be answerable, especially by rather good teams? I mean, at least 10 points? That was my major dislike of the questions. Either folks should learn to write questions not so obscure or the editor should exclude such waste of packet space ...
Absolutely no offense intended, and I don't know which movie it is, but the zero could just be from your team's unfamiliarity with an adequately "canonical" or "well-known" film. That's what I often find to be the case when a younger player mentions an "obscure" film. That said, if the bonus topic is a film (or book, etc) which much of the field might zero, the throwing of a bone by the question author would be a nice gesture. And highly variable bonus difficulty should indeed be avoided, which was the initial point.

And ditto on Chris's comments.

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Post by Nathan » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:36 pm

I've attended quite a few Charlie-run tournaments over the years. A couple thoughts:

1. Charlie is a good guy. I was one of several who nominated and voted for his receiving the Carper Award.

2. Charlie runs and hosts more tournaments than anyone else...he's also the best I've ever seen at making newbies feel welcome. I'm not sure there would be a southern qb circuit if it wasn't for him (there certainly wouldn't be much of one).

3. Yes, packet editing is not one of his strengths. I'll go further, he's simply not a good editor....(though to equate the tournaments he edits with CBI is a blatant exaggeration).

4. With that said, Jerry's attack was way out of line. That amount of vituperation was unseemly and immature.

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Post by STPickrell » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:38 pm

ericblair wrote:I'd imagine that that bonus was meant to be a popular culture question, but where is the popularity?
FWIW, in the VHSL series, we will include a question, every 3-4 matches, on pre-1950 or serious foreign film as "visual fine arts." Ditto for pre-1950 pop culture.

Applying this lesson to the "Audio fine arts" distribution.

Eurovision entrants = "pop culture".

Anne-Sophie Mutter = "audio fine arts" (and visual, too, but not for the VHSL distribution.)

I'm not sure where I'd put Linda Brava. But come to think of it, half the clues I'd use I couldn't use in the VHSL series.

OK, that being said.

What is easy for a very good player, is not so easy for everyone else. I'm not sure how much good is done if, in an eight-line question, the question is unanswerable for all but the top 3-4 teams of a 20-team tournament. So if a tossup is answered on Clue 1 by 20% of the rooms and lives until the giveaway for 20% of the rooms, then the tossup has done its job, IMO.

I've seen teams get 250-300 combined points in a VHSL match that other teams will get 350-400 points on. Presumably, some of the questions that go dead in the first match will get nailed after five words in the second match.

Good teams, by definition, get tossups early on clues that will leave less experienced or talented players flatfooted. I'll have to confess that many of the clues Jerry found self-evident and obvious and unworthy of being a leadin, I just wouldn't have gotten the tossup on.

Good luck to everyone at CBI/ACF/NAQT Regionals.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:40 pm

StPickrell wrote:
ericblair wrote: Eurovision entrants = "pop culture".
This should be cannonical:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 7632040140

I fully expect that to come up at ACF Nationals and ICT. I'll give ACF Regionals a pass because its so soon, but you NAQT folks see if you can get it into at least a third part bonus at SCT.
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Post by STPickrell » Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:46 pm

Hey, one more thing:

I am not seeing any posts of the results for Penn Bowl. Were they posted, and I just missed them in my increasing senility?
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Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:10 pm

ericblair wrote:I don't want to be banned, of course, because I like to add to a thread occassionally. This guy, however, attacked Charlie (not so much the questions) in a terrible way. If it would've been an attack on the questions and "nice" advice to Charlie then it wouldn't have been so bad, but that's not the case. I don't think someone who treats another person like shit should be treated with respect.
I think he attacked Charlie's job as an editor rather than anything personal towards Charlie or the questions. Regardless, your response was pretty amateurish despite your feelings regarding the statements made. Just respond next time with actual points and we're cool. :smile:

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Post by wwellington » Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:27 pm

UNC B won. Brown might've come in second, but I'm not entirely sure (Columbia B and Maryland A were the other two in the top four). We were sent the round robin stats, but I don't think anything's been posted.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 23, 2006 4:27 pm

So many birds. Good thing I've got one gigantic stone I'm going to fire out of my quizbowl cannon.

Let's begin, shall we?

First, to all those who claim that this is not the "worst ever" tournament, please not that I said "the worst in which I've played" not "the worst ever," although in my opinion it is easily in the running for that title. "Not worse than Penn Bowl 2005" is not an excuse, it just shows how apologists for terrible questions will scrape the bottom of the barrel to find something slightly more awful than the event of the last Saturday.
kelli wrote: On a side note, the F. Cathedral plan definately was began in 1294, and Murray is considered one of the most reputable sources on Italian renaissance archtitecture, unlike Janson, which being a decent survey book, isn't an authority on the subject. Its really not a big deal, I wasn't stopped from answering correctly (maybe because I answered before most of the errors) , I just happened to notice the error and I think the point was more to say everyone makes mistakes. Since it was a junior-bird tournament, it was easy to see that no one was going to ask Sta. Croce as a TU.
I'm going to address this comment because the origins of this dispute were from a statement made earlier by MCDoug regarding factual mistakes in questions. His point seemed to be that I make mistakes too in my questions. Well, there's no doubt about that, but this isn't one of them. You won't find a bigger advocate of researching questions properly than myself, but it would be absurd to demand that everyone write their questions straight out of works of primary scholarship and nowhere else. I used a reputable textbook that makes use of that primary scholarship. Neither I nor anyone else has time to look up Murray every time we want to verify a date to three decimal places. So quit with the tu quoque because there is no comparison between this "1294 vs. 1296" issue (if it is even an issue) and the actual mistakes (all of which could be corrected by reference to the most basic survey texts, not to mention even Wikipedia [more on that later]) that abounded in this question set.
kelli wrote: I thought the tournament was fine
By what standards are you judging this tournament? I'm judging it by the number of repeats, the number of mistakes, and the quality of the questions. It fails on all three grounds. This was a disaster even in comparison with the much-maligned Technophobia. Do you want more examples? I will be thrilled to provide them, now that I have the set in my possession.
Kilby wrote: The original reason you brought this up is because you wanted to know "where does that money go, guys?" In my reply, I listed five academic tournaments that UTC has attended since last fall as well as some of the tournaments we will be attending later this spring. I don't understand the point you are trying to make with your complaint about not fielding a DI team at every national championship. Please explain.
No, the original reason I brought it up was to illustrate how much your organization receives from the circuit and how little it puts back in. But I would be remiss in my criticism if I didn't have some numbers behind it; fortunately, the magic of the Internet allows me to get an order of magnitude estimate on how much money you took in versus how much you spent on tournaments. To wit:

During the summer and fall, UTC ran 7 tournaments. In calculating their gross take from each event, I made the generous assumption that no team actually paid the full entry fee, i.e. that every team got at least some sort of discount. I basically took either $20 off the base fee or the average between the base and the minimum fee, whichever seemed more plausible. I don't think that this assumption is actually true; I suspect most teams paid more than I assumed, but whatever, it's an order of magnitude caclculation anyway. Let's go:
  • Muck/Moc Masters - 11 teams total (one of the 12 was a hous team) at probably around $70 per team = $770
  • High school tournament - 21 teams at probably around $70 each = $1470 (feel free to correct me on that entry fee, I had no information as to what it was)
  • COTKU - 32 teams at $65 per team = $2080 (entry fee was average of base and min)
  • Big Lots - 7 teams at $70 each = $490
  • Trash Masters - 14 teams at $80 each = $1120
  • Trash Regionals Midsouth - 9 teams at $60 each = $540
  • Sword Bowl - 26 teams (stats are not available, I took the minimum of what Charlie posted as the field) at $80 each = $2080
For a grand total of $8550.

Now let's see how much you spent on tournaments:
  • Georgia's tournament - sent one team, no packet submission required, assuming $10 discount for travel and nothing else = $105
  • Georgia Tech's Heinrich Bowl - one team, no packet submission required, assuming $90 reg fee
  • Florida State's SSI - two teams, no packet submission required, assuming you bought questions = $210
  • ACF Fall at UTK - two teams, one packet submitted, one I'm not sure about, guessing total fee of about $200
The only thing missing from the above list is Berry's tournament. No results or fee structures could be found. I'll just assume that you sent two teams and spent $200; correct that figure if it's wrong. This gives us a rough total of $805, give or take $50 due to the fact that I don't know all the details.

So where does that leave us? Or rather you? It leaves you with a net profit of $7745 for just the fall of 2005. And, keep in mind that these are not tournaments that you run once a decade. COTKU, Sword Bowl, Trash Masters, a high school event, and at least one of ACF Fall, ACF Regionals, and NAQT SCT are permanent fixtures on the UTC calendar. Previous attendance records, though obviously fluctuating from year to year, show strong turnouts for both COTKU, Sword Bowl, Trash Masters, and Big Lots. Not only that, but you've got two more events in the spring, ACF Regionals and Moon Pie/RC Cola, which should easily bring in another $2000 combined, if past attendance records are any indication of future performance. You see more money in one semester than Berkeley did in almost two years. You could afford to travel to real tournaments that don't suck (unlike Heinrich Bowl) but you don't. You could afford to put a little bit more (well, a lot more) back into the circuit but you don't.

Of course, it's none of my business to tell you how to spend your money. Nevertheless, you bring in a lot and spend very little; this corresponds quite logically to the fact that you, unlike most schools, run far more tournaments than you attend. Fine. But, given the fact that you run some many tournaments, you should all be very experienced editors by now. After all, something like 50 packets probably pass through your collective hands in one semester. If you are taking in so much cash, the onus is on you to provide a really good tournament. At least, the onus is on you to provide a tournament that doesn't suck. You didn't do that and I'm calling it like I see it. If you were a cash-strapped program that started up two years ago and had no idea what was what, I would gripe a little and then give you the benefit of the doubt. But you're not. You are a long-standing program with a coach who has literally decades of experience in the game. There's just no excuse in those circumstances.
I am not very familar with how the packets should be, as this was my very first packet-submission tournament. The only thing I can comment on was the fact the the bonus difficulty was very inconsistent. I remember one round were my team had bonus's that we had no comprehension as to what they were talking about, while there were some that were insanely easy, such as the final one about Achilles, where the answers were "Achilles, Agamemnon, and Patroclus." I suppose our team needed to get the right toss-ups.
I would suggest taking a look at either the ACF Fall packets, or the MLK packets from this year, which save for the playoff rounds are a great example of mid-level difficulty questions. And this brings up another point that I wanted to make. It's one thing when a picky jerk like me complains about terrible questions, but when my teammate, playing at his third tournament, complains about vague leadins and incorrect facts, you know the questions are bad.
ValenciaQBowl wrote:I'm loath to get involved in this thread, but it has provided me with an opportunity to point out a trend that is growing not in our game itself but in its attendant pieces (this board, most particularly): when did absolutely outraged, righteous indignation become a virtue? At the end of Jerry's original message, for example, he insists he will not regret what he has said; the fact that he says this and other earlier metacommentaries show that he's fully aware of the effect of his tone, even proud of it. Apparently, the suckiness of the packets for him means that outrage, profanity and personal insult are the proper response; he even calls for more of the same from more in the community.
Show me where I have resorted to personal insult. I never claimed that Charlie was a defective human being, or even a bad guy. I claimed that Charlie was an awful editor, as evidenced by this and previous UTC tournaments. This I believe to be a fact substantiated by the evidence. I call for outrage from the community because I think it's deserved and because I'm tired of people getting a pass on putting together shitty tournaments just because they're some sort of sacred cow that's been around forever and can't be touched.
ValenciaQBowl wrote:Sometimes I mentioned things to Charlie, and sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I mentioned things to a pack's author, and sometimes I didn't. But if you can forgive my show of empathy (which I somehow think many will read as weakness, sadly), I never thought to viciously attack someone publicly. Jerry will not be able to convince me it's constructive--he can argue that the things that outrage him continue even after more constructive attempts, but that just means that even more constructive attempts must be made.
And that's why you get the same product year after year. Because so far, there have been absolutely no consequences to editors who routinely do a substandard job on their tournaments. This year, a number of events have had their bluff called. WIT and Technophobia, two events of which I have previously been very fond, received some very harsh criticism this year. And judging by what I saw, the criticism was deserved. When you're called to account in front of the entire circuit, that's different from having your good friend tell you in private that your tournament could have used some tweaking.
ValenciaQBowl wrote: I've known Charlie for nearly 20 years (if he's a million, as Jerry asserts, then I reckon I'm about 850,000), and one thing I can unequivocally say about him is that he's a nice guy who has made a lot of people love our game. He's as equally friendly to great players like Seth Kendall as to nobody freshmen from Valencia (something I can attest is not always so among great players, who often seem to act puzzled or displeased when casually spoken to by someone not of their "class" at a tournament, though I'm not sure if that's due to arrogance or lack of social skills). When I wrote some bonus parts back in the early 90s that had problems, Charlie contacted me before using them (anonymously, even) in a message with examples of how to fix some common errors (I hope Jerry's not having an aneurysm to hear that Charlie has offered question-writing advice in the past). This shows him to be a good guy, wanting to improve people but not humiliate them.
Did I ever say Charlie wasn't a nice guy? What does "nice guy" have to do with anything whatsoever? He could be a wonderful person to know socially and still suck at editing, which appears to be the case. By the way, it's not the early 90s anymore. Standards were different, and substantially lower back then. What was acceptable over 10 years ago no longer is, now that every one of those things has become a common trope of quizbowl questions. The game is more real and more dedicated to actual knowledge than it was back then, and it's not as though Charlie (or you or anyone) didn't know that.

I made a long post following the Heinrich Bowl/WIT debacle about what shouldn't be done in questions. No one disagreed with anything substantial that I said in that post, and most agreed. That information was easily available to anyone editing a tournament this year. Following the basic guidelines laid out by Seth Teitler and Paul Lujan and available from the Berkeley page, or the Michigan writing guidelines would guarantee an adequate set of questions.
ericblair wrote: I don't want to be banned, of course, because I like to add to a thread occassionally. This guy, however, attacked Charlie (not so much the questions) in a terrible way. If it would've been an attack on the questions and "nice" advice to Charlie then it wouldn't have been so bad, but that's not the case. I don't think someone who treats another person like shit should be treated with respect.
Yes, I attacked Charlie as being a terrible editor. I attacked the questions too, at length. Go back and check that part out. Also, I'm not "this guy," I have a name which can be easily divined by clicking on my profile. At least when I go out to savage someone, I use their real name.
Nathan wrote:Yes, packet editing is not one of his strengths. I'll go further, he's simply not a good editor....(though to equate the tournaments he edits with CBI is a blatant exaggeration).
Feel free to maintain that stance in the face of contrary evidence. Have you seen this set? It sucks on every imaginable level. So he's not a good editor and people still come to his events... why? Because you enjoy terrible questions? To each his own, I guess, but let that be a warning to anyone who thinks about mirroring a UTC event.
Nathan wrote:With that said, Jerry's attack was way out of line. That amount of vituperation was unseemly and immature.
My many deficiencies as a human being have no bearing on the truth of what I've written.

Last, but in no way least, I want to take up the Wikipedia issue. Many, oh so many of the questions from this weekend were written straight, and I mean verbatim, out of Wikipedia. This is unacceptable, for reasons which I hope are abundantly clear to everyone. I have a softer stance on Wikipedia than some people do: I believe that it can be a useful brainstorming guide if the information you extract from it is cross-checked against a reliable source. But quoting Wikipedia in your questions should be grounds for outright rejection of a packet.

In conclusion, I stand by everything I've said so far.
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Post by AndySaunders » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:07 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:I just read a few of the packets. Tip to writers: Wikipedia is not a good source for anything, but especially not for quizbowl questions. Even if it was, do not write your WHOLE packet out of Wikipedia, as it appears some teams did. Even if you do that, don't directly plagiarize choice phrases. And even if you do that, don't pick phrases that use complex words and awkward, non-quizbowl phrasing which make it supremely obvious that you plagiarized the question out of a fake encyclopedia and lead me to search Wikipedia and find out about it.
Didn't Ben Smith call out some people last season for doing the exact same thing?

Meaning: I doubt they'll listen to you either, Matt - as much as you have a very good point.

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Post by Scipio » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:12 pm

I told myself that I wouldn't get into this discussion, either, even though I have seen the questions and, in fact, played on them. So, in fact, I'm not going to. I have some thoughts on the event and will share them priately to anyone who so desires, but what draws my specific commentary are a couple of points as follows:
... the original reason I brought it up was to illustrate how much your organization receives from the circuit and how little it puts back in.
In the first place, by my estimation the UTC team has actually been to more Southern Circuit tournaments in the fall and early spring that any other team with the possible exception of Florida State and Kentucky. According to this estimation, there hasn't been a single tournament within reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) driving distance that they have not attended. It is hard to see how they could "put more back in" to a circuit than to go to all the tournaments hosted in it, unless they field three and four teams to each. So, perhaps the money they take in is less than they've spent, but not for want of trying.

Secondly, the year is not over yet. There may yet be (and I know for a fact that there will be) other tournaments to which the UTC squad will send teams. These may be far away tournaments, too (such as Chicago's tournament) that will require mammoth expenditures in air fare. The very fact that UTC has in the past sent teams to such far-flung locales as St. Louis and Chicago has depleted their accounts, and has done so not even to "give back" to the Southern circuit, but to the circuit at large.


Thirdly, there seems to be the thought pattern here that hosting tournaments is in some way "taking away" from the circuit and is not in itself "giving back to it". I believe this philosophy to be wrong-headed. Indeed, I would cite the greatest contribution UTC makes is providing the venue in whih so many Southern tournaments are played, without which venue chances for quizbowl in the South would drastically diminish. Nor is this just in terms of UTC tournaments: because of the size of the reading corps in can command (attracted in no small part because Charlie is such a friendly guy that he can get people to come and read for him), UTC has hosted ACF Regionals steadily over the years and has often hosten NAQT Sectionals. I am almost certain that no other team could have done so had they wanted, and especially in the case of Regionals, that no other team has even expressed interest in hosting. Without UTC, then, official ACF tournaments would be hard to find in the South.

Of course, here is the place where it is argued that UTC imperialistically stamps out other tournaments and teams like some sort of Frank Norrris-esque corporate entity. My response is that I have seen no evidence for it; I have no knowledge in my own million-year playing career of UTC squeezing out another tournament even by accident, let alone on purpose. In fact, at the conclusion of every UTC tournament Charlie calls for announcements and deliberately draws attention tournaments to those who do not read this fine board, even ones he is not hosting (like ACF Fall, which he goes out of his way to promote and may in fact have been responsible for Louisville's playing in it, along with the two teams UTC itself fielded; or, by other reckoning, three of the eleven teams).

I think, then, the impression needs to be corrected that UTC is a vampire draining the Southern circuit; it is rather the column propping it up, without which the entire thing would fall apart. And that more than anything else is Charlie's doing. Say what you like about his editing, but please don't think he's a cancer eating away at the Southern circuit; more than anything he's the life support keeping it going.
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Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:20 pm

Look, guys: the questions SUCKED. I've read more of the set now and that is just as objectively clear as any aesthetic assessment can ever be. Sorry if I'm coming off as one of those "old players acting puzzled or displeased at those not in my class" (who is that supposed to refer to, anyway?) but the people defending this set clearly don't know any better. Freshmen and other first-year players who have been to few or no non-UTC events just don't know the difference. The questions sucked, period, not debatable unless you want to expose your ignorance.

Any hemming and hawing about other things UTC does for the circuit or the tenor of Jerry's post, even if true, cannot take away from the fact that his core point is valid: this packet set over-archingly sucked in ways that modern tournaments must truly strive to suck. Jerry announced that (criticism), he explained exactly why they sucked and how to avoid sucking in the future (constructive criticism) and even if you don't like his tone, it is incumbent on any potential writers and editors reading to take note of his points and avoid producing packet sets that set new records for sucking in the future.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:26 pm

The tone hasn't changed much, Jer.
that's why you get the same product year after year. Because so far, there have been absolutely no consequences to editors who routinely do a substandard job on their tournaments. This year, a number of events have had their bluff called. WIT and Technophobia, two events of which I have previously been very fond, received some very harsh criticism this year.
I'm not nearly so bothered by the "product," which I know bothers you firebombers. And you mention consequences: are those dire consequences being called out on this board? Shiver me timbers. Maybe we can hang some sort of piece of wood with a red E for bad editing on the perpetrators. In any case, a married father (like Chas) isn't likely to be overly put out by his execration on a QB message board.
Show me where I have resorted to personal insult.
Well, I reckon your comment about him being "about a million years old" was only cutesiness on your part, but I think that would qualify, if we're being picky about it.

I didn't point out that Charlie was a nice guy to suggest that it somehow obviates any problems you can point out in his editing. It was to contrast his general demeanor with the one you display here too often. And besides, in your desire to argue fiercely, you clearly either purposely or accidentally misread my post. You know my main point was the hostility and self-righteousness of your tone in your bitching (and not just yours--as I suggested, I feel it's a trend of the last 2-3 years). It was unnecessary, no matter what you might like to think of yourself as the avenging angel of ACF orthodoxy. (Hey, that's pretty good--you should get that on a business card and/or t-shirt!).

I'm also amused by your comment that it's "not your business" to tell UTC how to spend its money, when in fact you quite clearly don't mind accusing them of some form of mercenary capitalism (egads!) for not pouring more money into the circuit. Too many of you firebombers make every aspect and region of the game your business. "Someone wants to hold a hybrid tournament that I won't go to in a state far from me?" Flame him! "People in Minnesota want to play only CBI?" Bastards! Jeez. Nothing's wrong with bitching about questions on which you played, so as I said before, I have no problem with that part of your post. But calling out a program for not going to enough tournaments (in your opinion) or bitching about an entire region for enjoying tournaments that you don't is just silly and obnoxious. UTC can spend its tournament money on having hookers read CBI questions to them--their business, not yours. If Southern teams want to attend Charlie tournaments--our business, not yours. Don't play in those, dude. I already suggested it. And a side note to the rest of you who will come to ICT this year and then bitch about how much NAQT questions suck--don't.

Cripes. For smart people, some of y'all really amaze me sometimes.

PS--I'm bored with this now and won't be replying. Jerry, per an earlier argument, I'm still not calling you an elitist (though I'll stand by the firebomber reference). I respect that you really care about the game. But I recommend getting ahold of some redhair bud and hitting the hot tub once in a while.

PPS--don't forget, whippersnappers: some of us fogeys will outlast you in this game and train far more people. Scary, I know.
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Post by Scipio » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:41 pm

I recommend getting ahold of some redhair bud and hitting the hot tub once in a while.
If there's going to be some of that at that mirror you discussed holding, I am totally there.
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Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:43 pm

ValenciaQBowl wrote:You know my main point was the hostility and self-righteousness of your tone in your bitching
Yes, anything to avoid defending the indefensible question set.
And a side note to the rest of you who will come to ICT this year and then bitch about how much NAQT questions suck--don't.
I'll come to the ICT this year and then evaluate the questions based on their content. I get to spend my own money on the tournaments I choose just like you and UTC do, and in my case it really is my own money, not funds leeched from the circuit by printing out my excrement and labeling it "Sword Bowl."
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Post by Kilby » Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:49 pm

grapesmoker wrote:For a grand total of $8550.
Charlie runs the trash tournaments for himself. The UTC ATA does not receive any money from trash tournaments, only academic ones. That is why we don't expect team members to volunteer at trash events. That takes a substantial chunk away from your estimate. You also do not include any tournment expenses such as the bill for feeding our readers. Your estimates assume that the only fees involved with attending a tournament is the entry fee. I really don't appreciate your vague assumptions about our business affairs.
grapesmoker wrote:You could afford to travel to real tournaments that don't suck (unlike Heinrich Bowl) but you don't.
I'm sure that all of the teams who hosted those tournaments that "suck" appreciate your kind words.
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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 23, 2006 6:11 pm

Scipio wrote:Thirdly, there seems to be the thought pattern here that hosting tournaments is in some way "taking away" from the circuit and is not in itself "giving back to it". I believe this philosophy to be wrong-headed. Indeed, I would cite the greatest contribution UTC makes is providing the venue in whih so many Southern tournaments are played, without which venue chances for quizbowl in the South would drastically diminish. Nor is this just in terms of UTC tournaments: because of the size of the reading corps in can command (attracted in no small part because Charlie is such a friendly guy that he can get people to come and read for him), UTC has hosted ACF Regionals steadily over the years and has often hosten NAQT Sectionals. I am almost certain that no other team could have done so had they wanted, and especially in the case of Regionals, that no other team has even expressed interest in hosting. Without UTC, then, official ACF tournaments would be hard to find in the South.
Providing a venue for teams to play is great, but not providing terrible questions for them to play on. When you run and presumably edit so many tournaments and take in so much money, you have to deliver quality questions. UTC does not.

Incidentally, Berkeley, on a budget far smaller than what UTC sees in a semester, routinely sent 3 or 4 teams to every event we could in California. Last year, we sent two teams to nationals, one to ICT and one to ACF. Ended up costing us roughly two grand for that. Like I've said before, we just broke even after all the reimbursements.
ValenciaQBowl wrote: I'm not nearly so bothered by the "product," which I know bothers you firebombers. And you mention consequences: are those dire consequences being called out on this board? Shiver me timbers. Maybe we can hang some sort of piece of wood with a red E for bad editing on the perpetrators. In any case, a married father (like Chas) isn't likely to be overly put out by his execration on a QB message board.
Then you admit that you don't care about whether the questions are good or not? Again, you're welcome to that, it's your business what you choose to pay money for. As for consequences, what do I hope they will be? I hope that people will understand what they're getting when they conduct packet swaps or mirroring arrangements with UTC, first of all. I have the faint hope that if people realize how awful the product is, they'll refuse to pay for it. I doubt that it will happen, but I hope so anyway. Mostly, I hope people will hold tournament editors (including myself) to a high standard and refuse to settle for crap when they travel a long way to play in a tournament. Whether Charlie is or is not moved by my rantings is up to him.
Well, I reckon your comment about him being "about a million years old" was only cutesiness on your part, but I think that would qualify, if we're being picky about it.
I guess we are. It's a joke, ok? I realize he's more like 40 than like a million. My point was that he's been around the circuit for a long time.
And besides, in your desire to argue fiercely, you clearly either purposely or accidentally misread my post. You know my main point was the hostility and self-righteousness of your tone in your bitching (and not just yours--as I suggested, I feel it's a trend of the last 2-3 years). It was unnecessary,
On the contrary, I feel it was completely necessary. A tepid "these questions weren't so hot" post would have done nothing. Everyone would have gone, "yeah, they could have been better," and UTC would have produced a similar set the next time around. Maybe a little public castigation will shake their complacency a little bit.
no matter what you might like to think of yourself as the avenging angel of ACF orthodoxy. (Hey, that's pretty good--you should get that on a business card and/or t-shirt!).
Yeah, I totally love to travel 300 miles by bus just so I can complain about the tournament and then swoop down with my fiery sword and bring death to the heathens. But yeah, I guess if you consider "good questions" to be "ACF orthodoxy," sure, I'm game for the angel gig.
I'm also amused by your comment that it's "not your business" to tell UTC how to spend its money, when in fact you quite clearly don't mind accusing them of some form of mercenary capitalism (egads!) for not pouring more money into the circuit. Too many of you firebombers make every aspect and region of the game your business. "Someone wants to hold a hybrid tournament that I won't go to in a state far from me?" Flame him! "People in Minnesota want to play only CBI?" Bastards! Jeez. Nothing's wrong with bitching about questions on which you played, so as I said before, I have no problem with that part of your post. But calling out a program for not going to enough tournaments (in your opinion) or bitching about an entire region for enjoying tournaments that you don't is just silly and obnoxious. UTC can spend its tournament money on having hookers read CBI questions to them--their business, not yours. If Southern teams want to attend Charlie tournaments--our business, not yours.
And here you miss the point of this whole exercise. The point is that UTC profits greatly from their tournaments; as a program consistently pulling in thousands of dollars for their events, I believe they have an obligation to provide quality content. You can dispute my assertion that I should get what I pay for, if you like.

The Southeast is not some isolated corner of the country; it's part of the circuit. When people from other areas criticized what happens on the West Coast, I didn't tell them to mind their own business because they weren't from that region. And obnoxious as it may be, I firmly believe that tournaments like Sword Bowl are detrimental to the Southeast. I guess I'm also one of those people who criticizes others for liking movies or books that I don't, so whatever.
Don't play in those, dude. I already suggested it. And a side note to the rest of you who will come to ICT this year and then bitch about how much NAQT questions suck--don't.
Ok, I won't. I hope I won't have to bitch about how much NAQT's questions suck after ICT, because I hope they won't suck. But if they do, you know what? I'll be right here complaining about them.
PS--I'm bored with this now and won't be replying. Jerry, per an earlier argument, I'm still not calling you an elitist (though I'll stand by the firebomber reference). I respect that you really care about the game. But I recommend getting ahold of some redhair bud and hitting the hot tub once in a while.

PPS--don't forget, whippersnappers: some of us fogeys will outlast you in this game and train far more people. Scary, I know.
I'm afraid the short-term memory loss would affect my PPG, but thanks for the advice, gramps.
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jan 23, 2006 6:16 pm

Hookers reading CBI questions? Even UTC doesn't take in the kind of money that the basest of whores would demand for that unseemly fetish.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:06 pm

Kilby wrote: Charlie runs the trash tournaments for himself. The UTC ATA does not receive any money from trash tournaments, only academic ones. That is why we don't expect team members to volunteer at trash events. That takes a substantial chunk away from your estimate. You also do not include any tournment expenses such as the bill for feeding our readers. Your estimates assume that the only fees involved with attending a tournament is the entry fee. I really don't appreciate your vague assumptions about our business affairs.
Even less two grand you're swimming in dough, which, to emphasize my original point, you make from substandard tournaments. What do you feed your readers anyway, filet mignon? Couple hundred dollars of expenses per semester, at best.
I'm sure that all of the teams who hosted those tournaments that "suck" appreciate your kind words.
Don't put the word suck in quotation marks. That would imply that what I said was false. I don't really care if they appreciate it or not. I spend a good deal of my own money and time to go to tournaments, and when I do that, I expect to get my money's worth.
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Post by STPickrell » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:09 pm

What we need now is a group hug.

Maybe some people are just less stringent about the quality of questions they play on than others. So what is utter crap to one person is acceptable to another person. It seems that of the people posting here, the younger players seemed to enjoy theselves and the grizzled veterans did not.

I know I can't recall a single tournament of my own playing days that would prompt me to come on here and complain about the questions to the extent Jerry did. Maybe this is a sign that I just stink as a player, question writer and editor, charges to which I am probably 100% guilty.

Those of you who remember my playing days (as opposed to my position as VHSL Scholastic Bowl consul) may remember I was a fairly decent player, albeit one who could be beaten easily enough. In fact, when I retired in 2000, I was probably fairly high up on the list of all-time career losses.

I know I had more fun getting my ass kicked 330-100 by someone who seemed to be having fun, as opposed to having my ass kicked 330-100 by someone who was not having fun and complaining every other question about how "these questions suck."
Shawn Pickrell, HSAPQ CFO

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Post by Nathan » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:09 pm

oy man, calm down.

I'm sure the questions were poor; I don't have to have seen them to believe that.

I'll also tell you that Charlie's editing style will not change no matter what is written here. I'm sorry if you didn't know what you were getting into at Penn Bowl but that doesn't justify the attitude that you've shown here. I too appreciate the passion but over-the-top language can hurt the game too.

Besides, UTC's major contribution is the tournaments it hosts edited by other people...Seth and Chris are not exaggerating when they say that ACF wouldn't exist in the southeast if it wasn't for Charlie. That's been true for years...it's unfortunate that it all depends upon one individual, but it's true. There aren't too many indispensable people in QB...Charlie's close to being one of them.

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Post by yoda4554 » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:19 pm

I haven't seen the questions, of course, but I'm curious about a couple of the examples of suckiness cited. For a novice-level tournament (which this was advertised as, which is one of the reasons we didn't go), is it really out of line to have Einhard as the first clue on a Charlemagne question, or the sculptor of the Venus de Milo first? After all, there are lots of easier clues on those subjects you can put after it, and I would imagine both of those things would be mentioned, at best, in passing during high school courses even if they're well-known on the college circuit. These are examples of questions being easy, which they were supposed to be, not necessarily bad.

Now, I assume by the vociferous comments here that there are lots of other things wrong with the questions, but it seems that there should be a distinction between easily-written and poorly-written.

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Post by kelli » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:27 pm

His point seemed to be that I make mistakes too in my questions. Well, there's no doubt about that, but this isn't one of them. You won't find a bigger advocate of researching questions properly than myself, but it would be absurd to demand that everyone write their questions straight out of works of primary scholarship and nowhere else.
Okay, to be honest, at the tournament I though to myself "I'm pretty sure its 1294" then when I got home I checked, and since my source confirmed me, I just assumed that the correct date would also be the generally accepted one. I don't demand the use of primary scholarship for questions, I just happen to have spent so much time researching this building from primary sources, that I felt sure that I was correct. But even in a couple of other books and internet sources I checked, it is generally accepted that Andrea Pisano was the capomaestro until a while past 1343..I don't wish to argue this topic anymore, the only reason I mentioned it because someone claimed that Janson was a more reliable source than Murray..

As far as me thinking the tournament was fine, I am only a sophmore, and I have only been to 10 tournaments or so during college. I didn't notice the questions to be any worse than some of the other tournaments I have been to thus far, I did notice a few repeats on the packets I played on, but overall, I enjoyed playing on the rounds. I found most of the questions to be fairly gettable. This question set was meant to be for novice players. If there were some questions that had lead-ins that were a little easy, I don't find that to be a horrible error. I spoke with many younger players after the tournament on Sat. and all of them gave positive reviews to me. It is highly likley that I just don't know any better because I'm not really a star player. Often I feel like I am in a diminishing class of players that just do this for fun, I don't take this as seriously as many of you do, which may be why I was satisfied with my experience, whereas you were not. I'm not saying you are wrong, I am saying I ( and many other younger players) were happy with what we got, and that I don't agree with such harsh critisism of some areas.
Last edited by kelli on Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Nathan » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:38 pm

Yoda:

There is a sharp (albeit oft confused) distinction between pyramidal questions and "easy answers". A tournament for novices should have questions on Charlemagne and not on Baldwin IV, but that doesn't mean that the tossup should begin with Einhard.

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Post by Kilby » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:18 pm

grapesmoker wrote:What do you feed your readers anyway, filet mignon? Couple hundred dollars of expenses per semester, at best.
We don't feed them filet mignon, but we take readers who don't take a tournament discount for their services to a nice Italian restaurant for a $15-20 meal. That adds up to a couple hundred dollars per tournament, not semester. You might see that as excessive, but it is one of the reasons we are able to run tournaments the size we do: we treat our readers well and, as a result, they come back to help.

Every one of my posts in this thread have been to correct misinformation. I'm tired of correcting assumption after assumption, so I'm done adding to this conversation.

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Post by MLafer » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:21 pm

yoda4554 wrote:I haven't seen the questions, of course, but I'm curious about a couple of the examples of suckiness cited. For a novice-level tournament (which this was advertised as, which is one of the reasons we didn't go), is it really out of line to have Einhard as the first clue on a Charlemagne question, or the sculptor of the Venus de Milo first? After all, there are lots of easier clues on those subjects you can put after it, and I would imagine both of those things would be mentioned, at best, in passing during high school courses even if they're well-known on the college circuit. These are examples of questions being easy, which they were supposed to be, not necessarily bad.

Now, I assume by the vociferous comments here that there are lots of other things wrong with the questions, but it seems that there should be a distinction between easily-written and poorly-written.
Just to expand a little on what Nathan said...I feel that, no matter what the tournament, no matter what difficulty you're shooting for or what the field is, you can't go wrong with pyramidal questions. Sword Bowl is a novice-level tournament, but there was a "senior division" at the UTC site, and Penn Bowl was not a novice tournament and was using some of the questions, so it was obviously known that there would be experienced players playing on the questions as well. Adding a couple more lines before Einhard would make the question more enjoyable for those more experienced players, and should not detract from the experience of the novice players who are also playing on the question (unless you're one of these people who have no interest in actually learning something from quiz bowl and only want stuff you already know to come up in a game). ACF Fall is a novice tournament, but is is regularly enjoyed by many experienced players because clues come up early in the question that are difficult, which allows for a more competitive game between the top teams.

I can understand Jerry's anger about this situation. The economics of quiz bowl are kind of screwed up. It seems to be pretty obvious that Charlie does not do much work on the packets...he probably sorts them, numbers them, checks for grammar and spelling mistakes, and adds irrelevant editorial comments to the bonus lead-ins. Yet teams come to his tournaments in droves. On the other side, someone like Mike Sorice (for Illinois Open) or Subash (Chicago Open) will spend weeks painstakingly crafting good tossups and using his philosopher stone to transmute Bumfuck State B's packet from shit into gold. Teams that care about playing on quality questions will show up, but in general attendance to these events is very low compared to a Charlie tournament (ignoring the difficulty issue, I'm sure a similar example of a well-edited tournament could be found for a lower difficulty). So Mike, or Subash, or Jerry (for his tournament in March) will probably spend about 10 times as much work on the packets, and get half as much money for their efforts. This situation obviously offends Jerry, and it offends me a little bit too. Luckily there is a small group of people that care about playing tournaments on good questions, and the respect that these players give to the writers/editors and the enjoyment that the editors get from writing good questions and watching good teams play on them is keeping this other circuit alive.

Obviously there are reasons aside from quality that teams attend UTC tournaments. I keep hearing this vague term "fun" being thrown around. What is fun? Apparently, Charlie's tournaments are fun, while ACF and mACF invitational tournaments are most definitely not fun. So if well-written questions and competitive games against teams of similar skill level are not fun enough for the participants, what is it about Charlie's tournaments that make it more fun? Is it the group reciting of Charlie's "three rules of quiz bowl" at the beginning? The endless anecdotes about Chattanooga that, combined with slow reading, make a 9-round tournament last until 9 PM? Or perhaps some people enjoy bad questions because they get to buzz in a lot and early, and buzzing is way more fun than hearing boring old "clues" and "facts" about things. I don't know. But it's a little irritating when, every time somebody complains about the quality of a tournament, 10 people jump out and yell about "taking things too seriously", like enjoying bad questions is some sort of position of moral superiority.

I hope more people can be honest about question quality like Jerry (note honest doesn't necessarily mean belligerent). Editors would see that there is a demand in the market for well-written questions, and a supply of well-written questions will be created, which hurts nobody, and helps many. Or maybe I'm just being wildly optimistic.

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Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:24 pm

Nathan wrote: I'll also tell you that Charlie's editing style will not change no matter what is written here. I'm sorry if you didn't know what you were getting into at Penn Bowl but that doesn't justify the attitude that you've shown here. I too appreciate the passion but over-the-top language can hurt the game too.
Ah, the old "don't bother because it won't help" defense.

What I love even more is the attacks on my attitude. And what did I say that was so offensive? I said that the tournament was terrible, that as editor Charlie was to blame, and that an experienced program that pulls in tons of money from its events has a responsibility to deliver a quality set. No one has so far offered a substantive argument against any of these assertions.

How easily we forget the days of yore. I'm not that old, but I distinctly remember the days back in ought-one or ought-two when the Yahoo! board was replete with personal insults and speculations about one's opponent's ancestry. Anything I've written here so far is kids' stuff in comparison.
Besides, UTC's major contribution is the tournaments it hosts edited by other people...Seth and Chris are not exaggerating when they say that ACF wouldn't exist in the southeast if it wasn't for Charlie. That's been true for years...it's unfortunate that it all depends upon one individual, but it's true. There aren't too many indispensable people in QB...Charlie's close to being one of them.
That leads me to the following question: does the Southeast want ACF? If no one else hosts ACF events and teams only come because Charlie's such a great guy, that makes me think that most of them don't care what kinds of questions they play on. They'd come anyway if the questions were bad, so where's the incentive for anyone to provide good questions? I've asked repeatedly, but I'll do so again: does anyone really enjoy playing on questions that suck? Questions that have the giveaway in the first line? Questions that are four lines long with two of the lines full of completely vague and useless information? Questions that are factually wrong?
kelli wrote:As far as me thinking the tournament was fine, I am only a sophmore, and I have only been to 10 tournaments or so during college. I didn't notice the questions to be any worse than some of the other tournaments I have been to thus far, I did notice a few repeats on the packets I played on, but overall, I enjoyed playing on the rounds.
Emphasis mine. What that says is not that this was a good tournament, but that most of the tournaments you've been to are pretty bad.
I found most of the questions to be fairly gettable.
Quality, not gettability is the issue. Every one of those questions could have been made far better with a little research and insertion of more facts into the clues.
This question set was meant to be for novice players. If there were some questions that had lead-ins that were a little easy, I don't find that to be a horrible error.
We're not talking "a little easy." We're talking straight-ahead giveaways in the first clue. And being for novices is not an excuse. If anything, a novice tournament should be of even higher quality.
I spoke with many younger players after the tournament on Sat. and all of them gave positive reviews to me. It is highly likley that I just don't know any better because I'm not really a star player.
This is a common misconception, that one only cares about these things if one is a top player. The causality runs the other way. The people who care the most end up becoming the best players because they diligently research their questions and play in quality tournaments. You can't tell from one year of playing what kind of player you'll be (there are certainly exceptions, but most of the best players on the circuit today are self-made).

To know better, you have to have something to compare to. The Stanford Archive has tons of good packets on it, with difficulty ranging from juniorbird invitationals to Chicago Opens. Check them out; I especially recommend Cardinal Classic, any of Kelly McKenzie's Wildcat tournaments, Technophobia and WIT from 2003 and 2004 and Aztlan Cup. I hope that having read these packets you will understand what I mean when I speak of their quality versus the questions in this year's Sword Bowl.
Often I feel like I am in a diminishing class of players that just do this for fun, I don't take this as seriously as many of you do, which may be why I was satisfied with my experience, whereas you were not. I'm not saying you are wrong, I am saying I ( and many other younger players) were happy with what we got, and that I don't agree with such harsh critisism of some areas.
I do it for fun too. You should have seen me at MLK, I was a real peach. I had fun even when I lost. But I also take the game seriously because I invest a substantial amount of my time and money in it. And I do mean my own money, not the school's money, of which we have none. Quizbowl's a hobby, just like building model railroads or playing Scrabble. I don't understand why it's considered strange for people to take that hobby seriously.
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Post by kelli » Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:36 pm

Speaking just for myself, I enjoy playing on ACF Regionals questions just as much, if not more, than I enjoy playing on Sword questions. Just because I can have a light-hearted attitude and enjoy myself on lower-quality easier questions doesn’t mean I am espousing any sort of "moral superiority". I have never said anything about people taking college bowl too seriously- I think its great that you guys get so into it- your labors ultimately make a better circuit for me to play in, and I believe that it’s a competition that is well worth it. I am just saying, if people have the right to criticize and condemn, I have the right to say how much I enjoy participating in college bowl in general. I have gone to some sort of quizbowl/college bowl tournament over once a month for the last 6 years, and I have had the chance to meet some awesome, friendly people (with one or two notable exceptions), and this tournament did not strike me as the loathsome crap several people are claiming it to be. I had a good time, and despite the fact that some people would like college bowl to be a homogenous group that have the same reasons for competing, there are indeed people that have different values than yours. I find my enjoyment of the tournament to be just as valid as your discontent.

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The old man speaks

Post by Your Genial Quizmaster » Mon Jan 23, 2006 9:43 pm

It's been a fascinating discussion. There are so many things I could say, but for the moment here's all I have time for:

1) Yes, there were more errors, typos, and duplications for Sword Bowl than there should have been. Please take my word for it that there were far fewer than if I hadn't spent hours poring over them. Not all of them were as easy to catch as the three different tossups submitted on the book of Nehemiah -- I remember spotting one on Saturday where there was a positron question that mentioned Dirac and vice versa. I would have produced a better set, but I have this day job, and thus could only put in a limited number of all-nighters on the set. Knowing that some duplicates and typos I did distribute final draft packets mid-week to them, and our mirror sites at Oklahoma and Drake, and asked them to check for duplicates. They did find some, which I of course removed. For those I didn't catch, I apologize. But let's face it: some of that is par for the course, especially when you're sifting through submissions from 20 schools or so, most of which were received two to three weeks in advance of the tournament.

2) I agree 100% with Matt Weiner on the Wikipedia comments. I kept running into packets that had questions with Wikipedia hyperlinks still in them. Every time I found one, I checked all unfamiliar facts from that question in a non-Wikipedia source, or replaced them with clues I could verify elsewhere, or deleted the question altogether. (Not all the links showed up, Word formatting being less consistent that Microsoft would have us believe.) I find Wikipedia to be a very useful source for rounding out a question, but would urge everyone not to rely on it as their primary source.

3) Not that it's anyone else's business, but Jerry seriously overestimates UTC's net income on two counts (three counting dinner for the officials, as John Kilby already noted.) One, he assumes that our trophies, paper, supplies, postage (high schools still like snail mail), etc., are free. Note that we are one of the few programs that routinely gives trophies down to fourth place in each division, as well as multiple All-Star trophies. We could probably get our trophies cheaper, but there's a trophy shop that has gone out of their way to help us when we had major short-term needs, and we continue to reward them with our business. Two, he is not factoring in the number of teams that get major discounts or even get in for free for writing freelance questions for other tournaments, and especially for officiating. We've had college teams get in for free because they came en masse to read at our high school or trash tournaments. Conversely, there's one high school that brings two teams or more every time we run a tournament, and they pay nothing. Why? Because their school gives them $0, and their coach was willing to come read at our collegiate and trash tournaments. So we don't rake in as much dough as you think. Let me add that we haven't gotten any money from UTC since spring 2004, and we still go to as many tournaments as we can muster players and drivers for. And when we do, we probably spend more person than most schools -- because my players have earned it. And if they work, they go whether they play of not. We took a four-player team to New Orleans for the 2005 NAQT ICT -- and five officials. And instead of asking for NAQT to cover our expenses, we asked instead to have the credit applied so we could host an open mirror of the HS NCT without losing money on it, which we would have otherwise done. By my count we have run two tournaments at a loss, although in both cases what we lost was about what we'd have paid to go to the same tournament elsewhere.

4) I am well aware of the question-writing mandates that have been posted here -- I just don't agree with all of them, and certainly don't feel bound by them. In my heyday, questions were much easier than they are now, and people usually complained that mine were too hard. There are some subjects (geography, for example) that are unfashionable on the circuit, but which I still believe suitable for an academic tournament. Also, there's a real tendency for "the community" (translation: the most frequent posters) to want new, fresh, different subject matter for questions. So people go look up African authors who are obscure to scholars in the field, just because they've heard too many questions about Achebe and Soyinka. That's great, as long as you accept the fact that 90% of the players weren't at those other tournaments four years ago where the same clue came up. In an environment like that, many novices won't come back for a second or third tournament. Trust me, I've seen promising players and teams leave because the stuff they were being asked had only limited bearing to anything they would ever run across in life, or study for any purpose besides quizbowl. To some extent we've buffered that by running junior birds and JV divisions, but that just postpones some of their departures till their departures till their junior year. If you carry this to its logical conclusion, quizbowl will become a self-referential, isolated game and the circuit dwindles to maybe twenty powerhouse teams. If so, y'all have fun. I prefer an academic tournament environment where only a few tournaments reach that level of difficulty, and most are too easy for those who've played four or more years' worth already.

But even if you disagree with that, this tournament was advertised as a junior bird level tournament. That's what I wanted, and what I edited for, and what I think I achieved. Penn asked if I would be willing to handle the editing duties for them as well so there would *be* a Penn Bowl this year. This discussion goes to show once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

I won't be doing this forever, and sometimes wonder why I still do. Thanks to those of you who have supported me, publicly and privately, in response to Jerry's original post.

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Re: The old man speaks

Post by Rothlover » Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:22 pm

Your Genial Quizmaster wrote:It's been a fascinating discussion. There are so many things I could say, but for the moment here's all I have time for:


3) We could probably get our trophies cheaper, but there's a trophy shop that has gone out of their way to help us when we had major short-term needs, and we continue to reward them with our business. Two, he is not factoring in the number of teams that get major discounts or even get in for free for writing freelance questions for other tournaments, and especially for officiating. We've had college teams get in for free because they came en masse to read at our high school or trash tournaments. Conversely, there's one high school that brings two teams or more every time we run a tournament, and they pay nothing. Why? Because their school gives them $0, and their coach was willing to come read at our collegiate and trash tournaments.
This, in and of itself, is a decent point. Many of the tournaments we have run over the past three years have either been at a cost such that we just break even, or that we run a loss. These include several trash events, and academic events (including one where two of the critics in this thread were insistant on me running the event.) I am glad to do this however, and part of the reason I make the costs as low as I can, or accomodate any sort of financial issue, is because I know that the questions at these events will be crap. However, I would wager that making exceptions etc. is something not unique to my program, or to yours Charlie. I would bet that many/most teams and programs that put out sets of in-house edited material of high quality also make all sorts of allowances and exceptions. Your generosity is not something unique in quiz bowl, it abounds, even if some of those people helping out other teams do not give out shiny trophies or have lots of fun rules to repeat at the beginning of a tournament.

Anyway, that was just to say (i.e. I ate the plums)

Also, Ryan, CBI's copious pronunciation guides are quite hooker-friendly (fry-end-LEE).
Dan Passner Brandeis '06 JTS/Columbia '11-'12 Ben Gurion University of the Negev/Columbia '12?

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Re: The old man speaks

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:30 pm

Your Genial Quizmaster wrote: 1) Yes, there were more errors, typos, and duplications for Sword Bowl than there should have been. Please take my word for it that there were far fewer than if I hadn't spent hours poring over them. Not all of them were as easy to catch as the three different tossups submitted on the book of Nehemiah -- I remember spotting one on Saturday where there was a positron question that mentioned Dirac and vice versa. I would have produced a better set, but I have this day job, and thus could only put in a limited number of all-nighters on the set. Knowing that some duplicates and typos I did distribute final draft packets mid-week to them, and our mirror sites at Oklahoma and Drake, and asked them to check for duplicates. They did find some, which I of course removed. For those I didn't catch, I apologize. But let's face it: some of that is par for the course, especially when you're sifting through submissions from 20 schools or so, most of which were received two to three weeks in advance of the tournament.
Of course, that doesn't explain why you felt the need to combine our packet with one that had far worse questions. But nevermind that.

"Par for the course" is not an excuse. All editors have other commitments, we don't spend all day editing questions and doing nothing else. If you didn't feel like you could do a good job on that set, what prevented you from asking others for help? I said this very same thing earlier in the year - that if you are running into trouble, ask someone for help. I am sure that many experienced players or editors would have been glad to pitch in another packet or help with the editing had they been asked.

By the way, in my book, getting packets three weeks ahead of a tournament is a blessing. Many teams love to wait until the last minute to submit things and unless the packet in question is flawless, this is an enormous pain to editors.
3) Not that it's anyone else's business, but Jerry seriously overestimates UTC's net income on two counts (three counting dinner for the officials, as John Kilby already noted.) One, he assumes that our trophies, paper, supplies, postage (high schools still like snail mail), etc., are free. Note that we are one of the few programs that routinely gives trophies down to fourth place in each division, as well as multiple All-Star trophies. We could probably get our trophies cheaper, but there's a trophy shop that has gone out of their way to help us when we had major short-term needs, and we continue to reward them with our business. Two, he is not factoring in the number of teams that get major discounts or even get in for free for writing freelance questions for other tournaments, and especially for officiating. We've had college teams get in for free because they came en masse to read at our high school or trash tournaments. Conversely, there's one high school that brings two teams or more every time we run a tournament, and they pay nothing. Why? Because their school gives them $0, and their coach was willing to come read at our collegiate and trash tournaments. So we don't rake in as much dough as you think. Let me add that we haven't gotten any money from UTC since spring 2004, and we still go to as many tournaments as we can muster players and drivers for. And when we do, we probably spend more person than most schools -- because my players have earned it. And if they work, they go whether they play of not. We took a four-player team to New Orleans for the 2005 NAQT ICT -- and five officials. And instead of asking for NAQT to cover our expenses, we asked instead to have the credit applied so we could host an open mirror of the HS NCT without losing money on it, which we would have otherwise done. By my count we have run two tournaments at a loss, although in both cases what we lost was about what we'd have paid to go to the same tournament elsewhere.
Well, I guess that answers my question regarding where the money goes. You're right, I totally transplanted my own assumptions on how I would manage the amount of money I projected you would gross on each tournament onto your organization. It's obvious you have different spending priorities than I do.
4) I am well aware of the question-writing mandates that have been posted here -- I just don't agree with all of them, and certainly don't feel bound by them.
So now we get to the real heart of the question. Which particular mandates do you disagree with? The one that says question should be pyramidal? Or the one that says that they should be factually correct? Or perhaps the one that so unreasonably demands that the space in a tossup actually be occupied by facts and useful clues and not useless information? I want to know because I don't understand how these rules can be so objectionable.
In my heyday, questions were much easier than they are now, and people usually complained that mine were too hard. There are some subjects (geography, for example) that are unfashionable on the circuit, but which I still believe suitable for an academic tournament.
There were almost no choices of subject matter that came up in this tournament that I would consider not worth writing about. Questions on elements are probably my one exception, and even those are ok if done right. Again, "back in the day" is not an excuse. If you aren't going to be abiding by the standards of most other academic tournaments, I think you should make that abundantly clear to everyone.
Also, there's a real tendency for "the community" (translation: the most frequent posters) to want new, fresh, different subject matter for questions. So people go look up African authors who are obscure to scholars in the field, just because they've heard too many questions about Achebe and Soyinka. That's great, as long as you accept the fact that 90% of the players weren't at those other tournaments four years ago where the same clue came up.
What are you talking about? Where in this thread has anyone at any point demanded questions on more obscure African authors? The complaints have been strictly about the quality of the questions, which was abysmal. Please, don't try to turn this into "hardcore players demanding more Cyprian Ekwensi tossups" issue, because that's not what it is.
In an environment like that, many novices won't come back for a second or third tournament. Trust me, I've seen promising players and teams leave because the stuff they were being asked had only limited bearing to anything they would ever run across in life, or study for any purpose besides quizbowl.
So people will be turned away because, god forbid, they might have to learn a little something to be better at this game? Are people turned away from chess because they have to study more to get better? Or from Scrabble because they have to know more words to win?

Newsflash: most of the accumulated knowledge of mankind has little bearing on anything you might run across in life. Will you ever really need to know what the Venus of Willendorf is or which treaty ended the War of 1812? You could go through life just fine without knowing these things. The "real world" argument is nonsensical because it applies in equal measure to almost anything you might encounter in quizbowl. You learn for the love of learning, not because you can make some kind of use of it; if you wanted to do that, carpentry or auto repair would be a better use of your time than quizbowl.
To some extent we've buffered that by running junior birds and JV divisions, but that just postpones some of their departures till their departures till their junior year. If you carry this to its logical conclusion, quizbowl will become a self-referential, isolated game and the circuit dwindles to maybe twenty powerhouse teams. If so, y'all have fun. I prefer an academic tournament environment where only a few tournaments reach that level of difficulty, and most are too easy for those who've played four or more years' worth already.
Twenty powerhouse teams? Oh, how I wish that were true. There have almost never been more than 5 serious contenders for a national title in all the years I've been playing. I wish that there were twenty powerhouse teams because then we could just get together and have our powerhouse tournaments. But this isn't the case; every region has roughly two strong teams, of which one might be a powerhouse, and the Midwest has three. That's why I end up flying there so much.

Of course, all of this conveniently ignores the repeated point I am making, which is that "difficult" is not synonymous with "quality." It's amazing that we even have to go through this exercise; one would think that given all the times this point has been made, we wouldn't have to do it again.
But even if you disagree with that, this tournament was advertised as a junior bird level tournament. That's what I wanted, and what I edited for, and what I think I achieved. Penn asked if I would be willing to handle the editing duties for them as well so there would *be* a Penn Bowl this year. This discussion goes to show once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
Yeah, but it wasn't advertised as almost entirely unedited and full of mistakes and repeats and terrible questions. Somehow, you seem to be asserting that "junior bird level" excuses the question quality, when I have repeatedly explained that it does not.

I already made the offer privately to Penn, but I'll make it public: I will gladly edit next year's Penn Bowl, provided I am informed of its occurrence sufficiently in advance. It will be accessible and well-written, and if it sucks, you can all pillory me to your heart's content.

I'm glad that I got a response from you, Charlie. Now we have it out in the open that you don't consider yourself bound by the very loose standards developed by the quizbowl community (which, contrary to your assertion, includes many players who are in agreement with the aforementioned basic tenets and yet do not post in this forum). At least now, everyone will know, by your own admission, what sort of questions you believe are appropriate for quizbowl tournaments.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
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Scipio
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Post by Scipio » Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:31 pm

That leads me to the following question: does the Southeast want ACF? If no one else hosts ACF events and teams only come because Charlie's such a great guy, that makes me think that most of them don't care what kinds of questions they play on. They'd come anyway if the questions were bad, so where's the incentive for anyone to provide good questions? I've asked repeatedly, but I'll do so again: does anyone really enjoy playing on questions that suck? Questions that have the giveaway in the first line? Questions that are four lines long with two of the lines full of completely vague and useless information? Questions that are factually wrong?
I suspect this might have been rhetorical, but allow me to answer based on my own experiences with and in the Southern circuit.

In my experience, the South seems to enjoy untimed, 20-tossup, all-bonus-worth-30 points, predominantly but not exclusively academic, questions, and the tournaments at which such can be provided. This is what used to be defined as ACF, though I suspect this definition has changed somewhat (and note that I offer no commentary on these changes, just the observation). There are very few sites which provide this, but this in large part is because many teams in the South are small and incapable of running tournaments and not because there is a lack of desire for such events.

What I have seen antipathy against have been questions whose answers are simply either too difficult for general access or whose answers are fine but too lengthy (which can present the illusion of being too hard even if they are not). I have noted that Southern teams really enjoyed the ACF Fall, for example, but that many found ACF Regionals too difficult.

I do not think anyone in the South enjoys playing on repeats, on pyramidically faulty questions, or on any of the others which fall into your rubric of suck. I strongly suspect, however, that if given a choice between these and those which are flawless in form but are perceived as impossible to answer (for example, the Artaud questions of a few years back), the former would be taken with far more forgiveness than the latter.

Note that I am not suggesting one damned thing about this state of affairs. I suspect my presence at several Chicago Opens, at least seven ACF Nationals, and the Illinois tournaments might give an insight into my own ability to tolerate what are perceived to be very difficult questions, but I am not speaking to my own preferences, but rather to what I see and hear in the South. I hope it provides some answers to your questions.
Seth Lyons Kendall
University of Memphis, 1993-1997
University of Kentucky, 1997-1999, 2000-2008

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Post by The Joker » Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:14 am

Even though I'm not big on posting things in forums, I feel that I should give my view of this situation. I was Jerry's partner at the Penn Bowl tournament. I've just started playing quiz bowl this year, I am by no means a great player and don't pretend to know much about how quiz bowl tournaments are edited and run, but I still think that I can add some thing to the discussion.

First of all, let me start by saying that in my humble opinion, the questions at Penn Bowl sucked. From my limited experience, I've played only on a handful of tournaments (at BU, Harvard and MIT, and maybe a fourth one I'm not sure) and they were all clearly better and more enjoyable to me. In fact, if they were as bad as Penn Bowl was, I don't think that I would have spent my own money, and gone through a lot of hassle that included changing 3 different modes of transportation and traveling for 7 hours just to get there (and the same to come back). In practice all the time we also have better questions. Now let me point out quickly just some of the reasons I think the questions weren't so good (and this has mostly been said before, but now I'm giving it from the point of view of a new player):

1) Factual inaccuracy. Some questions were just plain wrong. For example, there was a question on momentum which says in the first line something like (I don't have the packet so those who have it can try to find the exact wording) "this variable is famous for being the same regardless of the relative velocity of the observers". This is just plain wrong, even in non-relativistic mechanics. And it's not only wrong in a subtle way that only an expert in mechanics will see, it should be clear to anyone who even has just the basic freshman or even high school knowledge in physics. And I negged on that question because of this. Second example: in one of the bonuses there was a question on path integrals. It said that this is a 'weighted sum of paths'. This is incorrect, it is just a sum of paths. This error is less serious, and much more easily forgiven, but is still annoying because, one of Feynman's main ideas is that all of the paths enter with the same probability. Some people might even say that this is the greatest beauty of his idea. So if a person on the quiz bowl team who doesn't know much about physics, but has read one of the many popular books on it remembers the author clearly pointing out that all of the paths enter with the same probability, he can give the wrong answer, for example saying 'weighted path integral'. There were more inaccuracies these just come first to mind because I'm a physicist.

2) As many people said, the clues should have a pyramidal fashion. For example, I didn't derive much pleasure from getting the tossup on the sea of Marmara, which gave in the second sentence it's exact geographical location. So basically I just got the tossup because I know where this sea is, and I didn't have to know anything else about it. On the other hand, to me it feels much better, and it's much more 'fun', when I get a tossup on a very difficult starting clue, because I actually have more knowledge on the subject. To give an example from geography, I got more pleasure when I got the tossup on one of the other tournaments on Slovenia, just from it's highest peak (Triglav). I could have still gotten it if it started instead with it's exact geographical position, but I think this was certainly more 'fun'. As has been stated so many times by others, you can keep the same answer in the tossup, just write a much higher quality question.

3) Some of the clues were completely vague. The first one that comes to mind is about some guy where the first sentence was 'he though at school for six years.' I don't see how anyone can buzz after this and give the correct answer. The starting clues should be difficult, but still someone who has a lot of knowledge should be able to answer just from that. Another example was a gas that can be bought in high pressure cylinders. Again the list goes on.

4) Repeats. Many questions across packets on Solzhenitsyn, thermodynamics, hybridization, Dirac and positrons, Laffer curve...

5) Variable bonuses difficulty. I thought some bonuses were extremely difficult, only for the next one to be a sure 30 points.

6) Another thing which I didn't like, is that I thought the questions were too American. Too much american history, politics, pop-culture and especially literature. But okay, I understand that this is actually taking place in America, so I can understand if most people disagree with me. I fell though that the other tournaments I went too weren't so american, but I don't have the actual numbers on tossups so i might be wrong.

7) These are the first objections that come to mind as I'm writing this. If I think of more I might add them later. I'd also like to point out that at the actual event some of the people from Penn that were running the tournament were also complaining that it sucked, as were some of the other teams.

Now comes a MAJOR objection that I have as a first time question writer: a lot of my questions were removed, and those that made it were completely unchanged. Jerry and me submitted what I thought was a rather good packet, only to have it butchered and have some questions of what I think is much lower quality added to it. Now why do I object to this? The main reason is that this way I can't see how people react to my questions, can't judge if the questions are good or not, can't get criticism (positive or negative) and hence can't improve my question writing in the future. Some questions which I thought were rather good didn't make it at all, and I have no idea why. I'm not saying that they were perfect questions, but if their faults were corrected, I could have seen what I did wrong and keep that in mind for the future. Since the questions that did make it did not have as much as a single comma changed in them, I don't see if there's anything that I should change in my question writing. So I don't see what 'editing', besides throwing out quesitions with no apparent reason, the editor did. For example, I noticed during the tournament that in one of my tossups the word 'proof' is mentioned way too much. He could have at least fixed this. Finally I worked hard on some of the questions (for example there was a very cool question on Heine that started off with one of his not well known quotes and the year that it was made, but this quote is then tied in with a relevant event that took place a hundred years later, and I wasn't very happy that this question didn't make it), and while again I accept that they weren't perfect, they sure were better than the questions copied from wikipedia with pointless vague information in it. Another team that placed in the top also told me that their packet was destroyed in much the same way. As such a big deal is being made here about this being a juniorbird tournament, I think, and correct me if I'm wrong, that most of the packets were written by novice writers, and in that case in my opinion they (as well as me) would have profited much more if their questions were actually edited and improved. This is a point that should not be glossed over.

I don't know Mr. Steinheice, but most of the people seem to say that he is a very nice person, and I do not doubt that at all. But I do not see what does that have to do with anything. If someone takes a job upon himself, and people pay for it, he is taking on also a responsibility to do that job well, no matter what the job is. You can argue if Mr. Steinheice did or did not do the job well, but the arguments of him being a very nice person or having children have no bearing on this topic and should be left out. In some ways Einstein was an asshole, but that doesn't change the fact that he was an excellent physicist. And my grandmother was a very nice person, but that doesn't mean should would have been a great quiz bowl editor (actually I assure you, she wouldn't have).

One thing that I didn't like is the 'self-rightouesness' of the poster ValenciaQBowl. Mr. QBowl writes as if he's so morally superior to some of the other posters, I am surprised that he can even stoop so low to say something to such mere mortals. I'm sure that advice of the type
But I recommend getting ahold of some redhair bud and hitting the hot tub once in a while.
should be framed on a wall. In fact it's so deep it should come in a fortune cookie.

Also, I have to say that I don't understand the attitude of those people who say thing like
And a side note to the rest of you who will come to ICT this year and then bitch about how much NAQT questions suck--don't.
(this is the first quote of this type that I found, there were others as well). I mean God forbid anyone should express any criticism. If you don't like the way things are run, don't bother to try to give suggestions on how to improve them, just quit right away. And, as Homer Simpson says, in case you can't tell I'm being sarcastic.

Finally something I'd like to say to other new players, being a new player myself. You should demand that questions have high quality, which doesn't mean difficult. Look in some of the other packets that people have suggested, and you will see examples. Don't settle for less than you deserve.

Marko

PS
not funds leeched from the circuit by printing out my excrement and labeling it "Sword Bowl."
I like this:)

PPS Apologies for the length of this post.
Time is the substance I am made of.

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Post by mattreece » Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:29 am

And I negged on that question because of this. Second example: in one of the bonuses there was a question on path integrals. It said that this is a 'weighted sum of paths'. This is incorrect, it is just a sum of paths. This error is less serious, and much more easily forgiven, but is still annoying because, one of Feynman's main ideas is that all of the paths enter with the same probability. Some people might even say that this is the greatest beauty of his idea.
Sorry to interrupt the charming thread of this whole conversation, but I don't agree here. Just because the paths are all in some sense normalized to a fixed weight doesn't mean they're unweighted; they're weighted by exp(iS). The weight might be a pure phase, but it's still a weight.

This is more of a linguistic issue than an issue of substance, but I don't think it's a fair criticism of the question. (Not knowing what the question says, I can't comment on whether it's misleading or has other problems.)

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