Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

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Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Thu Jul 28, 2016 10:44 pm

In keeping with my points about "distributional pluralism" at the end of the other thread: I would be interested to see a larger discussion about how and whether to get more computer science and computational methods content into quizbowl. My suspicion is that the number of computer science majors has skyrocketed since the basics of the ACF distribution were set down 15+ years ago, and that other disciplines are making use of computational modeling and programming techniques a lot more readily than they used to. (We do sometimes get a bonus on BLAST or computational chemistry; my bonus part at CO on the Human Relations Area Files and my bonus on "digital classics" in the Penn packet were two more attempts to get at this sort of learning in-game outside the science distribution.) We Have Never Been Modern, the tech side tournament, was incredibly popular, which could indicate a real gap in what mainstream tournaments tend to ask about.

It seems like a reasonably common conclusion among computer scientists that merely testing knowledge of programming does not constitute computer science (an analogy I've seen is "computer science is to programming as mechanical engineering is to being a mechanic"), but basic programming concepts of some intellectual interest could probably see more play as well, even if it's General Knowledge rather than Science.

Unlike mythology, I have little understanding of what it'd take to do this well; I took exactly one introductory programming class and one introductory CS class in college (though I suspect the numbers of people doing that without majoring in the discipline is also skyrocketing lately). Is there enough of it to sustain a full 1/1 per packet at regular difficulty and up? Or a full 0.5/0.5? What else would need to be squeezed to make room? (Chemistry?)
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:11 pm

Adventure Temple Trail wrote: What else would need to be squeezed to make room? (Chemistry?)
:mad:
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by touchpack » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:15 pm

Bubalus Period wrote:
Adventure Temple Trail wrote: What else would need to be squeezed to make room? (Chemistry?)
:mad:
As much work as I've done in the past few years demonstrating that 1/1 chemistry is viable without shoving orgo down everyone's throats, I wouldn't be against something like chem-> 0.75/0.75 with all thermodynamics folded into physics and all biochemistry folded into biology, if that's what the masses desire to make room for more math/CS.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:45 pm

How could Matt have possibly known that I was thinking about this very thing for months now? Yes, I believe chemistry needs to be cut 20% at higher levels to make way for stronger other science. It's simply not as broad of a topic as the other big two and so I think we can cut it at higher levels to make room for more interesting stuff from the other science distro. I think making this cut could also make other science editors' jobs easier by further specifying how much room they have to work with. Why can't we make a better effort to ensure that a certain amount of each other science topic gets played per set? Other science is filled with tons of interesting and more importantly diverse topics at higher levels of difficulty. At lower levels (regular difficulty and below) having a 1/1 chemistry distribution totally makes sense, however at higher levels I feel like chemistry topics seem to be less diverse. That last part is just the opinion I have/feeling I get when playing the typical advanced chemistry questions - correct me if I'm wrong.

As an editor of such an other science topic, I would feel much more comfortable knowing how much of each other science we're going to include in the set as soon as we decide how many packets there are. Having a concrete idea of how many other science topics are expected from each category will help in balancing topics within respective categories and make for a better experience. (Obviously there are other things that make the experience better too, see other thread.) While I was happy that, in the instance of this CO, there was at least a reasonable amount of math in the set, I was simultaneously concerned that computer science and astro was getting the short hand of the stick until the very end.

As a player (as Sam alluded to in the other thread) it is disappointing to know that you didn't get to hear a relatively high percentage of questions in your favorite categories simply because they were placed in weird parts of the set, be it tossup 21, a tiebreaker packet, a finals packet, or whatever. To anyone in charge of a set: please try to ensure that the majority of those questions get played by players. For instance: question quality / other issues aside, I was a bit disappointed that people only got to hear three math tossups in the fourteen rounds they played. As a specialist, it's very frustrating when this sort of thing happens as it cuts your potential good buzzes on the other science topic of your choice by a good 50% at times. This goes for all other sciences too. The knowledge of strong other science players is already compromised enough by having only a fraction of a tossup and bonus per round to work with.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:54 pm

disclaimer: I am still not a scientist

How would people feel about a distribution which split things along different lines than we do now? Treating biology, chemistry, and physics as the core triad of scientific inquiry is a pretty dated mindset, and I suspect it does something of a disservice to the various kinds of science stuff going on nowadays. Maybe we could do something like 1/1 to 1.5/1.5 Life Sciences (including biochemistry, microbiology, physiology, medicine stuff, ecology/evolution, geologic eras, organisms), 1.5/1.5 to 2/2 Physical Sciences (including non-bio chemistry, physics, astronomy, inert earth science stuff, mechanical/electrical engineering), and 1/1 Quantitative/Methods (including math, CS, more technical/programming stuff, lab equipment)? You could set more definite requirements within each of those (e.g. "at least one Quantitative/Methods question must be on Mathematics or Computer Science"; "at least one question in either Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, or both must draw primarily on chemistry").
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by theMoMA » Fri Jul 29, 2016 1:27 am

It's worth noting that most high schoolers get basic chemistry training in high school, and although the focus on computer science is rising in higher education and even in high school, it's still certainly the case that the basic literacy rate for CS is lower than that for chemistry. I'd venture that most quizbowlers have the basic tools needed to answer chem questions but not CS questions, especially CS questions that are heavy on theory. If we're going to write more CS, we need to make sure that we're not jettisoning a part of the distribution that a broad base of people know for one that, at least in my experience, is usually answered early by specialists and late, if at all, by everyone else.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by touchpack » Fri Jul 29, 2016 1:49 am

theMoMA wrote:It's worth noting that most high schoolers get basic chemistry training in high school, and although the focus on computer science is rising in higher education and even in high school, it's still certainly the case that the basic literacy rate for CS is lower than that for chemistry. I'd venture that most quizbowlers have the basic tools needed to answer chem questions but not CS questions, especially CS questions that are heavy on theory. If we're going to write more CS, we need to make sure that we're not jettisoning a part of the distribution that a broad base of people know for one that, at least in my experience, is usually answered early by specialists and late, if at all, by everyone else.
This is a very good argument--I'd like to add that at UIUC, every student in the engineering department (even the computer science majors) is required to take a semester of chemistry + the attached lab course. I dunno how widespread that is, but the answerability of CS to non-specialists is probably the lowest among all of the sciences. However, I've always thought the arguments for increasing math to 0.5/0.5 are pretty good, considering all of the applied math that is out there to ask about and that people know because they need it for the other sciences.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Ike » Fri Jul 29, 2016 2:09 am

Oh man, there's so much to talk about in this thread, but I'll try to keep it short.

I think there is room in quizbowl for asking more about computery things. I don't necessarily think it has to come out of the science distribution since a lot of these topics aren't really about science. These topics include: stuff related to A+ certification (knowing what is going on inside a computer and how your router works for example), generally understanding the history of computers, (for example a question about Steve Jobs' deeds or the work of Ada Lovelace), just computery culture concepts (maybe Copyleft and the GPL), computery current events type questions (such as one on Bitcoin or augmented reality games), stuff relating to coding and software engineering (HTML for example), and digital humanities (I've been waiting for this clue to come up for five years, but I'll guess I'll stop hoarding: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vo ... 00188.html). I think these are all topics that would make for accessible, great questions that people with a reasonable amount of intellectual curiosity will be able to appreciate, understand and possibly know.

Andrew Hart does make a good point about chemistry and computer science in high school, and to a large degree he's right: HSers these days don't really know about computer science even if they know how to code -- they're not going to know what a Bloom Filter is unless it's through packets. But I think HSers these days are much better at being literate about computers in general. More high schoolers than not probably understand why a site like http://downloadmoreram.com/ is complete bullshit, so I think it's OK to ask about computer parts under some kind of "technology" distribution. However, I think making room for more "pure" computer science would be a bad idea at pretty much any level so long as you're keeping computer science free from whatever cool new framework Silicon Valley finds really trendy.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:24 am

As a recent BioCS/Bioinformatics graduate, I am quite enjoying this thread. More integrative questions would be good to have, especially as these fields grow, but not necessarily in its own subdistro within 4/4 science. I think integration of computer related things should be done within rather than having a separate 1/1 techy stuff, and this would be both in science, and in history, CE, or other topics. A lot of the computational stuff we learn is applicable to the regular Math/CS distribution anyways, even at higher difficulties. I think the unique stuff in computational biology can be treated just as another discipline of biology and more integration done within. For example at some regionals level tournament, you can have the hard part of an ecology bonus be some advanced differential equation, and the hard part of a bioinformatics bonus be some advanced algorithm while the easy part remains something any life science student would know.

Maybe NAQT can pilot whatever comes out of this thread for an upcoming SCT since they have a lot more wiggle room than current (m)ACF 20/20 does?
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by jfuchs » Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:24 am

It seems like most computer-related questions are either theory/"real CS" (algorithms, complexity, etc.) or practice/engineering ("technologies", broadly defined). The first overlaps considerably with math in my experience, and in some cases has very little to do with actual computers. And how much of each you're exposed to in classes depends a lot on the school and individual class choices; being good at one definitely doesn't make you good at the other. So I think it would be interesting to group the more theoretical topics together with math, and put the remainder into some sort of larger engineering subdistribution that also includes other fields.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Muriel Axon » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:32 pm

Ike's Coetzee link wrote:the renowned German stylostatistician Wilhelm Fucks
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Mike Bentley » Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:47 pm

My general impression is that more people these days are taking Code Academy-type classes. As such, there's probably more room for popular subjects such as web programming languages and machine learning to show up in quizbowl, although we'd need to carefully review how these are received.

I certainly wouldn't be opposed to quizbowl asking more about computer-related history and current events given that I've written two tournaments on these things, but I'm still undecided on whether they really need to show up more in the standard quizbowl distribution. Given how much press and importance the technology industry has on culture writ large these days, I think the most natural place in the current distribution where computer-related things could be increased is in Current Events / Your Choice. I've written a few of these questions for the past few NSCs. One could imagine something like the Github bonus I wrote in tossup form which combines some more technical details of how Github works with current events-type things such as anti-Github movements and the Chinese attack on the site.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:05 pm

In general, I'm definitely in favor of more computer stuff in quizbowl. I don't know that we should make it a required part of the distribution, but "real world programming" is definitely A Thing that we can ask about more than we do. These kinds of questions did show up occasionally in old packets, but they were really shitty questions like "this symbol is used to denote comments in assembly" which is garbage that no one cares about. You can and should write good questions on modern programming languages, technologies, and techniques, but I'd be wary of trying to force more of these into the distribution because these questions are very easy to write badly. What I would suggest is that the folks who can write these questions well do so and that editors maybe make a little bit of an effort to include such questions in sets when they are written properly.

edit: I would not, contra Mike Bentley, suggest that these questions belong in Current Events. To me, they are very much at home in the science category and can be easily placed in "your choice" science.
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Re: Do We Want/Need More Computer Stuff Per Round?

Post by Victor Prieto » Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:03 pm

The Ununtiable Twine wrote:Yes, I believe chemistry needs to be cut 20% at higher levels to make way for stronger other science. It's simply not as broad of a topic as the other big two and so I think we can cut it at higher levels to make room for more interesting stuff from the other science distro... Other science is filled with tons of interesting and more importantly diverse topics at higher levels of difficulty. At lower levels (regular difficulty and below) having a 1/1 chemistry distribution totally makes sense, however at higher levels I feel like chemistry topics seem to be less diverse. That last part is just the opinion I have/feeling I get when playing the typical advanced chemistry questions - correct me if I'm wrong.
Chemistry is much more broad/diverse at higher levels. I don't know how you drew this conclusion. One needs to go no further than Wikipedia to see how many different fields a question writer can draw on. Speaking from a writer's perspective, the chemistry distribution is cramped at lower levels, but gives way to much more interesting and diverse questions at regular difficulty and above.

I'll also agree with Billy that Andrew's point about the ubiquity of chemistry. It's difficult to find a high school without a chemistry class, most engineering majors require at least one chemistry course, and every pre-med has to take organic chemistry.

I'm going to take a different stance than some in this thread, and argue against changing the distribution in any way. I would like to instead advocate including more computer stuff in every part of the science distribution, and perhaps even other parts of the distribution - say, anthropology. I can think of plenty of chemistry tossups where a clue using computer stuff would make the tossup much more rich (I'm not going to post examples because I want to save the good clues that immediately came to mind), or a bonus part asking about BLAST stuff. I suppose what I'm arguing for is the inclusion of more "applied computer science" clues in quizbowl questions that are not CS.

Note that the above paragraph is generally a good way to expand the canon in general - include tossup clues and hard bonus parts from the new topic. This case is a little different though, in that the new topic isn't really new, it's from a different part of the distribution. I'll also point out that this method shouldn't always justify the inclusion of science history clues in science tossups, because science history is still history. Sometimes, though, it's okay.
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