2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

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2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:56 am

Hi all,

It's Friday morning, and I'm just wrapping up the final packet chores on the tournament. To those of you reading this in the future, thanks for playing, moderating, editing, or just plain caring about ACF Regionals.

I owe thank yous to several people without whom the set wouldn't have come together.

First off, thanks to my co-editors (Stephen Liu, Nathan Weiser, Benji Nguyen, Adam Silverman, and Cody Voight) for their well-written questions, thoughtful edits, and helpful suggestions. Everyone put a lot of work into their questions, and putting everything together was a very nice and collaborative effort. I especially appreciate your willingness to work around my schedule at times. It was a pleasure to edit this tournament with all of you.

Second, I'm grateful for the contributions of Carsten Gehring, who put a lot of work into proofreading the set, and of Rob Carson, who randomized the questions and made this the first ACF tournament (to my knowledge) to include full-service pronunciation guides. The set wouldn't have turned out nearly so well without their work (or without Cody's help with the fonts).

Third, I'd like to single out Gautam Kandlikar for deserved recognition. He put in a ton of thankless work setting up and managing the registration system, which saved me so much time and effort. Stephen Eltinge will do a bunch of work on the back end to get the bids out, so we should all be grateful to him in advance.

Finally, thank you to the hosts for their efforts making the tournament happen, to the readers who volunteered their Saturdays or Sundays, to the players for showing up, and to the packet writers for their quality submissions. We tried to make the tournament as good an experience as possible for all these groups, and I hope we succeeded.

I hope everyone enjoyed the set. I certainly enjoyed working on it.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:58 am

In case anyone is interested, here's the editing breakdown:

Stephen edited American and British lit, European history, mythology, and other visual arts; Nathan edited American and world history, other audio arts, and geography/current events; Benji edited music, philosophy, and social science; Adam edited biology and chemistry; Cody edited physics and other science; and I edited European and world/other literature, painting, religion, and trash/other.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:47 pm

This tournament was good, and I think it did a very good job being what Regionals is supposed to be - a challenging tournament, meant to separate teams who are qualified for ACF Nationals, but at the same time offering fair middle parts and good, not-too-tough clues before "for ten points." To employ a culinary analogy, the material was rather like quizbowl al dente - a few interesting ideas, a few more standard questions, and a whole heaping of fresh takes on common material - and nothing seemed too radical or wacky, which is good for a high-profile, widely-attended tournament like this, which has the official stamp of ACF on it. I'd like to particularly praise Benji Nguyen and Nathan Weiser for doing a good job for their first time as collegiate editors - I know they've written for tournaments before, but taking on a big editing job like this and producing a quality product isn't easy, and they did it.

To the extent that I'd offer critiques of this tournament, I'll emphasize what other Regionals (and tournaments with similar difficulty/audience goals) could to do build on this one (since this set won't be played much more):

- Making sure every easy part truly is easy at the ACF Fall level. This tournament did a great job with middle parts, but easy parts occasionally fell through the cracks a bit. As always, there are many things editors would do if they had more time, but I think making sure easy parts are in control is much more manageable than having hard parts/first and second clues be consistent, and offers a better return on time investment considering that Regionals is so widely attended by teams of all skill levels.
- Smoothing out the pyramid from middle to late-middle clues a bit more. It's hard to pack so much information into seven lines, but the transition to pre-FTP clues often felt a big rough. That said, I saw very few buzzer races, even between the less to moderately skilled teams - even when both knew it around the same place, one was clearly well ahead of the other.
- Using less quizbowlese, especially the word "namesake." I think it's often more efficient just to modify answerlines or pronouns when you have to reach for the word namesake, particularly in a bonus part, and it becomes less confusing to teams as well. For example, the bonus part on woodcuts that said "made out of the namesake material" confused one newer team that had difficulty processing it - since I assume it was intended to be easy, I don't see why you can't just ask for "this material" and have the answer be wood. Similarly, in the bonus part on the Tavora affair, I'm not sure why the question had to say "the namesake family" - you could just talk about the incident, ask for "this family" and have the answer be Tavora family. I know this seems nitpicky, but the former example really did confuse somebody, and cleaning these things up helps enhance the set's feeling of polish (I should note that this set did feel very polished overall, especially with pronunciation guides and the lot - clearly a lot of work went into this).
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Panayot Hitov » Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:43 am

I had a lot of fun playing this, and I am personally very happy to hear that some of Carleton's questions made it into the set, for the first time in a while. Thanks to everyone for writing/editing/proofreading this!
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:31 am

To follow up with one of Will's points, I don't agree that every bonus at Regionals should have an "ACF Fall" easy part. This tournament isn't ACF Fall; it's a level above that, and sometimes, because of the expanded answer space that Regionals carries with it, the theme of the bonus will not lend itself to a Fall-level easy part. Seth Teitler memorably compared automatic 10s to having a part of each bonus amounting to "touch your butt." On a more mathematical level, it reduces the ability of each bonus to differentiate between teams to a 20-point range instead of a 30-point range. At Regionals, you do occasionally get those "touch your butt" 10s--naming Mark Twain off of Huck Finn, for instance--but you sometimes need to know more to get your 10, and if you don't, that's how it goes.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:57 am

Following up on another point, I would draw a fairly major distinction between "quizbowlese" (pejorative), as the unfortunate meta-language in which packet authors string together nearly incomprehensible gestures toward a common theme and call it a tossup or bonus prompt, and "quizbowlese" (lingua franca), as the set of commonplaces and shibboleths that one must know to play the game effectively.

Here is the bonus prompt on "woodblock prints," for instance:
packet a, bonus 14 wrote:Leon Alberti is sometimes credited with either writing the Hypnerotomachia or making its illustrations in this medium. In this printmaking technique, the artist carves an image onto a block of the namesake material.
Because the fact that one thing is named after another thing is so important to quizbowl, and because there aren't many succinct ways to convey that relationship, the flexible use of "namesake" is a fairly essentially commonplace for playing the game. Is characterizing "wood" as the "namesake material" of "woodblock prints" a way anyone would speak in everyday life? No. In hindsight, is the bonus framed as clearly as it could be? Probably not. But does it adequately convey the relationship between "wood" and "woodblock prints" to anyone who understands how the game works? Yes. And other than the use of the word "namesake," which is performing the unique-to-quizbowl function of conveying that the technique in question is named for a type of material, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything unnatural about those two sentences.

The bonus on the Tavora family is even clearer, and uses "namesake" in a completely natural sense:
packet i, bonus 5 wrote:In a namesake 1759 political scandal, this Portuguese noble family was blamed for a failed assassination attempt on Joseph I. Joseph’s prime minister saw to it that this family was effectively wiped out in a set of public executions.
This prompt asks for the family, not the scandal, so the question indeed "just talk[ed] about the incident, ask[ed] for 'this family' and ha[d] the answer be Tavora family." (Although, for hopefully obvious reasons, "Tavora affair" is an acceptable alternate answer.) The function of the word "namesake" is to help a player line up possibly misaligned knowledge of the "Tavora family" and "Tavora affair"; for instance, a player may have heard of the "Tavora affair," but not known for certain whether the family was called "Tavora," or whether the scandal was called "Tavora affair" for some other reason.

I think it's fair to say that quizbowl could stand to rely less on commonplaces like "namesake." The more quizbowl can sound like plain English, the better. But there's a big difference between quizbowlese (pejorative) and quizbowlese (lingua franca), and I would contest the idea that this tournament came anywhere near the former, even if it relied a bit too much on the latter.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:26 am

Paisley Park wrote:I had a lot of fun playing this, and I am personally very happy to hear that some of Carleton's questions made it into the set, for the first time in a while. Thanks to everyone for writing/editing/proofreading this!
Thanks for your packet! But next time, don't submit a tossup on The Yakoubian Building.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:31 am

Yeah I agree with everything Andrew said. "Quizbowlese" is often necessary and not necessarily bad. I don't understand the stigma associated with it. Also, I'm very perplexed about the Tavora complaint because I specifically made that question about the family for precisely the reasons Will mentioned.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:16 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:Yeah I agree with everything Andrew said. "Quizbowlese" is often necessary and not necessarily bad. I don't understand the stigma associated with it. Also, I'm very perplexed about the Tavora complaint because I specifically made that question about the family for precisely the reasons Will mentioned.
My memory evidently failed me. You clearly made the right call!
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Evan Lynch » Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:19 pm

I'm curious - is there a breakdown of how much British/Celtic mythology was in the set relative to other traditions? It felt like there was *a lot* in the 13 packets I played, and I'm intrigued as to whether I was right to get this impression or not.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Red Panda Cub » Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:33 pm

I have rather mixed feelings about this tournament. I thought the history, visual OFA, myth and religion were overall well executed, and people at my site seemed to enjoy the chemistry. However, the literature, painting and philosophy did not feel quite up to snuff, perhaps largely for reasons idiosyncratic to me, so I am interested to hear if people had similar experiences.

The first adjective I'd apply to the three weaker categories I mention above would be boring. I can appreciate as a player that much of this was born from attempts to keep things accessible, and often this felt like it was the proximate cause. However, I can count on one hand the number of times I, or a teammate, responded to a hard part we didn't know with "man I want to go learn that", and maybe that's because on the day we were boring/uninterested pococurantes. To my mind, though, it felt more like a systematic trend in the method of choosing bonus parts. A lot of hard parts rested on recognising or recalling characters and their names, which is fine at certain doses, but when it is a major method of rewarding engagement that feels weak and repetitive. I'd've much preferred a greater portion of those questions be given over to thematic points or questions about actions/events/things done by people in books, rather than "can you remember the owners of the company in Glengarry Glen Ross" and the like. The philosophy and painting felt similar, in their modes of engagement, in a way I might try to flesh out a bit more when/if I have a chance to read the set. Maybe this is a position I lean into more heavily than the circuit overall, and if people enjoyed these categories because/in spite of that then that's great.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by adamsil » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:31 pm

If anyone wants feedback on their bio and chem submissions, email me at adsilverman627 at gmail dot com and I will do my best to respond quickly. The submissions tended to cluster very heavily toward a few areas (especially organic functional groups and elements), so if you wrote a question that got cut, there's a pretty decent chance it was just too similar to other submissions.

I was disappointed in how skewed the bio distribution wound up--it definitely had more biochemistry/cell biology than it probably should have, and not enough macrobiology. Most of the questions in that second vein (ecology, human body, botany, etc.) in the tournament I wrote as supplements to patch up subdistros as best as I could, but any criticism you've got on that front is totally merited. I did consciously try to limit the amount of orgo in the set after some CO feedback, so I hope that bit worked out better.

I wouldn't be surprised if my categories wound up playing too tough for people without academic science backgrounds; part of my goal for editing was to ask about things that are big in science news like connectomics or ctDNA or the CRISPR mtDNA editing trials, preferably over the nth question asking about the cranial nerves or peroxisomes. Would love to hear if any of these things worked or if they just made the third parts of biology bonuses ungettable.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by heterodyne » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:41 pm

Joey more or less made all of the points that I would have, although I can't speak to the painting, knowing literally nothing about it. I was having trouble pointing to particular bad questions (although, as a quizbowler, I of course have a few gripes that nobody but me cares about) but there was just nothing in third parts or leadins of philosophy or literature that made me want to engage further. The third part relying on knowledge of a particular character is fine, but that's all it is - fine. When overused (as I believe might have happened here) it "flattens" the set.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Sam » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:26 pm

This was a good Regionals. It also possessed features that were less than good. I detail both below.

Good things:
- Proofreading: I'll admit I probably would not have noticed if Andrew hadn't brought up the fact that the set was proofread, but this tournament was easy to listen to. Off the top of my head of can think of only two instances where I was confused about what the tossup was asking for*, and about as many times a reader had to pause to figure out what the sentence should be. Given that at least some of these instances could have been errors on my part or the part of the reader, four questions is an upper bound--not bad for the 200+ tossups that we heard. Editors and writers should look towards this tournament as an example of what "easy listening" quiz bowl writing looks like.
- Difficulty: Seemed good. Some tossups went dead, usually after the person in the room most likely to know it made a poorly chosen neg, most did not.
- Interesting tossup clues: I'm not sure exactly how to describe the type of clue I'm thinking of, but "active" seems to fit. That is, rather than state the answer's relation to some other person, or work, or other category or subcategory, most sentences were about the answer line doing something. That can't hold true literally for all answer lines so I'm afraid my description is still only suggestive, but I'll try to find some examples to illustrate what I'm describing.
- Interesting bonus structures: Not all bonuses were like this (see below!), but I like the structure of hard theme with difficulty appropriate clues. (I suppose you could call it "hard answer lines with easy clues.") The example that sticks out in my mind is the bonus on Islam in colonial America. I don't think this is a subject many people know about and if you used only clues that are true to the theme it would be too difficult. With a healthy mix of other clues, though, you can make a bonus with a clear easy, middle, and hard part and still introduce people to a new and interesting topic.

Less than good things:
- The thing Joey was talking about: I also noticed this, that there seemed to be more bonuses where the hard part was a secondary character or person. Part of the reason for the push back against this structure, I think, is that it is often employed lazily and the hard part will be far too difficult. This tournament did not have that problem**; the difficult remained in line. Still, I agree with Joey that varying the type of answer line is more interesting to players even (perhaps especially) if you have no idea what the correct answer is.
- Social science: I remember when I first started playing, there were five or six social psychologists from mid-20th century that, once you learned existed, were good for a healthy chunk of the social science questions at any sub-Nationals tournament. This tournament returned to that model somewhat.

* One was the Judaism tossup on "moon," and the other was "Aegisthus."
** People are bringing up the "Mitch and Murray" part, but is that so out there? They come up a lot in dialogue throughout the play movie, and are conveniently alliterative.
Last edited by Sam on Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:47 pm

Short-beaked echidna wrote:The first adjective I'd apply to the three weaker categories I mention above would be boring. I can appreciate as a player that much of this was born from attempts to keep things accessible, and often this felt like it was the proximate cause. However, I can count on one hand the number of times I, or a teammate, responded to a hard part we didn't know with "man I want to go learn that", and maybe that's because on the day we were boring/uninterested pococurantes. To my mind, though, it felt more like a systematic trend in the method of choosing bonus parts. A lot of hard parts rested on recognising or recalling characters and their names, which is fine at certain doses, but when it is a major method of rewarding engagement that feels weak and repetitive. I'd've much preferred a greater portion of those questions be given over to thematic points or questions about actions/events/things done by people in books, rather than "can you remember the owners of the company in Glengarry Glen Ross" and the like. The philosophy and painting felt similar, in their modes of engagement, in a way I might try to flesh out a bit more when/if I have a chance to read the set. Maybe this is a position I lean into more heavily than the circuit overall, and if people enjoyed these categories because/in spite of that then that's great.
heterodyne wrote:Joey more or less made all of the points that I would have, although I can't speak to the painting, knowing literally nothing about it. I was having trouble pointing to particular bad questions (although, as a quizbowler, I of course have a few gripes that nobody but me cares about) but there was just nothing in third parts or leadins of philosophy or literature that made me want to engage further. The third part relying on knowledge of a particular character is fine, but that's all it is - fine. When overused (as I believe might have happened here) it "flattens" the set.
First off, the Glengarry bonus was trash, not literature.

Second, I think the idea of questions being "boring" or "flat" is a weird complaint to have. Just because questions in a set don't align with your tastes doesn't make it undesirable to have those kinds of questions. Not everything has to be "exciting" (and who's to define this, anyway?). If the complaint is that certain things aren't important, that's a discussion worth having. Here are some possible reasons why the literature may have come across as "boring" to you: 1) I tried to make sure that enough core-literature knowledge was represented. I myself have a tendency to write on things that interest me, and I had to actively fight that impulse in order to make this a Regionals-difficulty-representative set. 2) People submitted questions on "boring" things that were too good for me to cut. 3) You're not particularly interested in learning more about the core canon, and were hoping that there would be more experimental things that you want to display your "real knowledge" on. (I'm not saying this is definitely true of you, Joey, and you, Alston. Just a general "you" that usually includes me at other tournaments.)

Third, I'd like you guys to explain what you mean by "systematic trend." This is going to be a long-ass post, but here are a list of all of the leadins and bonus hard parts from American and British literature (I'll leave it to Andrew to defend / acknowledge the other half of the literature):

Leadins
"Young Goodman Brown": Herman Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses"
Homer from Keats: "To Homer"
New York City: morphine lollipop scene from The Goldfinch
D. H. Lawrence: job interview scene from Sons and Lovers
John Steinbeck: Tom Joad leaving Ma in The Grapes of Wrath
death of Ophelia: Richard Brautigan's "The Rape of Ophelia"
Elizabeth Bishop: Sarah Ruhl's Words in Air
Harold Pinter: Kate's monologue from Old People
"Sunday Morning": "willow shiver in the sun"
To the Lighthouse: Mr. Ramsay thinking about the role of the working class
Portrait of a Lady: Michael Gorra's Portrait of a Novel
Dylan Thomas: line from "Deaths and Entrances"
Louisa May Alcott: "Aslauga's Knight" from Jo's Boys
Robert Burns: "A Man's a Man for A' That"
Dean Moriarty: following a midget girl scene
1910s: Edward Thomas's "In Memoriam (Easter 1915)"
Shirley Jackson: Merricat's magic words from We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Lady Windermere's Fan: experience argument
August Wilson: Booster's speech in Jitney
map of Treasure Island: Andrew Motion's Silver
Anthony Hecht: Flight Among the Tombs
William Makepeace Thackeray: frontispiece for Vanity Fair
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro": "love is a dunghill"
"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love": Cecil Day-Lewis's "Song"
nuns: Dr. Livingstone joke from Agnes of God
Lamb family: Peter Ackroyd's The Lambs of London
poetry: Lisel Mueller's "On Reading an Anthology of Postwar German Poetry"
France: Julian Barnes's "An Englishman Abroad"
The Zoo Story: stage directions for Jerry's monologue
Jews: Anthony Julius's T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form
car crashes: George Saunders's "The End of FIRPO in the World"
Hilary Mantel: "Sorry to Disturb"

Bonus Hard Parts
"souls" from Richard Wilbur and Emily Dickinson
Nemo from Bleak House
Stoner
Philip Massinger
Bo Decker from Bus Stop
"crimson and white" from Tennyson and Michel Faber
Huck Finn from "Come Back to the Raft Ag'in Huck Honey!"
"Music, when Soft Voices Die"
James Weldon Johnson
Una from The Faerie Queene
00000 from Gravity's Rainbow
Andre Gregory
Torch Song Trilogy
Eros from W. H. Auden
John Wesley from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"
"statues coming to life" from Charlotte Mew and Susanna Clarke
thrush from "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"
Tono-Bungay
Billy Collins
Judy Bridgewater from The Remains of the Day
Passing
Timothy Cavendish from Cloud Atlas
Bluebeard from Angela Carter
John Dryden
mansions from Phyllis Wheatley
Beethoven's Fifth from Howards End
The Broom of the System
"chariot of fire" from William Blake
"Telling the Bees"
Stanley Fish
Ann Patchett
Katurian from The Pillowman

I've gone through and bolded every character hard part. There are 9, which is on its face a lot. But Huck Finn was just a way of making the Leslie Fiedler essay easier to ask about. I think Judy Bridgewater is more of a plot element (and a very important one at that) than a character. Timothy Cavendish came from a common link bonus on literary things named "Cavendish." Bluebeard was an attempt to give "The Bloody Chamber" an easier answerline. And Katurian was an attempt to test knowledge of his name's distinctiveness (hence asking for the last name given that the first name is Katurian; his full name is Katurian Katurian Katurian). Dropping those, there were four bonus parts on characters that fit the model Joey has criticized. I'll admit that a couple of these (Bo Decker, John Wesley) were "lazy." But is 4 really a systematic problem with the set? I don't think so.

Also, I'd be shocked if you (Joey or Alston or anyone else) looked at the list of leadins and found any more than a handful to be trite, overdone, or otherwise objectively boring. And if you find them to be personally boring, well:

I honestly think this has a lot to do with personal taste. I know I might sound pretty defensive here, but I chose all of these (especially the leadins) because I found them, often after hours of research, to be the most interesting possible leadins for the answerlines I had chosen. Maybe that doesn't cut it for you, but not every leadin that an editor finds interesting is going to come across that way to every player. Maybe it won't come across that way to any player. But what is the editor to do? It seems unreasonable to hold the editor responsible for entertaining every player with the colors of their difficult clues, simply for the reason that editors only know what would entertain themselves. By the way, this is probably the first time I've ever seen a tournament criticized for being "boring."

I'll also add that while reading through Andrew's half of the literature, I found the questions to be quite inspired, and at any rate I don't think I would have been bored playing them. I don't know enough about his process or how much he fixed the submissions to be able to defend those questions in depth, though.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:08 pm

I appreciate Stephen taking the time to pull out the various hard parts and lead-ins from his questions. I'm not necessarily surprised to hear some people say that a tightly controlled regular-difficulty set isn't as exciting, from a certain perspective, as other sets perhaps have the leeway to be. (That said, I tend to agree more with Will's and Sam's posts above; I thought all of the editors did a really nice job finding ways to ask about mainstream material in engaging ways.) But I'm a bit surprised to hear the specific criticism about characters appear in the third parts of bonuses.

Looking through the questions I edited in European and world/other literature, I count hard bonus parts on the following characters: Margaret (from Much Ado About Nothing), "Me" (from Paul Beatty's The Sellout), Kaname (from Some Prefer Nettles), and Adolfo Bioy Casares (from "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbius Tertius"). Only one of those I'd consider somewhat "boring" (Margaret); the others are either the protagonists of the works in which they appear, or the fictional Bioy Casares (and if anything is self-evidently of interest, it's the fictional Bioy Casares).

Anyway, excitement is a matter of taste. I happen to think that the tournament, as written and edited, was plenty exciting. I like Sam's term "active" to describe a certain kind of engagement with material that this tournament aimed for and I think mostly achieved. The questions tended to go at their subjects from an interesting angle, rather than shoveling together clues that happened to fit a particular answer. I think you'll be hard-pressed to find too many questions in this tournament that didn't engage with some kind of interesting connection or common theme that tied down the clues. That, to me, is very exciting, and I would hope others feel similarly, even though I know not everyone will.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:21 pm

Evan Lynch wrote:I'm curious - is there a breakdown of how much British/Celtic mythology was in the set relative to other traditions? It felt like there was *a lot* in the 13 packets I played, and I'm intrigued as to whether I was right to get this impression or not.
Here's the full myth breakdown:

Tossups
Mesoamerican ballgame
walls of Asgard
Aegisthus
Japan
Kalevala
Polyphemus
volcanos
sinking beneath the sea
Eight Immortals
head of Medusa
Aphrodite
virgins
ravens
fingers
footraces
Gawain

Bonuses
silence / Calypso / Eleusinian Mysteries
Agenor / Europa / Rhadamanthus
Kartikeya / heads / Pleiades
pigs / Henwen / Theseus
aristeia / Diomedes / Tydeus
golem / dybbuk / rooster
champion's portion / Cuchulainn / beheading
Dionysus / dolphins / thyrsus
Tugarin / setting fire to ships / The Golden Bough
Khonsu / Thoth / Sokar
Skadi / Rerir / Baldr
Atra-Hasis / Utnapishtim / Gilgamesh
Ireland / Lugh / fidchell
Curtana / Roland / Percival
Robin Hood / blood loss / May Day
wolves / Firebird / cage

Bolded answers are British/Celtic. Underlined ones each have one clue from British/Celtic. So in total, that's 2/5, with additional clues in 2/0.

Your impression is correct. That's a lot, and I apologize. When I set out a myth subdistribution, I characterized the Curtana bonus as "France" and the Robin Hood bonus as "folklore," so they didn't make it into my running tally of Britannic or Celtic myth. But they ended up being in large part Britannic and/or Celtic.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Red Panda Cub » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:26 pm

I appreciate the points made by you, Andrew and Stephen, and I have no disagreement with you in principle, and while reading your list of clues/answers here it looks reasonable. Nevertheless I cannot shake the sentiment I had (one that was echoed by other players at the site, and apparently other people in this thread), so I think there is likely something there.

You said "this is probably the first time I've ever seen a tournament criticized for being "boring."" and I agree, that's not something I have seen either. At the same time, it's not something I've experienced before, either, and I didn't want to just cast aside that feeling. I'm thinking about this in relation particularly to the philosophy now and will be back with a more thorough post, with reference to specific questions, explaining the feeling for that soon.

As for the more specific point about that "I'm not necessarily surprised to hear some people say that a tightly controlled regular-difficulty set isn't as exciting, from a certain perspective, as other sets perhaps have the leeway to be.", I'm not so sure how true this is, empirically. Was this set more controlled than Terrapin, which certainly, and as pretty much everyone agreed, as I recall, had that certain ineffable excitement factor?
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:44 pm

Short-beaked echidna wrote:I appreciate the points made by you, Andrew and Stephen, and I have no disagreement with you in principle, and while reading your list of clues/answers here it looks reasonable. Nevertheless I cannot shake the sentiment I had (one that was echoed by other players at the site, and apparently other people in this thread), so I think there is likely something there.

You said "this is probably the first time I've ever seen a tournament criticized for being "boring."" and I agree, that's not something I have seen either. At the same time, it's not something I've experienced before, either, and I didn't want to just cast aside that feeling. I'm thinking about this in relation particularly to the philosophy now and will be back with a more thorough post, with reference to specific questions, explaining the feeling for that soon.
I'll look forward to this, but would appreciate it if you could set out your concrete issues with the literature, in addition to the philosophy. I have no disagreement with your sentiments and impressions while playing this set. You are entitled to them, nor do I begrudge them of you. But at the same time I have no idea what to do about it, or what I could/should have done about it, because I don't know what things went wrong (it evidently is not the "minor characters as bonus hard parts" problem).
Short-beaked echidna wrote:As for the more specific point about that "I'm not necessarily surprised to hear some people say that a tightly controlled regular-difficulty set isn't as exciting, from a certain perspective, as other sets perhaps have the leeway to be.", I'm not so sure how true this is, empirically. Was this set more controlled than Terrapin, which certainly, and as pretty much everyone agreed, as I recall, had that certain ineffable excitement factor?
I think one part of this might be the absence of powers at ACF Regionals. I've always found Regionals to be less fun than other regular-season tournaments simply because I'm not rewarded for buzzing on specific clues. I often find myself confusing the extent of my excitement about a particular clue with my excitement from getting 15 points. Thus I found Terrapin more fun than Penn Bowl, and Penn Bowl more fun than WAO. It's no coincidence that I had significantly more powers at Terrapin than at Penn Bowl, and at Penn Bowl than at WAO.

This isn't merely about the ego-boost that comes with powers, though. When you're rewarded with 15, the clue you buzzed on becomes more memorable to you because the tournament system has gone out of its way to mark that as a more valuable piece of knowledge than any clue you buzz on to get 10 points. Thus your good buzzes are both 1) fresher in your mind, and 2) assigned a higher value in your mind, at a tournament with powers.

I understand that it's exceedingly unlikely for these effects to completely explain away your perceived lack of excitement in the set. I just wanted to suggest that the absence of powers may be an important factor. It certainly is for me, though I can't say that it must be so for you.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:51 pm

I'm not exactly sure how you'd go about comparing the "excitement factor" of one set versus another; even in this thread, for every person who's said that the set felt "boring," there is another person saying that it was a fresh take on regular-difficulty material. Part of this is just, well, lots of people played the tournament, and people's tastes vary, so I assume that a person voicing a reasonable opinion about the set would likely find at least a few voices of agreement.

As I said, I happened to find the set exciting; obviously, you do not. Perhaps this reflects a difference in what kinds of questions we tend to find exciting; perhaps it reflects differences in the subjective vagaries of your experience playing versus mine editing and reading it. I wouldn't know where to start disentangling those things. I don't think my questions are typically "boring," although I do tend to prefer thematic clues to memorable answer lines, so that's at least one point of possible departure for our views on what makes an interesting tournament. In any event, I find myself in the same position as Stephen: I don't begrudge you for having your opinion, but I don't share it, and I'm a bit flummoxed as to why you feel that way. And I'm really not sure if there's any way around the impasse.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:14 pm

I personally dont't think a set like regionals needs to be too "exciting" (whatever that may mean) to do its job. This tournament had pyramidal tossups, a good helping of core material, fresh and academically important clues, and very gettable easy and middle parts on bonuses.

Regionals is a tournament with a purpose as a qualifier set, but it is also catering to a much wider audience than a set like Terrapin or WAO, since it has the ACF brand on its name. Hence, I think it is apropriate to have a lot of solid questions that have come up a good amount before and/or are widely read IRL. Striking a balance between doing that and not using a bunch of old clues can be challenging, and I think for the most part this set succeeded.

For philosophy in particular, it is worth keeping in mind that philosophy is one of the categories people are least likely to be significantly exposed to in their general education, particularly modern philosophy. Going too off the beaten path in that category will put far too many people out of their depth.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Sam » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:26 pm

I'm not exactly sure what the excitement factor is, but the argument has a passing resemblance to some of the complaints about Andrew's "activist" editing style for Chicago Open 2014 (see here). There was definitely a stylistic consistency across rounds that isn't always there--maybe this is what made it less "exciting?" I'm not endorsing this argument--I didn't find the tournament boring at all, on the contrary--but am rather curious what about this tournament might have made it boring for some players.

As for bonuses with person hard parts: the one that stands out in my mind was the bonus on English painters of George IV. I know nothing about the topic so I can't say whether the difficulty was correct or not. I can also say that, when the answer lines of a bonus are in the same general class like "early 19th century English painters" or "books by author X," the difficulty is going to be harder to fine tune, and the question is going to be less engaging for ignoramuses such as myself. The issue is not necessarily with the hard part being a character, so much as choosing a "default" hard part. The bonuses largely avoided that but there were enough for me to notice during the tournament. (There was something similar with Renaissance painters, and Joey may have more examples).

I'll also add, because I realize I didn't say so explicitly in the first post, that the good in this tournament far outweighed the bad. It's among the top 3 Regionals I've played in my life and the best regular difficulty tournament I've played this school year. (Admittedly there haven't been many of those.)
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:31 pm

Sam wrote:I'm not exactly sure what the excitement factor is, but the argument has a passing resemblance to some of the complaints about Andrew's "activist" editing style for Chicago Open 2014 (see here). There was definitely a stylistic consistency across rounds that isn't always there--maybe this is what made it less "exciting?" I'm not endorsing this argument--I didn't find the tournament boring at all, on the contrary--but am rather curious what about this tournament might have made it boring for some players.
I'd like to point out, in support of my powers-are-fun theory that I'm not at all invested in, that CO 2014 did not have powers!
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by heterodyne » Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:16 pm

Yeah, I don't mean to suggest that the people who were in fact excited or intruiged or whatever the opposite of bored is by this set are like, wrong or whatever. Obviously when talking about a subjective feeling I'm only going to be able to express that feeling in the end - I was just trying to see if I could figure out what could have caused that feeling. It should be noted - and I'll own up here to this being just a feeling, suspect to confirmation bias etc - that I also felt as if in addition to the hard parts on characters, there were also a number of hard parts where the main thing being tested is knowing the name of some character, and the answerline is some title or whatever. Please don't take this as an attempt at a damning criticism! I just thought this thread was probably the best place to try and 1) figure out what cause the specific feelings I had towards the lit+phil 2) see if anyone else shared those feelings. As it turns out, my feelings aren't entirely idiosyncratic.

EDIT: Also, the last regular difficulty tournament I played was Regs last year, so maybe the explanation for this is what Stephen and some others are saying and regular difficulty is just less "exciting" by this metric. I don't think this is the case for the philosophy because I have more specific complaints, but I'm perfectly willing to believe it's the case for the lit.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:56 am

Bonus leadins felt a lot more verbose than they usually are, but I'll have to look at the packets once they're posted to confirm or deny this and probably is due to the fact I read SCT not that long ago.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook » Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:19 am

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: For philosophy in particular, it is worth keeping in mind that philosophy is one of the categories people are least likely to be significantly exposed to in their general education, particularly modern philosophy. Going too off the beaten path in that category will put far too many people out of their depth.
I mean this is just patently not true for anyone who does a humanities subject. I take the point about modern philosophy for sure, but I think generic humanities undergraduate will bump into Plato, Spinoza and the rest of their crew a lot more than generic student bumps into Sundiata Keita.

On the more general point about interest, I think a lot of interesting things came up but Joey's criticism is partly justified. Regionals is a qualifying tournament, and you need to judge canonical baseline knowledge as well as deeper stuff. This means there should be stock clues and people should buzz on them. This is more important at a tournament like this and means there will be some cliffs when you go from admittedly interesting lead-ins to canonical middle parts.

The point about character hard parts. There weren't as many as there seemed and Stephen's breakdown is helpful. However, I do think that they need to be the right sort of bonus part. I don't personally like bonus parts where you know exactly what the thing is but the name is irrelevant to you. The Bioy-Caceres and Katurian ones are fine from this point of view, the Timothy Cavendish one was a bit of a stretch. This is far from a scientific measure but I think its about having questions which are somehow satisfying to work out and where the knowledge is more based on recognition than recall. Its like the difference between asking for element n.67 and asking which element has the highest magnetic permeability. Both are relevant, one has more context.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Sam » Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:27 am

Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote: On the more general point about interest, I think a lot of interesting things came up but Joey's criticism is partly justified. Regionals is a qualifying tournament, and you need to judge canonical baseline knowledge as well as deeper stuff. This means there should be stock clues and people should buzz on them. This is more important at a tournament like this and means there will be some cliffs when you go from admittedly interesting lead-ins to canonical middle parts.
I want to push back some on this idea that it's okay Regionals is kind of boring, even that it should be kind of boring, because it's an official ACF qualifying tournament. (Again, I didn't think it was boring, but put that aside for the moment.) With few exceptions, things that are canonical are so because they occupy a correspondingly large role in the outside world--maybe most people see them in secondary school, or scholars attach great importance to them, or they just figure large in basic cultural literacy for some other reason. That means it should also be possible to come up with a huge set of clues for these things, and that you can keep writing interesting questions on those subjects. Sure, after a while, the writers have to start using middle clues that have come up before, and if you've been playing for a while they may be able to get the tossup just through osmosis--maybe this is what you're referring to when you talk about "stock clues." But that's not really a problem for the tournament, it just means you're improving as a player.

Like Alston said, whether one enjoyed the tournament is a subjective experience, so it's fine if not everyone found it interesting. However, I think there's a dangerous quiz bowl writing approach that takes a very mechanical approach to clue placement: this clue has never shown up before, so it's a lead-in. This one has happened five times in the past three years, so it's early middle, and so on. I worry the argument "well, this tournament was pretty unoriginal, but that's okay because it's a qualifier / regular difficulty / ACF-sanctioned" will encourage that approach when other people try to write a similar tournament. If this tournament actually was filled with stock clues,--assuming that phrase still carries any meaning--or it was too easy, or the questions were uninteresting because they were shallow, that's a problem that should be brought up.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:45 am

Like Adam, if you would like some feedback on your submissions in physics & other science I would be happy to provide it—simply e-mail me at voightac@gmail.com. If you would like me to be very specific about some question or clue(s), please indicate such as I don't intend (in general) to do a line-by-line breakdown of questions. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the quality of submissions in my categories. I was also very pleased with the difficulty of submissions—I only recall one submission that completely shocked me with its difficulty (as much as I would personally love to play a tossup on "reflection seismology", it is well beyond the pale in difficulty!). In the packets we used, I thought teams did a good job and I appreciated that.

There were a few issues I would like to discuss as a more general point for teams.

I would've liked to see more variety. In physics, there was a general paucity of good thermal / statistical mechanics, fluid mechanics, plasma physics, particle physics, and relativity versus an overabundance of electromagnetism / optics, quantum physics, and classical physics. I wasn't surprised to see an overabundance of core subjects (especially since those three get the most weight in my typical subdistribution), but I was hoping for a tad more variety in the submitted packets we used. The submissions were good enough that I only wrote one physics tossup in the submitted packets entirely from scratch, even though this resulted in a bit more of an unbalanced physics subdistribution in the tossups than I am accustomed to putting out. Some good submissions in the bonuses did get axed in favor of a more balanced subdistribution. Obviously, packets are blind to teams, and they shouldn't know what subdistributions other teams are writing in, but I believe it is a good practice for teams to mix core and advanced subjects in their submissions.

In other science, I was very pleased with the quality of computer science submitted and would've used more if not for the necessity of balancing subcategories. On the other hand, I wound up writing all the astronomy tossups from scratch. Many of the submissions weren't very usable, especially as compared to the rest of the other science submissions, and some were retreads of very common/boring-to-me answerlines. (Chicago A & Cornell A did both submit pretty good tossups on spectral lines & big G, respectively, but the astronomy quota had unfortunately been filled at that point). I would up only using three & a third astronomy submissions: the Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin bonus, the red giants bonus [converted from a tossup], the tidal forces bonus part, and observations of gravitational waves (an exciting answerline with lots of potential clues, but lacking in gettable clues, imo)—the latter of which I turned into a physics tossup on gravitational waves. Astronomy can be a difficult branch of science to write well, but I would still like to see more teams stray off the beaten path. Even if you wind up submitting a question that isn't great, it may spark an idea for your editor :)

Since I am sure people are wondering, here is how the other science distribution broke down. Sometimes generously categorized (due to some inter-disciplinary/engineering clues): 6/5 Math, 4/4 Earth Science, 3/3 Astronomy, 3/4 Computer Science. (-0/1 Math and +0/1 CS compared to my target subdistribution). I felt that between the submissions & my raw questions, I managed to hit my targets of spreading out the subdistributions of each other science subcategory. (With various unindicated weights, my typical subdistributions for other science are Earth Science: Geology/Geophysics; Ocean/Coastal; Atmospheric; Environmental; Miscellaneous. Astronomy: Astrophysics; Chemistry; Cosmology; Mechanics; Miscellaneous. Math: Real/Complex Analysis; Differential Equations; Probability/Statistics; Discrete; Linear Algebra; Calculus; Miscellaneous. Computer Science: Computability/Complexity; Algorithms; Data Structures; Programming; Systems/Architecture; Automata; Miscellaneous.). (The ES did skew towards geology/geophysics in the tossups—I like to have about 50% of the tossups & bonuses in there because it's a very core subject with many subfields, but I wound up having 3 tossups in there instead of 2, so ocean/coastal & atmospheric ES got short shrift in the tossups. There was only one bonus in geology/geophysics to even things out.).

Though this is almost certainly my last editing project with any major scope at the collegiate level, comments on specific questions are welcome in the specific-question thread / by e-mail, and general comments are welcome here / by e-mail. It is possible (but not extremely likely) that I will write a follow-up post to more fully talk about my editing philosophy for this tournament.
Last edited by Cody on Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:05 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:54 am

Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: For philosophy in particular, it is worth keeping in mind that philosophy is one of the categories people are least likely to be significantly exposed to in their general education, particularly modern philosophy. Going too off the beaten path in that category will put far too many people out of their depth.
I mean this is just patently not true for anyone who does a humanities subject. I take the point about modern philosophy for sure, but I think generic humanities undergraduate will bump into Plato, Spinoza and the rest of their crew a lot more than generic student bumps into Sundiata Keita.
Are you kidding me? In the context of an audience with an English-language, Western education, you're comparing a legendary founder of a medieval African empire to some of the most important philosophers in the Western tradition, and using that as the basis of your argument? A better analogy here would be comparing something those guys to what people are likely to learn about the French Revolution, or the World Wars, or Magna Carta, or Han China.

I can't speak for Britain, but in widely taught AP/IB high school classes in America, you actually learn something in depth about some of these topics, enough to get powers at the high school level even. Maybe some high schools actually read lots of Platonic dialogues or crack open Ethics, but I don't think they're quite as common as those with AP European or World history classes - and in the latter, you do in fact learn about things like Mansa Musa and his gold hajj, though not necessarily Sundiata. That's certainly where I learned about it! Meanwhile, you might learn what the most famous works of the big names you mentioned would be, but really not much beyond, and you're probably not going to engage with the actual philsophical texts in many ways.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by The Abydos Helicopter » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:24 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: For philosophy in particular, it is worth keeping in mind that philosophy is one of the categories people are least likely to be significantly exposed to in their general education, particularly modern philosophy. Going too off the beaten path in that category will put far too many people out of their depth.
I mean this is just patently not true for anyone who does a humanities subject. I take the point about modern philosophy for sure, but I think generic humanities undergraduate will bump into Plato, Spinoza and the rest of their crew a lot more than generic student bumps into Sundiata Keita.
Are you kidding me? In the context of an audience with an English-language, Western education, you're comparing a legendary founder of a medieval African empire to some of the most important philosophers in the Western tradition, and using that as the basis of your argument? A better analogy here would be comparing something those guys to what people are likely to learn about the French Revolution, or the World Wars, or Magna Carta, or Han China.

I can't speak for Britain,
but in widely taught AP/IB high school classes in America, you actually learn something in depth about some of these topics, enough to get powers at the high school level even. Maybe some high schools actually read lots of Platonic dialogues or crack open Ethics, but I don't think they're quite as common as those with AP European or World history classes - and in the latter, you do in fact learn about things like Mansa Musa and his gold hajj, though not necessarily Sundiata. That's certainly where I learned about it! Meanwhile, you might learn what the most famous works of the big names you mentioned would be, but really not much beyond, and you're probably not going to engage with the actual philsophical texts in many ways.
I think this is probably an American/British split - for example we don't have specific European/World History classes, and I don't know if any school level course in the UK mentions Mansa Musa, for example, while I read my first (carefully selected parts of) Plato in school at 14 in Greek
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook » Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:54 pm

Oli is right about a UK/US split in these terms. I would say that while it appeared I was setting up a straw-man, at the collegiate level people regularly tossup philosophers of the first grade, but they aren't going to tossup the French Revolution or Han in the same terms. The other thing I would say is that the HS circuit warps people's expectations of philosophy and methodological sciences more generally because few HS students use this but almost every college student does. I suggest this completely seriously because philosophy and some general SS, Foucault and the like is used by humanities students at university all the time and as frame of reference in loads and loads of books. It is a lot easier to do a history degree in the UK and learn no African history than to do a history degree and not hear of Max Weber.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:11 pm

Sam wrote:
Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote: On the more general point about interest, I think a lot of interesting things came up but Joey's criticism is partly justified. Regionals is a qualifying tournament, and you need to judge canonical baseline knowledge as well as deeper stuff. This means there should be stock clues and people should buzz on them. This is more important at a tournament like this and means there will be some cliffs when you go from admittedly interesting lead-ins to canonical middle parts.
I want to push back some on this idea that it's okay Regionals is kind of boring, even that it should be kind of boring, because it's an official ACF qualifying tournament. (Again, I didn't think it was boring, but put that aside for the moment.) With few exceptions, things that are canonical are so because they occupy a correspondingly large role in the outside world--maybe most people see them in secondary school, or scholars attach great importance to them, or they just figure large in basic cultural literacy for some other reason. That means it should also be possible to come up with a huge set of clues for these things, and that you can keep writing interesting questions on those subjects. Sure, after a while, the writers have to start using middle clues that have come up before, and if you've been playing for a while they may be able to get the tossup just through osmosis--maybe this is what you're referring to when you talk about "stock clues." But that's not really a problem for the tournament, it just means you're improving as a player.

Like Alston said, whether one enjoyed the tournament is a subjective experience, so it's fine if not everyone found it interesting. However, I think there's a dangerous quiz bowl writing approach that takes a very mechanical approach to clue placement: this clue has never shown up before, so it's a lead-in. This one has happened five times in the past three years, so it's early middle, and so on. I worry the argument "well, this tournament was pretty unoriginal, but that's okay because it's a qualifier / regular difficulty / ACF-sanctioned" will encourage that approach when other people try to write a similar tournament. If this tournament actually was filled with stock clues,--assuming that phrase still carries any meaning--or it was too easy, or the questions were uninteresting because they were shallow, that's a problem that should be brought up.
I agree with a lot of what is written here, but I do think that where tournaments are used for qualification there is an extent to which people should tend towards conservatism with the way they select bonuses etc. If someone goes a bit rogue on myth bonuses in a housewrite that's fine; if one area of the distro is a lot harder than usual then I think it means you might get unpredictable results and teams feel short-changed if they miss out on qualifying because the science tended much harder and screwed them over. Its not easy to make a tournament perfectly pyramidal and at tournament which matters I think people can and should make sure that tossups are pyramidal. This probably means being careful about clues and using clues that have been used or one is certain about rather than taking shooting into the dark. This was a stated aim of the tournament in asking that people used 50% fall answerlines and don't push out the boat with the rest and I think this set achieved that aim pretty well.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by vengefulsweatermensch » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:29 pm

Echoing Adam and Cody - I'd happily provide detailed feedback on the submissions I edited, preferably over email (nlweiser@stanford.edu). Most of the submissions I received were well-researched and difficulty appropriate. If I heavily edited or altogether omitted your favorite question, don't take it personally! Many of the submissions I enjoyed the most (Berkeley A's tossup on Galveston, Georgia A's tossup on the 1964 DNC, Maryland B's tossup on the Aquino family, UCSD B's tossup on Pizzagate) didn't even make it into the set.

Some question-writing trends that intrigued me:
-a lot of people wrote bonuses about 1860s Native American conflicts, the Dakota War and the Sand Creek massacre in particular. This is a cool development. As someone who studies the American frontier in an academic context, it gladdens me to see that the New Western History has infiltrated quizbowl's collective unconscious.
-multiple bonus submissions mentioned the Taghaza salt mines. ACF Regionals 2017: brought to you by the North African Salt Industry Awareness Council!
-many submissions about Park Geun-hye and her various scandals.
-a (refreshing) lack of current events submissions about Donald Trump or the 2016 election. With the present glut of Trump-related stories in the news, I made a conscious effort to focus on non-US current events. Your submissions accommodated this goal nicely.
Nathan Weiser
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:48 pm

Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote:I agree with a lot of what is written here, but I do think that where tournaments are used for qualification there is an extent to which people should tend towards conservatism with the way they select bonuses etc. If someone goes a bit rogue on myth bonuses in a housewrite that's fine; if one area of the distro is a lot harder than usual then I think it means you might get unpredictable results and teams feel short-changed if they miss out on qualifying because the science tended much harder and screwed them over. Its not easy to make a tournament perfectly pyramidal and at tournament which matters I think people can and should make sure that tossups are pyramidal. This probably means being careful about clues and using clues that have been used or one is certain about rather than taking shooting into the dark. This was a stated aim of the tournament in asking that people used 50% fall answerlines and don't push out the boat with the rest and I think this set achieved that aim pretty well.
I don't understand the contention that being conservative in the answerline space means that you can't have fresh, exciting, or important but underused clues, or even the same with answerlines. Creativity/fresh approaches with answerlines and clues is usually an explicit goal when you are working a tightly difficulty-controlled tournament (it was certainly a primary aim of mine) because that's the only way to avoid stale questions. I can't speak at large for the other categories, but I thought I was able to work in quite a bit of exciting content* and thought that Adam's science did as well. Being careful about constructing tossups doesn't mean you need to rely on clues that have come up before, especially if you have a slate of experienced editors—while I don't know how much editing experience Benji & Nathan have (since I haven't paid much attention the past few years), I do know that Adam, Andrew, Stephen, and I have editing experience in spades. (that said, something coming up before doesn't ipso facto mean it is stale or not exciting. I've written tossups of my own on a couple of the answerlines Adam worked in, but I was still very excited to see them pop up!).

Also, literally everyone who wants to attend ACF Nationals has been able to do so in every year that qualification has existed. The foremost thing on my mind when editing was producing a set of good questions that hit the target difficulty (and paired well with the difficulty of Adam's questions). There was no reason to even worry about qualification.

*though my definition of exciting may be orthogonal to yours (the reader). but surely someone has been waiting for the heat kernel to come up, right?!
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
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Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:35 pm

Cody wrote:but surely someone has been waiting for the heat kernel to come up, right?!
Referencing the Atiyah-Singer index theorem in your cluing for this is sooooo Harrison Brown-like of you. I smiled when I was reading this question and I applaud you for your excellent choice of clues.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by What do you do with a dead chemist? » Mon Feb 20, 2017 8:21 pm

I'd just like to express my thanks for this tournament. I really enjoyed the science, although at times, it felt like the biology tended slightly harder than the other categories (although that's' probably just because it's my worst science).
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Eddie » Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:59 pm

I thought that the music in this set was excellent, in terms of both answer line selection and clue selection, and that Benji produced a good successor to the music in "stanford housewrite." I thought that the difficulty was extremely appropriate (to the point that I think this is a good benchmark for "regular difficulty" in the context of music), with hard parts that were realistically gettable by ~10% of teams. I was excited that Benji continued to clue Prokofiev 3, Dvorak 8, Brandenburg 4, Mahler 5, Saint-Saens 2, and the Vivaldi doot doot, because these are important pieces that have in the past been overshadowed in quizbowl by their composers' more easily digestible pieces with flashy titles or gimmicks. In the same vein, I enjoyed seeing obscure composers such as Sorabji, Khachaturian (in the context of his toccata), and MacDowell come up. I thought that the clue selection was healthily varied across genres (e.g. internal description, external description, external external description, history and performance) and many of the note transcription clues felt intuitive and buzzable (e.g. Sugar Plum Fairy, although admittedly I remembered that clue from 2015 BHSAT).

The minor issues I had with the music weren't particularly novel or catastrophic; I thought the bonuses on Tallis and Couperin were rather stale (though I empathise with the difficulty of writing creative questions on "old" music), and, as every music writer does with regards to other people's music questions, I did think that some of the internal description clues (e.g. Liszt, Waldstein) were hard to interpret and/or parse at game speed, or simply insufficiently descriptive.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:08 am

Cody wrote:
Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook wrote:I agree with a lot of what is written here, but I do think that where tournaments are used for qualification there is an extent to which people should tend towards conservatism with the way they select bonuses etc. If someone goes a bit rogue on myth bonuses in a housewrite that's fine; if one area of the distro is a lot harder than usual then I think it means you might get unpredictable results and teams feel short-changed if they miss out on qualifying because the science tended much harder and screwed them over. Its not easy to make a tournament perfectly pyramidal and at tournament which matters I think people can and should make sure that tossups are pyramidal. This probably means being careful about clues and using clues that have been used or one is certain about rather than taking shooting into the dark. This was a stated aim of the tournament in asking that people used 50% fall answerlines and don't push out the boat with the rest and I think this set achieved that aim pretty well.
I don't understand the contention that being conservative in the answerline space means that you can't have fresh, exciting, or important but underused clues, or even the same with answerlines. Creativity/fresh approaches with answerlines and clues is usually an explicit goal when you are working a tightly difficulty-controlled tournament (it was certainly a primary aim of mine) because that's the only way to avoid stale questions. I can't speak at large for the other categories, but I thought I was able to work in quite a bit of exciting content* and thought that Adam's science did as well. Being careful about constructing tossups doesn't mean you need to rely on clues that have come up before, especially if you have a slate of experienced editors—while I don't know how much editing experience Benji & Nathan have (since I haven't paid much attention the past few years), I do know that Adam, Andrew, Stephen, and I have editing experience in spades. (that said, something coming up before doesn't ipso facto mean it is stale or not exciting. I've written tossups of my own on a couple of the answerlines Adam worked in, but I was still very excited to see them pop up!).

Also, literally everyone who wants to attend ACF Nationals has been able to do so in every year that qualification has existed. The foremost thing on my mind when editing was producing a set of good questions that hit the target difficulty (and paired well with the difficulty of Adam's questions). There was no reason to even worry about qualification.

*though my definition of exciting may be orthogonal to yours (the reader). but surely someone has been waiting for the heat kernel to come up, right?!
I can't speak for the science personally but the bits I do remember had lots of things which seemed new. I agree that creativity is crucial to producing the best possible set. I completely agree that writing difficulty-controlled tournaments doesn't mean you have to use hackneyed clues. My suggestion was that in some areas this tournament didn't avoid that as much as it might have and we certainly had a few too many first line buzzes based on familiarity rather than knowledge. The patagonia tossup was an example of this.

I don't mean to say that this tournament should be conservative and stick to the canonical, but rather that while this is a problem, it is less of a problem at a tournament like Regionals, and a far less serious flaw than tossups being systematically factually untrue, ambiguous or unpyrimadal which wasn't a problem as far as I noticed with most of this set.
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by vinteuil » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:36 pm

Eddie wrote:I thought that the music in this set was excellent, in terms of both answer line selection and clue selection, and that Benji produced a good successor to the music in "stanford housewrite." I thought that the difficulty was extremely appropriate (to the point that I think this is a good benchmark for "regular difficulty" in the context of music), with hard parts that were realistically gettable by ~10% of teams. I was excited that Benji continued to clue Prokofiev 3, Dvorak 8, Brandenburg 4, Mahler 5, Saint-Saens 2, and the Vivaldi doot doot, because these are important pieces that have in the past been overshadowed in quizbowl by their composers' more easily digestible pieces with flashy titles or gimmicks. In the same vein, I enjoyed seeing obscure composers such as Sorabji, Khachaturian (in the context of his toccata), and MacDowell come up. I thought that the clue selection was healthily varied across genres (e.g. internal description, external description, external external description, history and performance) and many of the note transcription clues felt intuitive and buzzable (e.g. Sugar Plum Fairy, although admittedly I remembered that clue from 2015 BHSAT).

The minor issues I had with the music weren't particularly novel or catastrophic; I thought the bonuses on Tallis and Couperin were rather stale (though I empathise with the difficulty of writing creative questions on "old" music), and, as every music writer does with regards to other people's music questions, I did think that some of the internal description clues (e.g. Liszt, Waldstein) were hard to interpret and/or parse at game speed, or simply insufficiently descriptive.
Just want to echo a lot of what Eddie said: Benji did a great job picking "core" music to ask about—there were some music-descriptive clunkers (Beethoven sonatas bonus) and some questionable clue choices (early clues in the Mahler 5 tossup), but otherwise a really solid job, especially for a first-time editor. (More constructively put: I think a lot of the clues I'm criticizing could have benefited from a little more context and/or fleshing-out, which is something I would have appreciated in a number of the philosophy questions as well.)

Other than that, I was struck by a number of pretty long sentences and clauses that seemed fairly confusing (I had to reread them), but not enough to be a major negative—overall, I really appreciated the great proofreading and the generous pronunciation guides.

EDIT: Also, this set did a noticeably great job with subdistributions in a number of categories (as Cody's and Adam's posts have shown).
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Re: 2017 ACF Regionals - thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:31 pm

I have made this forum public (and we'll archive it soon, most likely).
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