ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

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ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Auroni » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:28 am

Thanks to everyone who played and staffed ACF Nationals this year and congratulations to Columbia on their hard fought and well deserved victory! I was heartened by the excellent level of play I saw from every team that I read for and the accompanying frequent bouts of excitement and joy at peoples’ favorite things coming up — it makes this all worth it.

This post will be a long one, so bear with me:

I cannot thank my co-editors Jordan Brownstein, Matt Bollinger, JinAh Kim, Alex Damisch*, Ike Jose, Andrew Hart, Andrew Wang, Athena Kern, Aaron Rosenberg**, and Jason Cheng, and the writers Mike Bentley, Will Nediger, Jason Zhou, Dylan Minarik, Rob Carson, Will Alston, Olivia Lamberti, Billy Busse, Zach Foster, Eric Mukherjee, and Saul Hankin enough not only for working on this set with me, but for also providing a delightful, supportive, and collegial atmosphere while doing so. Thanks is also due to all of the aforementioned people, along with Tejas Raje, Chris Manners, Ramapriya Rangaraju, Jason Thompson, Bernadette Spencer, Seth Teitler, Naveed Chowdhury, Ophir, Jason Golfinos, Joey Goldman, Siddhant Dogra, and others I’ve certainly missed for playtesting various questions, and to Rob, Carsten Gehring, Ramapriya, and Ophir for proofreading. Just take a moment, pause, and feel the combined weight of all of those names. This set, more than any other that I have ever worked on, felt like my friends and peers helping me shoulder the responsibility of giving back to the community that gave me a home, in the best way that I know how.

Each of these writers and editors has particular thematic focuses, styles, ideas, and ambitions for their respective slices of the distribution which I tried to respect as much as possible while head-editing, the bulk of my time in which was spent smoothing out middle and late clues and making sure that middle and easy bonus parts did not feel oppressive. Playing Nationals, especially if you’ve never done it before or are doing so without a full team, is always a daunting prospect and I wanted to ensure that the set felt like it had something for everyone so that they felt like coming was worthwhile.

I’ve mentioned our approach to tossup difficulty in the announcement thread but to recap: every tossup answerline was coded from 1 to 4, increasing in difficulty from things that could plausibly be tossed up at ACF Fall, at ACF Regionals, as the “median” question of previous modern ACF Nationals, and as reasonable tests of the knowledge of specialists in categories on answers that haven’t really come up before. We hard coded each packet to have at most one question in the last category and at least twelve questions in the first two categories. In execution, for a large number of the packets we actually undershot this quota: I noticed to my amusement that our waves of writing on easier answers had resulted in one of the editors and one of the team packets had no fewer than seventeen 1 and 2 difficulty answerlines. We were also cognizant of John Lawrence’s well-articulated concern about the feel of having “two tournaments” between the submitted and editors packets, and did all we can to minimize this feeling by moving questions around between the editors packets and replacements for submissions in the quest for optimal subdistributional balance. In head editing, I personally wanted to avoid the pitfalls which I have seen many tossups (including several of my own) on easy answers at hard tournaments fall into by repeatedly pestering my coeditors and writers to include more middle and late clues and in some cases just adding them myself, even at the risk of “breaking theme.” For bonuses, we tried our best to make the easy and middle parts fair tests of entry- and intermediate-level exposure to a given topic, while making sure that the hard part was actually gettable by subject area experts. We also did our best to represent the work, history, and experience of women, non-white, non-straight, and non-cis gendered people wherever we could in the set, without writing a bunch of questions that were too hard in the process.

We all wrote a number of questions everywhere, but here is a breakdown of who had final editorial oversight over each category:

American and World Literature: Jordan
British and European Literature: JinAh
History: Matt and Jordan
Biology: Auroni
Chemistry: Andrew Wang
Physics: Aaron
Other Science: Ike
Visual Arts: Auroni
Auditory Arts: Alex
Religion: Athena
Mythology: Jordan
Geography/Current Events: Auroni
Philosophy: JinAh
Social Science: Andrew Hart
Other Academic: Auroni

To end on a bit of a personal, heavier note, this was also probably the hardest tournament for me to personally write, and there were several low moments in which I spent hours paralyzed by the simple wording of a clue, had days devoting to writing with only one or two questions to show for it, and experienced particularly dark moments of self-doubt as to whether I was even a good writer anymore as nothing seemed to click. Some of this is due to having internalized a personally impossibly lofty standard for question writing, but I think at least some of this is attributable to burnout from heading three major tournaments in the span of fourteen months. So I am announcing my hiatus from writing and editing for future major tournaments for some time (though if I’m up for it, I might try to fill that interval by writing the lighter and more frivolous content that I frequently wished I was working on instead of this tournament).

Discuss away.

*I can’t emphasize enough how amazing Alex is for checking in with me through the aforementioned dark times and during the final mad dash to finish the set.
**Aaron signed on to be physics editor with less than two months notice before the tournament, and produced a phenomenal and fresh set of questions with gleaming prose.

Answer Spreadsheet (you might not want to click on this until you've read through all the packets, if you haven't done so already)
Question Set
Last edited by Auroni on Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:51 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:47 am

This set was really really good. Thanks to everyone who worked on it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:05 am

This was quite possibly my favorite set I've ever played. The categories I knew about were almost uniformly well-written, fair tests of knowledge that showed that quite a lot of attention was paid to representation and difficulty control, and the categories I didn't were at least interesting to listen to. I've sent various editors lists of questions I thought were really cool that I may reproduce here when I have the time. Thank you to all the people involved in making this set and putting this tournament on for your great work; I appreciated it a lot!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Milhouse » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:15 am

Various people have expressed concern over a seeming lack of non-computer science math in this set. Would it be feasible to post a list of the questions in this set considered math and computer science so it can be determined if this was the case?

Despite this issue (which I don’t actually care about because I suck at math), I echo the praise for this set others have expessed.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by AGoodMan » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:31 am

This was the best reg+ set I have ever played.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by The Abydos Helicopter » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:36 am

If and when I have the time, I might talk about my views on specifics of history in more detail, but I'd say almost all the history was well written and well-clued, if perhaps slightly too canonical for my idiosyncratic tastes, but that fits with the set's philosophy (which perhaps just suggests that I am impossible to please)

In terms of the organisation of the day, I was incredibly impressed with the speed with which everything ran and the high quality of the moderating.
One thing that did feel slightly odd was only playing three games on the Sunday, which felt like an odd balance when compared with Saturday's intensity. I also do not completely understand why non-top bracket tiebreakers are not played, rather than done on PPG.

Thanks again to the editors, writers, staffers, and I hope that Oxford will be across in future years to play Nats again.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:43 am

Hello all,

I was responsible for editing the “other science” in this tournament. That being said, I think this year especially, the questions the product of a team effort. First of all, Alex Damisch was a great freelancer in these categories, so be sure to thank her for some nifty math questions. Secondly, please give thanks to Billy Busse, Andrew Wang, Eric Mukherjee, Dylan Minarik, Aaron Rosenberg, Auroni Gupta, and Tejas Raje, for being one helluva set of playtesters. The other round of playtesting was done on Seth Teitler, who gave an incredibly amount of useful and actionable feedback. When Seth’s time ran out due to an unfortunate incident at NAQT and ICT production was in a rush, Will Alston, Will Nediger, Billy Busse, and Neilesh Vinjamuri helped Seth with those issues and freed up his time for the rest of playtesting / and readthroughs. So, their unrelated actions helped out the set's science a lot!

This is around my 15th set working on high-level other science, and I ended up doing something different, it was probably the most experimental year. Below are some of the ideas in the philosophy of other science.

- Trying to make sure women, people of color, and LGBTQ scientists got their due. Auroni's directive when I signed up to write this tournament did inspire the reading I did to research this tournament, which resulted in the nifty Lynn Conway bonus part, for example . This also manifested itself in more minute ways, such as making sure to mention Sandy Lerner and not just her husband Len Bosack in the Cisco tossup, or asking about the work of Sally Chisholm, your 2019 Crafoord Prize winner.

- A unification of the boundaries between sciences. Auroni's directive inspired me to read a gay history of math and computer science, and some of the work presented in the material shaped the boundaries of the distribution. I tried to slash the boundaries between the four sciences when possible. A lot of the scientists who I read about conceived of the boundaries between sciences to be arbitrary, much in the same way that there isn't really a binary in gender. It got me to think that the boundaries between the rigid classification of sciences to be also rather arbitrary and something that I've only accepted because of what the framework that has been set up for quizbowl in the past. So when appropriate, I crossed these boundaries to fill out a tossup. For example, that rare earth elements tossup in the final is both an earth science and astronomy tossup simultaneously. Computer science blended over into math, and math blended over into computer science (the DAGs question and homomorphic encryption for example.) I incorporated biology clues (Prochlorcoccus), chemistry clues, (manganese nodules), and physics clues (as astronomy has always done.) into the "other science." Hopefully these new angles to the "other science" topics were of interest to players, and will show that conceiving of other science shouldn't be so "othered."

- Asking about questions, and in particular Earth Science, in a way to make the casual intellectually-curious person care. A lot of times, science can feel dense to the nonspecialist. Some of this is unavoidable -- you can't really explain the significance of the directed acyclic graph to someone without a bit of graph theory, but often times, I feel that questions in the sciences don't try their hardest to get the lay person to care about the topic matter. In the past, earth science often meant rotely asking about "glacier bowl" to the point where many dreaded it; I eschewed that in favor of questions on culturally-relevant topics, such as iron fertilization, and linking the topics to their larger global significance. A key priority was making sure bonus parts were "intellectually parsable" -- meaning that you could "wrap your head around the question," and also having a standard difficulty structure. I don't think I did the best job in this, sometimes practicality was a concern -- I couldn't talk about why homomorphic encryption is so important without a few more lines, and I have a hard time linking pure math to anything of interest to the non-scientist; perhaps future writers will be more successful.

- Asking questions that, in the words of one playtester, felt like "hey, this is is an important topic, and if you want to be an informed citizen of the world, you should know a little about [important topic]." Questions of this sort include atmospheric-reentry and landfills, and should be of interest to scientists and non-scientists alike. This is the direction how I feel "softer science questions" should go instead of pure science history. There's a whole lot of science and engineering that we have neglected in the past that should be of interest to intellectually-curious people, and I would like to see quizbowl touch on these topics more. I'm a big proponent of people being "citizen scientists," (you can thank me for that O. Academic bonus part), and hopefully there was at least one question that got you to care about being a better citizen scientist.

- Continuing the trend of asking about data science and other applied topics. This includes the bag-of-words bonus and the "how do blockchains reach concensus" tossup. There isn't a whole lot to say here since a lot of the good stuff has been hashed out elsewhere, although I think having a question or two on financial modeling or social science as handled by scientists could be useful here too.

All that being said, I do not think this was a perfect set of questions on my part. For one, I would like to apologize about math getting the shaft as several players have vocalized. 6 math tossups and (5 bonuses) for the set were written. One of them ended up in finals, one in the emergency packet, and one in the tiebreaker. That meant teams only heard 3 of those tossups over the course of the normal phase of the tournament. That's too low, and I apologize -- it was an oversight on my part during randomization*. And I don't think every idea was necessarily a home run (or even a single). Feedback on any of these ideas, or individual questions are always welcome.

Ike

*The amount of math in a normal set is about the same as the number of American poetry questions in a set. There have been plenty of tournaments that have had a fewer than ideal number of American poetry questions for example, but I suspect that the math effect is much more noticable since it's . . . math. Not that it's germane to the tournament, but I personally feel that science could stand to use another question in every packet.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Milhouse » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:25 am

AGoodMan wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:31 am
This was the best reg+ set I have ever played.
If you’re implying that this set was too easy, then, uh, have you considered the possibility that you’re very good at quizbowl, because I think a lot of other people would disagree strongly with that. My apologies if by reg+ you merely mean “harder than regular difficulty.”
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:31 am

This tournament was fun to read and, like many other staffers, I really wish I could have played it! The history, religion, and current events in this tournament were the best I've seen at the ACF Nationals level and their writers should be really proud. I wish there were more myth because the myth questions were also amazing.
Auroni wrote:We also did our best to represent the work, history, and experience of women, non-white, non-straight, and non-cis gendered people wherever we could in the set, without writing a bunch of questions that were too hard in the process.
This part of the set was also very well-executed and controlled, and also in a way that avoided any sort of moralizing. Every quizbowl set should aim to give a wide variety of human experiences their due, and while I don't think every set needs to be as activist as this one in achieving that goal, the fact that it showed that this task can be done while retaining accessibility is a great service to community and future writers and editors. My only quibble is that I wish this had been done in a similar way with ideology as it was with. This is not to say that ideological representation of thinkers should be completely balanced across a tournament, because that's impossible (especially given recent academic trends), but rather that this tournament had a bit of a gap between "center/center-left" and "far right" and some more heterodox content.

To offer a more serious critique: I think the social science leaned far too much in its cluing towards applied research and models, and not enough towards clues people could pick up from taking undergraduate classes or reading well-known popular books, though the answer selection did not necessarily reflect this issue. To take one example, the revealed preference tossup spent most of its time talking about various models incorporating revealed preference and alterations to the concept, and very little time (to my recollection, only the giveaway) talking about how you might touch on revealed preference in an intermediate microeconomics course. Anecdotally, I didn't see a single pre-FTP buzz on a social science question in my room in seven rounds of moderating/scorekeeping in the bottom bracket, whereas there were plenty of such buzzes in the sciences, music, and history, for example. In addition, there was almost no linguistics in this tournament, which was very disappointing. I think this echoes statements made about the 2017 Nationals social science from some bottom bracket teams who said they found it the most intimidating part of the distribution. Perhaps we ought to rethink how we approach selecting mid-late and late clues for these questions.

I understand the editors had a severe time crunch, but I also wish this set had gotten one more read-through, because there were a lot of proofreading issues, and a decent number of unforgiving middle and easy parts ("sheets of sound" easy?) that I think might have been caught with such an effort. On the other hand, I do think this tournament made a real effort in most instances to present teams with meaningful easy parts that would test their knowledge, and teams seemed like they felt rewarded for getting these in low-scoring games where picking up such easy parts really matters.

On the whole, I thought the set was quite good, and there's a ton in it for future writers to emulate. It was probably harder than it really needed to be, but it made up for that by being very engaging throughout. Massive credits to the writers and editors.
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by jinah » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:35 am

I was responsible for the british/euro literature and the philosophy. Particularly for the latter, I tried very hard to clue things that were interesting / rewarded deeper engagement with the subject but also spent a lot of time agonizing over subdistributional balance in terms of time period, branch of philosophy, type of thing being asked for (author vs work vs concept) and a generally analytic vs generally continental vibe; hopefully that vision and that concern were both reflected in the set as it was played. While I'm happy with how the category turned out, I do regret that the philosophy skewed whiter/maler than much of the rest of the set, as well as slightly harder. In addition to the people thanked above, particularly Auroni, Jordan, and Dr. Nediger, I'd like to give a shout out to Jason Golfinos and Joey Goldman, who were fantastic last-minute playtesters and convinced me to make several questions a little easier (including a bonus that Columbia thirtied in a top-bracket play-in game on their way to win the tournament).

I really enjoyed writing a lot of what I wrote for this set's lit, including tossups on several of my favorite works (The Years, Directive, Middlemarch) as well as some fun common links like pianos in Ibsen, adaptations of Juvenal by British writers, self-referential Nabokov characters, New York in Garcia Lorca (h/t to Auroni for the idea), as well as deeper cuts on core canonical works (again Middlemarch, Catch-22, Richard III, Slaughterhouse-Five). Hopefully that kept the lit feeling fresh and fun while still being gettable. Feel free to let me know if you have specific questions or comments!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by The Abydos Helicopter » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:55 am

jinah wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:35 am
adaptations of Juvenal by British writers
This was extremely enjoyable Classical Reception, which was a pleasure to hear being asked about
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:21 pm

Ike wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:43 am
All that being said, I do not think this was a perfect set of questions on my part. For one, I would like to apologize about math getting the shaft as several players have vocalized. 6 math tossups and (5 bonuses) for the set were written. One of them ended up in finals, one in the emergency packet, and one in the tiebreaker. That meant teams only heard 3 of those tossups over the course of the normal phase of the tournament. That's too low, and I apologize -- it was an oversight on my part during randomization*. And I don't think every idea was necessarily a home run (or even a single). Feedback on any of these ideas, or individual questions are always welcome.
Yeah, this was really disappointing, and my biggest beef with this tournament. How can I take science tossups off of Graham if there is no math?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by AGoodMan » Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:24 pm

Milhouse wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:25 am
AGoodMan wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:31 am
This was the best reg+ set I have ever played.
If you’re implying that this set was too easy, then, uh, have you considered the possibility that you’re very good at quizbowl, because I think a lot of other people would disagree strongly with that. My apologies if by reg+ you merely mean “harder than regular difficulty.”
*My tone was unnecessarily harsh in my original response.

The only comment I wanted to make was that this was the best set I have played that was "harder than regular college difficulty." I am in no way saying this set was easy.
Last edited by AGoodMan on Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by setht » Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:34 pm

Ike wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:43 am
When Seth’s time ran out due to an unfortunate incident at NAQT and ICT production was in a rush, Will Alston, Will Nediger, Billy Busse, and Neilesh Vinjamuri helped Seth with those issues and freed up his time for the rest of playtesting / and readthroughs. So, their unrelated actions helped out the set's science a lot!
Just a quick clarification here: the "unfortunate incident" was that a team posted a (public) video of themselves practicing on most of a packet from IS-183. Will Alston stepped up and handled set editing the replacement questions, saving me some crucial time during the late stages of ICT production.

Will Nediger, Rob Carson, and Neilesh Vinjamuri took on set editing for MS IPNCT, which also saved me a bunch of time (since I felt very comfortable handing that off to them and then paying minimal attention to the set). And Billy Busse served as science set editor on DI ICT, DII ICT, and IPNCT, further saving me time.

I wanted to make sure Rob gets his due (and I guess clarify that production of the MS IPNCT, DI ICT, DII ICT, and IPNCT sets wasn't part of any "unfortunate incident"!).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:02 pm

Congratulations to Columbia on their win! I edited the physics for this set, which I hope players enjoyed. I extend my greatest thanks to Billy Busse, who offered excellent advice on all the questions and contributed some of his own when I needed help. Thanks also to Andrew Wang for writing 3 other physics questions, and all the other play testers: Ike Jose, Eric Mukherjee (who both proposed some excellent answer ideas), Tejas Raje, Jason Thompson, Chris Manners, Dylan Minarik, and Ramapriya Rangaraju (who also proofread), and of course Auroni, who deserves tremendous credit for putting together what I thought was a rock-solid ACF nationals set. Jerry Vinokurov also looked over a few questions to provide expert advice.

Last year, I deliberately kept the physics answers more canonical because I wanted rigor, balance, and focus on topics that people were likely to encounter in class, particularly in comparison to the glut of particle physics and stuff beyond the standard model that I put in CO 2016. This year, armed with more experience and broader knowledge, I tried to be more creative, while still maintaining rigor. I don’t have much else to say about editing philosophy beyond what the other editors have said.

Anyway, thanks again to Auroni and all the other editors, who were a pleasure to work with, as well as Ryan and his crew for running the tournament so well.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:18 pm

I'd like to apologize for letting a little too much of the chemistry be "shit I like", I tried to balance this out with some (hopefully) "fresher" tus on basic answerlines.
Additionally it was pretty sloppy of me to not realize that I had a pretty hose-y leadin on the alkenes tu for carbenes, and my electride giveaway was slightly off, so sorry about that too (seems mostly relevant for Ben)
That being said, I do hope people found the topics I wrote about at least somewhat interesting. I hope nobody found some of my bonus parts of some of the hokier things certain chemists did too offensive (Bat bombs!).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Auroni » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:47 pm

My approaches to visual arts and biology have been detailed elsewhere, but I'd like to elaborate upon my approaches to my most interesting and novel assignments: Geography, Current Events, and Other Academic.

I used Kenji's excellent work in GEODUCK as a model for the geography at Nats -- cultures/customs/interactions between people and the lived environment. My coeditors noticed me going overboard on the food clues and questions, and subtly pressured me to rein it (so that they could fiendishly write their own food questions), so it was an interesting challenge to fill out the last few questions with this handicap.

I really liked the current events at ACF Nationals 2017, where the guiding principle seemed to be "long-running stories of the world in the new millenium," and I tried to emulate this. I consciously chose to avoid writing on Trumpiana and evolving news stories in favor of developments/events/things that are "perennially important" (by far my favorite question in this mold is the tossup on migrant workers in the Gulf states), though as the deadline drew nearer I wrote more conventional current events questions, like the bonus on the current Trudeau scandal. As with my other categories, I tried to make sure that between the geography and the current events, different parts of the world had been covered.

For Other Academic, I tried to reward intelligent "living in the world," investigate the history of pasttimes/cultural institutions, mixed in interesting biographical details, investigated topics blending multiple areas of the distribution, wrote questions on topics beyond the standard distribution (library science, forensics, sexology, the idea of _isolation/loneliness_ as a cultural/psychological phenomenon etc.), and invited other writers (like Ike, Athena, Andrew Hart, and Mike) to pitch in with their own ideas. I felt like diversity is what makes the platonic ideal of this category so strong, and pushed for it as much as possible (though I noticed, to my chagrin, that I was repeatedly dipping into areas that might fall under the purview of social science).

I'd like to hear what people thought of the questions in these three distributions.
Last edited by Auroni on Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by AGoodMan » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:50 pm

I thought the archive / coding / [something] bonus was really cool! My friend had told me about archival coding the day before Nats and I was able to pull a 20.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:08 pm

I don't mean to pick on Alex too much here, since I understand she was very busy, but I was disappointed that this tournament did not follow established practice of avoiding the use of evasive identifiers such "work" in tossups when better, more specific identifiers (symphony, piano sonata, oratorio, string quartet, etc.) can be used without narrowing the answer space too radically. (I ought to note before proceeding that this is clearly not a universally applicable principle - for example, tossups on specific Beethoven piano sonatas are an instance where you probably want to say "this piece" until late in the question, since there's only so many standalone tossupable piano sonatas).

A pretty clear example of this, to me, was the tossup on Still's Symphony No. 1 in the finals. Why did that question need to say "piece" for the first couple of clues before saying "symphony?" It's already on a very hard answer (five of the six or seven best music players in the tournament were playing that game, and it went all the way to the end!!!) so I'm not sure why the question needs to further obfuscate what it's looking for in the early clues, when the askable answerspace of symphonies at ACF Nationals difficulty is massive. If you want to reduce question length, why not flip this order and say "symphony" first, then say "piece" once it's established that the question wants a symphony?

Things like this seem pretty minor, but when added together with the already pretty-high difficulty of parsing music descriptions, they can make a tournament's music even more challenging to play than it already is. I did not see a single buzz on a "score clue" or other description of a musical moment at all throughout the tournament, not even in the games in which I moderated for Columbia A. I admire Alex's efforts, and I did see strong early buzzes on other examples of well-selected music clues, but overall I think a lot of these questions might have been a bit too ambitious, and use of fewer "risky" musical description clues (see the link above for what I mean by that) might have helped.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:30 pm

The question of identifiers aside, I think the music in this tournament was quite good and accessible. So-called "score clues" are a common target for critics of music questions, but I felt like at least a fair number of the clues based on score instructions or note spellings were well-chosen. Even when I couldn't buzz on them, I could often get a feel for what the music was like.

My spicy hot take is that some of the pull towards greater accessibility for non-western auditory art went a bit too far -- I felt as if some of these bonuses were easy 20s or 30s even for those without much musical knowledge. The Ewe music bonus seems like a good example. I'll re-evaluate this claim when I can see the questions. (My other hot take, which might make people less sympathetic toward my point, is that quiz bowl's approach to the introduction of more non-western art, as long as it's well-clued, should be: "This is part of your life now. Deal with it.")
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Here Comes Rusev Day » Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:25 pm

Hello,

I submitted some questions for this tournament and in the final form, some were edited to better fit in (a White Sun of the Desert tu being changed to a bonus, etc...)

But here’s what I have from what I recognized what I wrote

TUs:
President of Cuba
Samoan Islands

If possible, please give some feedback as to what you all thought of them. It is vital to constantly get new ideas or what people thought of them so as to incorperate some new stuff in the future.

Thank you!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:02 pm

I wrote about 85% of the history for the editors' packets and edited half of the history in the submitted packets. Jordan did the other half of the submitted history and submitted several of the best questions in the editors' rounds; I also received significant freelance help, from Jason Zhou, Mike Bentley, and Zach Foster. I tried to do basically the same thing with the history as I did in 2017, where I tried to emulate what I liked from College History Bowl and Chris Ray's tournaments. I also wrote the tossup on Cold Comfort Farm (which JinAh improved).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:31 pm

Could someone involved in the UCLA-Oklahoma protest explain what happened? Justin French apparently gave the answer "math is a science" for the mathematical realism tossup, and then, on protest, had his answer ruled prompt-able. However, his answer is simply wrong, as a cursory Google search would immediately reveal, and Oklahoma was screwed out of the third bracket. Why wasn't someone knowledgeable about the subject matter (say, the question's author) consulted in this process?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by CPiGuy » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:16 pm

First of all, this weekend was a blast! The amount of effort that the editors put into the set was clear and I really enjoyed playing it. I was left wishing I could play more, which I did not expect from such a hard set -- it really didn't feel as brutal as I expected, despite my not actually scoring lots of points.

Thoughts on the set itself:

-- I'll start off with my only nontrivial complaint: I was disappointed with the way the "other science" was distributed; Ike has already discussed the existence of only three math tossups in the 15 rounds that most teams played, but I actually only heard one pure math tossup (Picard); "directed acyclic graphs" was something most people felt was more CS than math from my talking to many other math people, and I don't actually have any idea what the third one Ike is referring to is. Hearing only one pure math tossup in 15 rounds was especially frustrating because the tossup itself was in the least interesting class of science tossups (tossups on scientists with things named after them and otherwise no unifying theme), and was additionally kind of neg-baity (the theorem described sounded a lot like Liouville's theorem, and while I know it was wrong to do so, I know several people, including myself, made that exact neg). This frustration was compounded by the fact that some of the non-math "other science" tossups fell into some tropes that seem to be particularly disliked in quizbowl, such as "mineralbowl" (the tossup on olivine) and "programminglanguagebowl" (the tossup on Rust) -- the latter of those questions garnered a particularly negative response from almost everyone I talked to about it. This is not to say that the other science was all bad -- I in fact really enjoyed the tossups on "landfills" (though I didn't convert it) and "atmospheric re-entry", which were both cool and interesting ideas.

-- I really enjoyed the number of easy parts that were legitimately easy and gettable without just being "find-your-ass"; although we were able to 10 almost all the bonuses we heard, they didn't feel formulaic or boring, which made playing the set a lot more interesting and fun, as a team near the bottom end of the field. I really appreciated this and thought it contributed a lot to the experience of playing the set.

-- I really liked the current events, and agree with Auroni that the "migrant workers" tossup was really good and interesting. I was also a big fan of the geography in the set.

-- I also appreciated the focus on underrepresented groups like women and LGBT communities, although I think two separate tossups on pairs of historical men who may have been attracted to each other (Melville/Hawthorne and Richard/Philip) might be one such tossup too many. I do always enjoy being reminded that my knowledge of gay history is woefully inadequate, and appreciate the tournament's representation of historical figures' non-heterosexuality; it's just that two tossups of pretty much the exact same form is kind of unfortunate.

-- There were two history tossups on Denmark; this dissuaded my teammate from buzzing on the second such tossup (although I converted it anyway a couple clues later). This should perhaps be avoided, although I understand that you have to produce a lot of packets.

-- I think that there were a couple bonuses that were significantly easier to 20 or even 30 than the rest of the set. The China/Hainan/Wenzhou and Santa Fe/Pueblo/San Miguel bonuses both stand out as much easier 20s than the rest of the set (which I may be unduly annoyed about because our opponents received the latter bonus in a game we lost by 10), and the Peters/Boston/Bartlet bonus was also in this class, but not particularly difficult to 30 either in my opinion.

-- As an extreme nitpick: the Treaty of Portsmouth was not in fact signed in New Hampshire but at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. It's ours, and the Supreme Court made sure of it. (This of course did not affect the playability of the question at all, but it's a matter of state pride...)

[Logistics and format comments edited out.]
Last edited by CPiGuy on Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:32 pm

The tossup on Picard was all (or mostly) stuff you encountered in complex analysis. And yeah the DAGs question has been discussed above, but it is something you cover in graph theory, discrete mathematics, and the clues were drawn from what I encountered in discrete mathematics class I took.

Yeah historically, there has been a "don't ask about programming languages" disdain or um "trope" to use your words, but it's more of a guidelines than a rule. In this case it was warranted since the tossup focuses on features of the language that are causing it to displace C++ rapidly in popularity. The reason why you couldn't write those tossups in the first place was because they were done rotely, often times focused on the features of a language in an entirely non-unique and non-interesting fashion, and just became history bowl by giving the inventor's name, etc. If you have a good reason to, I encourage people to avoid the proscription on asking about specific programming languages. If there's a tangible reason as to why people didn't like the tossup other than "you tossed up a programming language," I'd like to hear it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by CPiGuy » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:38 pm

Ike wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:32 pm
The tossup on Picard was all (or mostly) stuff you encountered in complex analysis. And yeah the DAGs question has been discussed above, but it is something you cover in graph theory, discrete mathematics, and the clues were drawn from what I encountered in discrete mathematics class I took.
Yeah, that's fair [edit: this is re: DAGs] -- I think its not-really-mathiness was exacerbated by the lack of other math content. Just passing on the general opinion of the people at the site when we were discussing it.

Also, what was the third math question you talked about? I don't remember a third math question in the rounds that most teams heard.
Ike wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:32 pm
Yeah historically, there has been a "don't ask about programming languages" disdain or um "trope" to use your words, but it's more of a guidelines than a rule. In this case it was warranted since the tossup focuses on features of the language that are causing it to displace C++ rapidly in popularity. The reason why you couldn't write those tossups in the first place was because they were done rotely, often times focused on the features of a language in an entirely non-unique and non-interesting fashion, and just became history bowl by giving the inventor's name, etc. If you have a good reason to, I encourage people to avoid the proscription on asking about specific programming languages. If there's a tangible reason as to why people didn't like the tossup other than "you tossed up a programming language," I'd like to hear it.
so, I don't actually know very much CS, but from talking to people it seemed like this went dead in almost every room, and pretty much nobody thought it was something important or well-known enough to ask about. I have no doubt you wrote a well-written, non-formulaic tossup on the answerline; it just seemed like there was a general consensus that the answerline wasn't something that needed to be asked about. I guess that one answer to this is "fuck you, get good", which is not that unreasonable of an approach to Nats, but yeah this question wasn't received well.
Last edited by CPiGuy on Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Cody » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:43 pm

The proscription against "mineralbowl" and "programming language" questions is a proscription against choosing a random thing of dubious importance to fill out your category. Neither Rust nor olivine fit that in my opinion. I have (or have thought about) tossing up olivine myself because it's important. (I also thought the Rust tossup was quite good. I'm surprised to hear it went dead in so many rooms, tbh.)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:46 pm

I'm sure other programmers can chime in on this, and not to beat a dead horse, but Rust is pretty important, and that's from someone who's never even used it yet. (It's that important.)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by settlej » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:47 pm

As one of the people who initially thought Rust wasn't worth asking about (I had only looked at it because I applied to Mozilla), I will say that I changed my mind. It has won stackoverflow's favorite language or something like 2 or 3 consecutive years in a row, so it seems like a question that is asking about something that is worthwhile to know.

I'll also mention that there were people I talked to at the tournament who did enjoy the Rust question in the moment, so there is some bias in who talks to who and such.

Edit: In fact, I think a decent amount of complaining about questions/answerlines is often premature without reviewing the content. In this haste, I think we as players (or maybe I'm generalizing too much and it's just me lol) critique a question too readily for its answerline without engaing with its content.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:51 pm

CPiGuy wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:38 pm
Also, what was the third math question you talked about? I don't remember a third math question in the rounds that most teams heard.
Sorry, I miscounted since I didn't know the tournament format exactly. Just to be clear, the math tossups are DAGs, the one in the tiebreaker team packet, Collatz, Picard, the one in the emergency packet, and the one in finals 2. I would mention them, but I know teams love scrimmaging on unplayed packets, so I'm not going to mention them to preserve it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by ryanrosenberg » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:55 pm

Ike wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:51 pm
CPiGuy wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:38 pm
Also, what was the third math question you talked about? I don't remember a third math question in the rounds that most teams heard.
Sorry, I miscounted since I didn't know the tournament format exactly. Just to be clear, the math tossups are DAGs, the one in the tiebreaker team packet, Collatz, Picard, the one in the emergency packet, and the one in finals 2. I would mention them, but I know teams love scrimmaging on unplayed packets, so I'm not going to mention them to preserve it.
Finals 2 was played as the packet for the UG final, which was played before the overall final (which was on Finals 1).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by CPiGuy » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:55 pm

settlej wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:47 pm
As one of the people who initially thought Rust wasn't worth asking about (I had only looked at it because I applied to Mozilla), I will say that I changed my mind. It has won stackoverflow's favorite language or something like 2 or 3 consecutive years in a row, so it seems like a question that is asking about something that is worthwhile to know.

I'll also mention that there were people I talked to at the tournament who did enjoy the Rust question in the moment, so there is some bias in who talks to who and such.
That's definitely true. It looks like I'm just being told "fuck you, get good", which, uh, fair enough!

oh, one thing I did appreciate about the Rust tossup is that the giveaway, though not actually about the language, didn't just go out and say "iron oxide" -- last-line buzzer races are probably the least fun thing about tournaments at this difficulty and I appreciate the attempt to avoid them, even if it makes the question harder to convert!
Ike wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:51 pm
CPiGuy wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:38 pm
Also, what was the third math question you talked about? I don't remember a third math question in the rounds that most teams heard.
Sorry, I miscounted since I didn't know the tournament format exactly. Just to be clear, the math tossups are DAGs, the one in the tiebreaker team packet, Collatz, Picard, the one in the emergency packet, and the one in finals 2. I would mention them, but I know teams love scrimmaging on unplayed packets, so I'm not going to mention them to preserve it.
where was Collatz? I don't remember hearing that.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Duckk » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:59 pm

I'll also chime in my support for the Rust tossup. The early(?)-mid clues we heard seemed to be discussing its desirable memory safety properties, which was enough context to make a semi-confident buzz. As Ike said, Rust is becoming more popular, and the reasons for its rising popularity are to do with the safety it provides, both with memory and concurrency, that other languages lack. (As clued early on, people are writing OS's in it, so it must be good at something!) For a programming language tossup, I felt this one was much better executed than ones in the past that simply list off keywords and syntax because it explained the importance of the language (presumably this was made more clear in the remainder of the tossup).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Aaron's Rod » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:42 pm

I'll address others' comments in a separate post, but first I get to enjoy typing out a self-serving editor's post. =D

As you already know, I did the classical music (minus an Andrew Hart tossup and a Will Nediger bonus) and the non-jazz auditory fine arts (minus an opera tossup from Rob Carson and a jazz bonus from me [the earth/heaven-themed one]; the other jazz was by Dylan Minarik). I also did 2/1 OSci and consulted on several Christianity and Christianity-adjacent questions.

I have a few notes:

- I sub-distributed kind of obsessively*. There was 2/3 medieval and Renaissance (2 questions in the submission packets), 3/3 Baroque (2 questions in the submission packets) 3/4 Classical-era (3 questions in the submission packets), 5/4 Romantic-era (4 questions in the submissions packets), 4/4 post-Romantic/modern (4 questions in the submissions packets), and 4/3 miscellaneous and common-link (3 questions in the submissions packets). The other auditory fine arts was one-third jazz, one-third opera, and one-third neither of those, which included 3/1 dance. I was shocked at how difficult it was to fill even 3/4 Classical-era without major repeats, and while still being accessible--there's a very small handful of giants from that era that most people really learn about (aside from those who wrote pieces for your specific instrument), each of whom have many notable works.
- I had to throw out quite a few decent submissions because of sub-distributional wackiness in the submissions. The overwhelming majority of classical music that was submitted was Romantic-era, and in other auditory arts I think literally 0/2 opera was submitted(!). That sucked, and I'm really sorry for both of us! Trust me, I didn't want to throw out your submissions, that's just another question I had to write.
- To combine the other two points above, before the tournament announcement went up, Auroni asked me if there were any tweaks I wanted to make or sub-categories that I wanted to mention, which I declined. Probably ACF Nationals would have been a bad place to try this out, but I wish that I would've/could've folded opera into classical music. It would have helped to fill out the Classical-era distribution a bit more, and with most famous opera composers also writing symphonies and the like, it just would have felt a lot more natural.
- I took meticulous notes on my sources for pretty much every single clue*, at least in the editors' packets, but also for most of the submissions. If you want to know where I got something, feel free to quote this post or contact me via another means. I'm always happy to share! When I read the Berkeley/OSU packet to a team, after the Other Academic bonus I joked that Google Books made my questions possible. =)

Since Auroni gave me a very nice footnote, I will return the favor. I have joked to several people that writing this tournament was the culmination of a sort of "failing upwards" for me, after working on two regs-minus sets that lacked a true head editor, and subsequently tossing up insane things. Sorry about that! It took me several days to accept Auroni's offer to write for Nationals*, only doing so after consulting several mentors, and I'm very glad I did! I would be so vain as to encourage other head editors to bring on people slightly less well-known for writing, even for prestigious sets like this one. Although I know my questions took some extra TLC, I like to think that bringing on less-experienced blood will eventually save editors time so that they themselves don't have to still bail out sets in the year 2025. I learned a lot, and it means a lot that someone took a chance on me.



* Out of fear of the music mafia
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by cwasims » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:35 pm

I enjoyed the music in this set quite a bit and thought the subdistributing was generally very good both by era and by genre. I think that a tossup on each of Josquin, Tallis and Couperin might have been a bit much, especially considering that Bach didn't come up in the packets I played. There also didn't seem to be much on piano music or other solo instrumental music from what I recall. I know one of my teammates was disappointed that there was very little on more traditional (French/Italian) opera. The bonus on concert experiences (Tchaik 6/Chicago/Tarrega) was excellent and definitely my favourite bonus of the day.

The history was also good, although I thought there were a few issues with balance between different topics. I found there were too many tossups that focused extensively on French kings in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in this tournament; 3 strikes me as excessive. In the packets I played, I don't think there were any history questions on the First or Second World Wars - I think this is really bad since those are by far the most important conflicts in world history. It's pretty much analogous in my mind to not having Shakespeare or Beethoven in your set. The decades questions were a cool idea although it might not have been ideal to have two tossups on the 1970s (even if they were in very different contexts). It might help in the future to just have a broad disclaimer in the tournament announcement that tossup answerlines may be repeated within the same category so that people don't get thrown off by this.

A more minor note - one of the middle clues of the Cape of Good Hope tossup was massive neg-bait for Newfoundland since it mentioned both Signal Hill and multi-coloured houses (as I recall), both of which are notably features of St. John's.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by 100% Clean Comedian Dan Nainan » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:50 pm

Auroni wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:47 pm
My approaches to visual arts and biology have been detailed elsewhere, but I'd like to elaborate upon my approaches to my most interesting and novel assignments: Geography, Current Events, and Other Academic.
I have more thoughts about the tournament as a whole that I might share later, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I got and was generally interested in current events and geo questions at this tournament, categories I'm usually not interested in at other tournaments for a variety of reasons (some of which are mentioned in Auroni's post). I generally find other ac interesting as well but have trouble recognizing which questions were in that category on the fly. A job well done!

Between this tournament and the Geo in SHW this year I've been convinced that I should not just hope tournaments don't choose to use a larger amount of geo in their distributions, since the category can be written in a very interesting way (but is usually not).

Getting to play a bonus on Southern food was loads of fun for our team.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by justinfrench1728 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:04 pm

I have no idea why we won the protest against Oklahoma, but what is ironic about the situation is that the protest actually ended up having a negative effect on our final standing. Since we had the PPG tiebreaker over both Michigan and Oklahoma, the protest only determined whether we would carry over a loss to Oklahoma or to Michigan. We scored more points against Oklahoma than Michigan, so it would have been marginally to our advantage to throw the replacement question against Oklahoma.

I will also add that, while I have no idea whether my protest should have gone through or not, given the clue that I buzzed on it was certainly a reasonable protest to make. The moderator that round heavily discouraged my lodging of this protest, including accusing us of "unsportsmanlike conduct" for launching "frivolous protests." This is incredibly unprofessional and this moderator should have known better.

Unrelated to this incident, I found the questions in this tournament to be irredeemably miserable. I don't know if this is the fault of the editors or whether this is merely a symptom of the difficulty, but listening to thousands of impossibly difficult clues, many of which seemed quite unimportant, was not a fun experience. However, the worst thing about it is that the questions were so oppressive that, unlike with previous tournaments, there is seemingly no amount I could study so that the difficulty would not be miserable. It felt as impossible to 30 bonuses on subjects I had studied in depth as it was to 30 bonuses on subjects I know very little about. Furthermore, not even ridiculously good teams are getting these questions at reasonable points, so I there's no one I can look at and say "if they can do it, so can I."

The result of this tournament is that, until my memory of it fades, I have no desire to play any quiz bowl tournament or to have anything to do with more than a few small facets of quiz bowl. If I'm the only one that feels this way, then so be it, but I doubt that's the case. The fact that I, formerly one of the most motivated players, can have that motivation stripped to almost nothing by a single tournament suggests that the absurdity of nationals is discouraging for far more people.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:31 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:04 pm
Unrelated to this incident, I found the questions in this tournament to be irredeemably miserable. I don't know if this is the fault of the editors or whether this is merely a symptom of the difficulty, but listening to thousands of impossibly difficult clues, many of which seemed quite unimportant, was not a fun experience. However, the worst thing about it is that the questions were so oppressive that, unlike with previous tournaments, there is seemingly no amount I could study so that the difficulty would not be miserable. It felt as impossible to 30 bonuses on subjects I had studied in depth as it was to 30 bonuses on subjects I know very little about. Furthermore, not even ridiculously good teams are getting these questions at reasonable points, so I there's no one I can look at and say "if they can do it, so can I."
What would you describe as "reasonable points"? People, including people from non-elite teams, and including, by all accounts, you, got fairly frequent early and mid-clue buzzes. Having to listen to more stuff than at other tournaments about things that, as intellectually curious people, should at least be somewhat interesting to us doesn't seem like as awful a punishment as you're making it out to be. People very frequently feel this way after their first time playing full tournaments at nationals difficulty (I kind of felt this way myself after my first Nats and ICT). Trust me, this difficulty does get to feeling better and easier the more experience you get with it.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by warum » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:59 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:04 pm
the absurdity of nationals is discouraging for far more people.
Being on a two-person team as you were must make Nats feel even harder and more stressful than it already is. I think the difference in how much a full team can enjoy a tournament relative to a short-handed team probably grows with question difficulty. I find it quite impressive that you/UCLA managed to do decently well with half the number of players of almost every other team.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by CPiGuy » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:04 am

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:04 pm
The fact that I, formerly one of the most motivated players, can have that motivation stripped to almost nothing by a single tournament suggests that the absurdity of nationals is discouraging for far more people.
dude, hard quizbowl's really fucking hard! you were the second d2 scorer in the field and made third bracket as part of a two-man team! i think you need to re-evaluate your expectations of how hard tournaments should go, because i'd be fucking ecstatic if i did as well as you did this weekend. hell, i was really happy with my measly 25 PPG! if you think 50PPG at fucking ACF Nationals is bad and discouraging, even if many of those points were near the end, you either have serious self-esteem issues or you just didn't know what you were getting into. either way, i hope you understand that many people would love to have played as well as you did, and that being the eighth scorer at acf nationals as a freshman is impressive.

i also agree with natan, playing shorthanded makes sets feel a lot more brutal (having done that at PIANO, I can attest to this).
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by John Ketzkorn » Tue Apr 16, 2019 2:01 am

Overall, the difficulty of this set felt like it hit a good range of difficulty. Nothing felt too nuts to expect someone to know at least something about, and nothing felt so easy that you didn't feel rewarded for a good buzz (as far as I'm aware). Huge thank you to all the editors / writers / proofreaders / moderators of this set. The game wouldn't live on without you guys, and I sympathize with the undertaking of these huge writing projects.

The computer science was executed very well. The general complaints about distribution have already been mentioned, so to nitpick:

The bag-of-words bonus felt weird because I didn't understand "this data structure" for "bag" since that's not something you learn in Data Structures and it's not something I've encountered in my languages of choice (or in CLRS, as an example). I said "map" which is what I used when I coded a bag-of-words model (for detecting spam / ham emails).

DAGs are pretty CS (since I'm not taking math classes, but I still know a lot about them). Part of the issue with it being classifeid as math is it's learned in the same class as Bellman-Ford / mergesort. They seem right out of CS 374 or MIT 6.006 / 6.046J. Granted, I've spent a lot of time with this material, and while I can't speak to its importance outside of academics, it is the material CS students (at least at UIUC) spend an incredible amount of time with (at least in my CompE-mingling experience in CS), more so than Networks or Databases. There are a lot of tech electives, but everyone in my major has to take (suffer through) an algorithms / theory of computation class.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Cody » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:32 am

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:04 pm
The result of this tournament is that, until my memory of it fades, I have no desire to play any quiz bowl tournament or to have anything to do with more than a few small facets of quiz bowl. If I'm the only one that feels this way, then so be it, but I doubt that's the case. The fact that I, formerly one of the most motivated players, can have that motivation stripped to almost nothing by a single tournament suggests that the absurdity of nationals is discouraging for far more people.
I find that far more people see Nationals as a motivating experience rather than being crushed by it. I'm generally confused because it sounds more like you had no idea what difficulty this was going to be? (By the way, my first national tournament, the bottom bracket of ACF Nationals 2010, would disagree with you and we were much worse than you relative to the set. It takes time to adjust to Nationals difficulty, but you can do it.)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Aaron's Rod » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:54 am

And now, as promised, some responses.
cwasims wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:35 pm
I enjoyed the music in this set quite a bit and thought the subdistributing was generally very good both by era and by genre. I think that a tossup on each of Josquin, Tallis and Couperin might have been a bit much, especially considering that Bach didn't come up in the packets I played. There also didn't seem to be much on piano music or other solo instrumental music from what I recall. I know one of my teammates was disappointed that there was very little on more traditional (French/Italian) opera. The bonus on concert experiences (Tchaik 6/Chicago/Tarrega) was excellent and definitely my favourite bonus of the day.
Hey, thanks for your feedback! I hear you. My thought with tossing up those composers was that it would be unreasonably difficult to ask about a single work of theirs. But I can definitely understand how it felt a bit wonky, and if I could do it again I might consider making one of those an era-specific common link.

A packet that you didn't get to hear unless you played a tiebreaker clued heavily from a Bach work, but I won't spoil it more in case you want to play it.

Thanks so much, the Tchaik 6/Chicago/Tarrega bonus was one of my favorites too! It was heavily edited from a hilarious Other Academic bonus from Florida A, in a way that I hope kept the same spirit. I hope someone from Florida reads their packet on the Discord, because while some of it was impossible, it was very whimsical.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:08 pm
A pretty clear example of this, to me, was the tossup on Still's Symphony No. 1 in the finals. Why did that question need to say "piece" for the first couple of clues before saying "symphony?" It's already on a very hard answer (five of the six or seven best music players in the tournament were playing that game, and it went all the way to the end!!!) so I'm not sure why the question needs to further obfuscate what it's looking for in the early clues, when the askable answerspace of symphonies at ACF Nationals difficulty is massive.
I think a little obfuscation is okay early on, but in this particular instance I agree with you.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:08 pm
I did not see a single buzz on a "score clue" or other description of a musical moment at all throughout the tournament, not even in the games in which I moderated for Columbia A. I admire Alex's efforts, and I did see strong early buzzes on other examples of well-selected music clues, but overall I think a lot of these questions might have been a bit too ambitious, and use of fewer "risky" musical description clues (see the link above for what I mean by that) might have helped.
You know what's funny? This weekend I actually had a someone tell me they thought a score clue came too early in a question! In that case, it was the tossup on an instrument in the Berkeley A + OSU packet. I disagreed with them. Most music questions shouldn't be "receive 10 points for ear-training," but I'm okay with a tossup or two that rewards that.

Unfortunately, moderating only gives you such a large sample size, but because I wrote the questions people told me about their experiences and feedback throughout the day. Speaking of the instrument tossup in Berkeley A + OSU, I know that whoever Chicago A's opponents were in that round first-clued that question. I also hear that Natan of Stanford first-clued the composer tossup in Editors 1, and personally witnessed Rahul of Berkeley murder the common-link tossup in Editors 8. As you know, since you playtested some music, a playtester also first-clued the piano piece that eventually went in Finals 2. And I'm sure there are other such examples that never made their way to me. Great buzzes on hard music definitely happened. =)
Muriel Axon wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:30 pm
My spicy hot take is that some of the pull towards greater accessibility for non-western auditory art went a bit too far -- I felt as if some of these bonuses were easy 20s or 30s even for those without much musical knowledge. The Ewe music bonus seems like a good example. I'll re-evaluate this claim when I can see the questions.
The Ewe bonus was definitely the softest music bonus in the set. I don't love "hemiola" as a hard part, but I also really didn't want an impossible hard part that asked, for example, to name a non-western instrument that probably hasn't come up in quizbowl before. Probably with some more digging I could have found a more appropriate hard part, but for one bonus part of one bonus, I chose to lob a softball. (I know that at least one top music team "hurt itself in its confusion" and dropped that one, so maybe not as much of a softball as I thought.)
Muriel Axon wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:30 pm
(My other hot take, which might make people less sympathetic toward my point, is that quiz bowl's approach to the introduction of more non-western art, as long as it's well-clued, should be: "This is part of your life now. Deal with it.")
Ha! Unfortunately, I think this is one of those takes where I could please you and probably Jakob Myers, or everyone else. =) It's also hard because I don't know what the canon or curriculum of non-western music would look like at the collegiate level, or even what the main textbooks might be. If you or someone else does, please let me know! Because the main ethnomusicology professor at Lawrence focused on Bali and married a Balinese gamelan player, we had a big Balinese gamelan emphasis (which I know is also popular elsewhere), but I don't think your and my experience is universal. I don't want to just start writing very hard world music without an idea of what the bounds are.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:02 pm

cwasims wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:35 pm
The history was also good, although I thought there were a few issues with balance between different topics. I found there were too many tossups that focused extensively on French kings in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in this tournament; 3 strikes me as excessive. In the packets I played, I don't think there were any history questions on the First or Second World Wars - I think this is really bad since those are by far the most important conflicts in world history.
Not sure I necessarily agree with this critique, but I will note that the finals had a question on the Prepardness Movement, which concerns the US's build-up to World War I.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:12 pm

Aaron's Rod wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:54 am
It's also hard because I don't know what the canon or curriculum of non-western music would look like at the collegiate level, or even what the main textbooks might be.
Sounds like a perfect case for the hilariously over-detailed music section of https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T4b ... lDOn2SBS3g !
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by t-bar » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:13 pm

I enjoyed this tournament a lot, though it was a reminder of how difficult it is to lead a team at this difficulty. I don't have an overarching thesis to put forth, but I do want to single out some questions and sets of questions I particularly enjoyed.

Some of my favorite questions fell outside of the traditional bounds of quizbowl's big categories. I'm thinking in particular of the tossups on "stand-up comedy," "regulatory agencies," "sewing machines" (though I can also see an argument that this is straight-up history rather than categorically marginal), and "American exceptionalism." I wholeheartedly support this kind of question coming up at all difficulties at which it can be done appropriately.

I also particularly appreciated this tournament's attention to choosing the most interesting answerline for some of its more challenging tossups: "Israel lobby" rather than Mearsheimer, "directed AND acyclic" rather than whatever ungodly prompt chain you'd have to construct for a tossup on DAGs themselves, etc. When I was a less experienced player, hard sets could definitely feel like they devolved into either "death march of questions on dudes you haven't heard of" or "yet another tossup on a country that you'll race to figure out from geography knowledge at the end," and careful answerline choice can do a lot to alleviate those issues. Kudos to the editors for that.

The decades answerlines that were mentioned upthread were also good for a similar reason: the 1970s in Australian politics, the 1990s in Italian politics, and the 1970s in economic policy were all important for reasons that the questions made clear, and the questions themselves probably played better than tossups on, say, Gough Whitlam, Silvio Berlusconi, and Paul Volcker. They also support my position in my debate with Adam Fine over whether dates are pieces of knowledge worth knowing.

Mike's post also reminds me that I really enjoyed the Preparedness Movement question, even if it didn't play that well in the only game in which it was read.

A few minor complaints:
  • I thought that "quasi-periodic" and "carboranes" were very difficult choices for answerlines.
  • I was thrown by the description of (carbon) nanotubes as "molecules," but it appears that Wikipedia disagrees with me there.
  • If I recall correctly, the giveaway to the "Cisco" tossup incorrectly claims that San Francisco is the largest city in the Bay Area, when in fact San Jose is more populous. Maybe I missed a caveat in the wording, but that confused me.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by Here Comes Rusev Day » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:29 pm

Mike Bentley wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:02 pm
cwasims wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:35 pm
The history was also good, although I thought there were a few issues with balance between different topics. I found there were too many tossups that focused extensively on French kings in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in this tournament; 3 strikes me as excessive. In the packets I played, I don't think there were any history questions on the First or Second World Wars - I think this is really bad since those are by far the most important conflicts in world history.
Not sure I necessarily agree with this critique, but I will note that the finals had a question on the Prepardness Movement, which concerns the US's build-up to World War I.
I'm gonna echo what Mike Bentley says here, and we need to be careful as historians (heck even quizbowl players) to label a period of time or a culmination of events as "most important." Not that it's to say there's a lot going on and people should know and analyze it of course! It's also very possible there was more variety in the tiebreaker packets (editors 5 for one) and emergency packet that Toronto didn't get to hear, which just happens with the packetization sometimes.

This brings up a question you have prompted though, should there be more heavy-handedness and manual movement of individual questions to ensure time periods/genres/what have you are better represented through the day?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by otsasonr » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:49 pm

I'm going to delay more general commentary on the set until I have a chance to read through it, but there were a few questions I wanted to mention off the top of my head.

First, the tossup on quasiperiodic systems needs to have an expanded answer line. I don't recall what exactly the clue was, but it essentially boiled down to "according to the KAM theorem, invariant tori with what property are preserved under perturbations", which I answered with "non-resonant". In this context, that is equivalent to the given answer, and is certainly the far more common term. See, for example, Arnold, Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics*.

Second, can I get some clarification about the answer line for the tossup on the newspaper industry? I buzzed in with "printing", got prompted, couldn't pull the answer, and was negged, which made sense at the time, but discussing with some people after, I was told that in some rooms just "printing" was accepted. What gives?

*One may note that this book does not refer to the KAM theorem, but instead to "Kolmogorov's theorem", but this is because the A in KAM is just Arnold, the author.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion: Question Content

Post by warum » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:53 pm

Aaron's Rod wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:54 am
I also hear that Natan of Stanford first-clued the composer tossup in Editors 1
It was more of a third-clue buzz.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2019 discussion

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:58 pm

Muriel Axon wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:30 pm
My spicy hot take is that some of the pull towards greater accessibility for non-western auditory art went a bit too far -- I felt as if some of these bonuses were easy 20s or 30s even for those without much musical knowledge. The Ewe music bonus seems like a good example. I'll re-evaluate this claim when I can see the questions. (My other hot take, which might make people less sympathetic toward my point, is that quiz bowl's approach to the introduction of more non-western art, as long as it's well-clued, should be: "This is part of your life now. Deal with it.")
As Alex predicted, I strongly agree. Questions on non-Western music should reward knowledge about non-Western music rather than use non-Western music as an angle to ask about music theory or analogous Western classical concepts wherever possible. It removes a key incentive to learn about, say, Ewe percussion if you can get 30 on a bonus on Ewe percussion by knowing what hemiola is, which you can do without knowing anything whatsoever about non-Western classical music (I'm sorry to keep harping on this bonus; it exposed me to an interesting new topic, but is symptomatic of larger problems). For Ewe specifically, I see Alex's case about no askable instruments, but for West African percussion in general, say, asking what a djembe is is probably better than asking for a Western music theory concept. Classwork on non-Western art routinely asks you to know non-English words and concepts, think about art outside of European frameworks, and know specific individual artists, just like European art classwork does. There's no reason why quizbowl shouldn't follow the classroom's lead in this case at higher difficulties (at regular and below, the story might be different, but again taking West African music as an example, instruments like the djembe and kora and concepts like griots should certainly be askable at low difficulties). People have largely accepted the need to move outside of Western canons and "deal with" needing to know, to take examples from other Nats questions, specific Nahuatl and Sanskrit words or Tibetan authors in other categories. I'd be interested to hear why art and music should be exceptions.
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