The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

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The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Fri May 10, 2019 5:56 pm

Given the lack of personal contact between reader and the person being read to online, it's no secret that it's easier to cheat on online packet readings than real-life ones. That doesn't mean, however, that cheating is ok if it happens online or that it isn't detectable. Just by way of review, cheating on online packet readings is bad for the following reasons:

1) It compromises the integrity of the quizbowl tournament experience for people who are competing legitimately: Take the recent example of a recent person from a school that attends a lot of tournaments, put up unremarkable stats and got a lot of suspiciously quick buzzes on a collegiate regular difficulty packet and, when challenged, had an entirely unconvincing excuse. I can't speak personally to how other players at this reading felt, but when this happens in packet readings that I attend, I'm first and foremost irritated that I'm being deprived of the chance to compete against other people in good faith. Playing against someone who's obviously googling the answers is also significantly less fun, and having fun is largely the point of online packet readings, as well as quiz bowl as a whole. Don't ruin other people's fun for a perceived reward that, I would think, can't help but be a bit hollow given that a) you and b) everyone else knows exactly how it was obtained.

2) Discord tournaments and packet readings are widely used to compare stats and prepare players teams for other good-faith competitions. By cheating, you're also compromising that purpose. Spartan Housewrite Online mirrors were, for example, played by teams including Maryland, Berkeley, McGill, Toronto, and Stanford. For other teams seeking an accurate estimate of those teams' skill, or those teams themselves seeking an accurate representation of how they measure up against other teams not in the field, playing against a cheater will skew results, sometimes very significantly given the repeated round-robins discord tournaments frequently consist of. These teams, in many cases, paid quite a lot of money to play the online tournament you're cheating at. It's not fair to them to deprive them of what they paid for: preparation for other tournaments and legitimate games of quiz bowl.

3) It shades very frequently into real-life cheating. Hitherto, I've kept things anonymous, but here I'll cite a specific example: Shubham Sengar. Shubham is well known to have cheated on diverse occasions on discord readings, and lo and behold, further investigation has uncovered a highly statistically anomalous performance on Northern California 2017 State, which was held on IS-166. While there is no smoking gun per se, it's fairly unlikely that nothing suspicious happened here. These patterns (including a round with 10 powers and less than 8 ppb) are highly suggestive of some method of accessing tossups, but not the corresponding bonuses. All of this is to say that, if the community goes too far in tolerating online cheating, it will happen at tournaments that "actually matter" (not that discord tournaments don't). The newness of the discord format has led to confusion about how to treat and handle obvious cases of cheating. This is unfortunate, since this problem has gotten to the point that a new slang term has been coined to describe doing it on the HS discord. I hope this makes clear that this is an urgent problem that should be addressed in a more head-on and public way (Kevin Wang has done excellent work on handling it internally on the discord).

Special thanks are due to James Malouf, Arjun Nageswaran, and others who helped me assemble evidence that the latter incidences of cheating took place.

Edited given that I've heard divided perspectives on one of the examples I originally cited, which may be less of a clear-cut example than I thought. There are no shortage of more convincing ones.
Last edited by Fuddle Duddle on Fri May 10, 2019 6:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by justinfrench1728 » Fri May 10, 2019 6:41 pm

Fuddle Duddle wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 5:56 pm
Hitherto, I've kept things anonymous, but here I'll cite a specific example: _____. _____ is well known to have cheated on diverse occasions on discord readings, and lo and behold, further investigation has uncovered a highly statistically anomalous performance on _______. While there is no smoking gun per se, it's fairly unlikely that nothing suspicious happened here.
If, as you say, this is not a smoking gun, what is the purpose of placing a de facto burn notice on someone who has made legitimate, tangible contributions to the qb community (writing for sets, staffing tournaments) in recent years? This tournament is years old and this was not a controversy back then.

More recently, some of the same people that Jakob has cited in his exposé of ______ have told me and other people that they believed that _____ cheated at the online mirror of _____. While he did indeed have some potentially suspicious buzzes, and (so I've been told) he's had a "history of sus-ness," the premise that he cheated is of course absurd. Hearsay plus startling anecdotes is not a case, particularly when the would-be defendant makes contributions to the community.

I don't bring this up to expose ______, rather, I bring this up to illustrate the absurdity of the witch-hunt culture that Jakob's post may lead us to. Yes, cheating is bad. Don't do it. But don't call out people who happen to have had suspicious stats at a tournament which is no longer relevant.
Last edited by justinfrench1728 on Fri May 10, 2019 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by heterodyne » Fri May 10, 2019 6:47 pm

More recently, some of the same people that Jakob has cited in his exposé of Shubham have told me and other people that they believed that Ramapriya cheated at the online mirror of Stanford Housewrite. While he did indeed have some potentially suspicious buzzes, and (so I've been told) he's had a "history of sus-ness," the premise that he cheated is of course absurd. Hearsay plus startling anecdotes is not a case, particularly when the would-be defendant makes contributions to the community.

I don't bring this up to expose Ramapriya, rather, I bring this up to illustrate the absurdity of the witch-hunt culture that Jakob's post may lead us to. Yes, cheating is bad. Don't do it. But don't call out people who happen to have had suspicious stats at a tournament which is no longer relevant.
Suggesting that the stats Rama put up are in the same neighborhood of implausiblity as those Jakob cited is idiocy at best and intellectual dishonesty at worst.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by Fuddle Duddle » Fri May 10, 2019 6:52 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:41 pm
I don't bring this up to expose Ramapriya, rather, I bring this up to illustrate the absurdity of the witch-hunt culture that Jakob's post may lead us to. Yes, cheating is bad. Don't do it. But don't call out people who happen to have had suspicious stats at a tournament which is no longer relevant.
The cheating accusations against Ramapriya at the time were looked into, and it was found that his online stats weren't divorced enough from his IRL stats to be suspect. This is a public forum; people accused of cheating have the right to defend themselves, and I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong here. However, the available evidence leads me to believe that that isn't likely to happen. To cite past examples of cheating, Andy Watkins' access to ICT wasn't proven until a couple years at least after his first fraudulent ICT victory. That certainly mattered to some people despite the elapsed time! I realize that a performance by a non-champion on a state championship set is different in degree from that of a champion on a national tournament, but this is not a good argument against taking accusations of cheating seriously.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by justinfrench1728 » Fri May 10, 2019 6:58 pm

Yeah, I think winning ICT versus not even making top bracket at states is dramatically different. Also, did the Andy Watkins story emerge because people looked at the stats again, or did it emerge because NAQT found actual evidence that was a smoking gun?
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by Cheynem » Fri May 10, 2019 7:02 pm

I don't think anyone's "contributions to the community" should be a factor in calling out cheating or not. No one would advocate someone being run out of quizbowl for cheating on a Discord packet, now or past, but we also shouldn't be afraid of calling this out, regardless of someone's presence in quizbowl. I frankly think in years past (and presumably now) problematic behaviors or people were tolerated because of their "contributions to the community."

Disclaimer: I don't know Shubham and am unaware of the cheating accusations in any of the people in this thread.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by heterodyne » Fri May 10, 2019 7:02 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:58 pm
Yeah, I think winning ICT versus not even making top bracket at states is dramatically different. Also, did the Andy Watkins story emerge because people looked at the stats again, or did it emerge because NAQT found actual evidence that was a smoking gun?
Once again, the stats provided are far more damning than those Andy put up, and the sort of comparison you are making between the two elides this important difference.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by justinfrench1728 » Fri May 10, 2019 7:07 pm

heterodyne wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:47 pm
Suggesting that the stats Rama put up are in the same neighborhood of implausiblity as those Jakob cited is idiocy at best and intellectual dishonesty at worst.
Yes, I agree that saying ____ cheated would be absurd, but nonetheless people did say he cheated, so I was using it as an example of why accusations shouldn't be announced without evidence. Jakob admitted that his case against _____ was "not a smoking gun," so I question the purpose of running a kangaroo court against him, particularly since it distracts from an otherwise-valuable post.
Last edited by justinfrench1728 on Fri May 10, 2019 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by heterodyne » Fri May 10, 2019 7:12 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 7:07 pm
heterodyne wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:47 pm
Suggesting that the stats Rama put up are in the same neighborhood of implausiblity as those Jakob cited is idiocy at best and intellectual dishonesty at worst.
Yes, I agree that saying Rama cheated would be absurd, but nonetheless people did say he cheated, so I was using it as an example of why accusations shouldn't be announced without evidence. Jakob admitted that his case against Shubham was "not a smoking gun," so I question the purpose of running a kangaroo court against him, particularly since it distracts from an otherwise-valuable post.
No, you're still missing the point: the two cases aren't parallel precisely because the evidence here is so much more damning! To ignore this and talk about them both as cases of "accusing people without proof" treats two wildly different situations as identical.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri May 10, 2019 7:22 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:41 pm
If, as you say, this is not a smoking gun, what is the purpose of placing a de facto burn notice on someone who has made legitimate, tangible contributions to the qb community (writing for sets, staffing tournaments) in recent years?
Andy Watkins made contributions to the qb community. Shantanu Jha made contributions to the qb community.

Also you decried placing a "de facto burn notice" on someone and then placed one on someone else.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by justinfrench1728 » Fri May 10, 2019 7:22 pm

heterodyne wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 7:12 pm
justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 7:07 pm
heterodyne wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:47 pm
Suggesting that the stats Rama put up are in the same neighborhood of implausiblity as those Jakob cited is idiocy at best and intellectual dishonesty at worst.
Yes, I agree that saying Rama cheated would be absurd, but nonetheless people did say he cheated, so I was using it as an example of why accusations shouldn't be announced without evidence. Jakob admitted that his case against Shubham was "not a smoking gun," so I question the purpose of running a kangaroo court against him, particularly since it distracts from an otherwise-valuable post.
No, you're still missing the point: the two cases aren't parallel precisely because the evidence here is so much more damning! To ignore this and talk about them both as cases of "accusing people without proof" treats two wildly different situations as identical.
Jakob admitted in his post that this was not proof, nor has he talked to the tournament director.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by justinfrench1728 » Fri May 10, 2019 7:27 pm

I have edited out all references to specific people in my posts and suggest that the other people in this discussion do the same at least until they actually speak to the people involved in running the tournament.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by heterodyne » Fri May 10, 2019 7:36 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 7:22 pm
Jakob admitted in his post that this was not proof, nor has he talked to the tournament director.
Your commitment to intransigence is really stunning. Have you, perhaps, considered that things might be slightly more complex than "is it conclusive proof or is it not?" Recognizing that the cases are different, and as such should be discussed and treated differently, does not require holding that in one case what we possess is "definitive proof", while what we possess in the other is not.

More broadly, it's really worrying to me that Jakob's post and the subsequent replies look like a "kangaroo court" or a "witch hunt" to you, unless you're just using those phrases because you like the ring of them. This is a public forum, in which one person is sharing the conclusions he has reached from publicly-available evidence which he then presented to others, allowing them to make their own conclusions. Jakob's post carries with it no suggestion of sanctions or requirement of retribution. Shubham is free to respond to this post at his own leisure, and I encourage him to do so. You seem more interested in pearlclutching about the dreaded false accusations than actually engaging with the post Jakob made; if you'd like to effect a change of heart and post productively or even well I'm sure nobody would mind.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by Schroeder » Fri May 10, 2019 7:45 pm

Regarding NAQT Northern California State 2017:

The tournament occurred on April 15, 2017. After the tournament, Ankit, Niki and I discussed Shubham's anomalous performance and decided to wait another tournament to see if it carried over, then offer him a chance to prove his abilities on clean questions (it wasn't a high priority, as they were not the champions). That was the last regular-season high school tournament of the school year, so this meant waiting until the fall.

On June 19, 2017, Jeff received the following email from an anonymous account, and forwarded it to Ankit, Niki, Nicholas and me:
I have recently been told from someone very close to the Washington A team that Shubham Sengar of Washington High School illegally accessed and acquired the IS-166 packets before the 2017 NorCal Quiz Bowl State Championship and used its contents to his advantage. Please investigate.

Thanks,
Concerned participant in said tournament
We asked for more information (in particular, we asked if the source was willing to talk to us directly), but the source declined, "fearing that it will jeopardize good relationships with people attending Washington HS." We never heard anything back after that, even after assuring the source of anonymity.

The night of April 6, 2018 (the night before NAQT Northern California State 2018), Ankit brought up the issue again, as Shubham was registered to play the next day. Our decision was to monitor him in the first few rounds and pull him from the tournament if we detected another anomalous performance, partly since we hadn't seen evidence of cheating by him in previous tournaments that school year (although that in itself made cheating in 2017 even more obvious). Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, so we did not take further action.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by ansonberns » Sat May 11, 2019 11:35 am

Fuddle Duddle wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 5:56 pm
) It shades very frequently into real-life cheating. Hitherto, I've kept things anonymous, but here I'll cite a specific example: Shubham Sengar. Shubham is well known to have cheated on diverse occasions on discord readings, and lo and behold, further investigation has uncovered a highly statistically anomalous performance on Northern California 2017 State, which was held on IS-166. While there is no smoking gun per se, it's fairly unlikely that nothing suspicious happened here. These patterns (including a round with 10 powers and less than 8 ppb) are highly suggestive of some method of accessing tossups, but not the corresponding bonuses. All of this is to say that, if the community goes too far in tolerating online cheating, it will happen at tournaments that "actually matter" (not that discord tournaments don't). The newness of the discord format has led to confusion about how to treat and handle obvious cases of cheating. This is unfortunate, since this problem has gotten to the point that a new slang term has been coined to describe doing it on the HS discord. I hope this makes clear that this is an urgent problem that should be addressed in a more head-on and public way (Kevin Wang has done excellent work on handling it internally on the discord).
Setting aside the above argument about the validity of the evidence, I'm not exactly sure how this example proves this point (that discord cheating is a "gateway drug" to in person cheating) since the tournament in question happened before the quizbowl discord was really a thing.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by theMoMA » Sat May 11, 2019 2:23 pm

Online packets, and insecure players cheating on them, have existed since long before the advent of the Discord. (I don't know if any specific person cheated online, or whether anyone who cheated online went on to cheat at an in-person event.)

Cheating is always wrong, and that goes equally for cheating online, although it's perhaps too obvious to be worth mentioning that the consequential harms of cheating in person are several degrees higher, because legitimate teams have traveled and paid money to play, and things like a real tournament championship and nationals qualification may be at stake. Cheating in person, which requires illicitly obtaining a set and studying its answers beforehand, also requires a degree of premeditation and bad intent that is much higher than looking up an old packet or random clues while playing online.

All this is to say that people who cheat online are bad actors and, in my opinion, insecure losers and immature jerks who should be admonished as such if their misdeeds are revealed. But people who cheat in person are truly and uniquely villainous in the quizbowl ecosystem and should be banned from legitimate events absent some remarkable act of contrition and restitution.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by jonpin » Sat May 11, 2019 7:19 pm

justinfrench1728 wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:58 pm
Yeah, I think winning ICT versus not even making top bracket at states is dramatically different. Also, did the Andy Watkins story emerge because people looked at the stats again, or did it emerge because NAQT found actual evidence that was a smoking gun?
To the best of my memory, Watkins was originally suspected because of a combination of stats and specific seemingly outlandish buzzes. NAQT conducted some form of investigation and said there was not sufficient evidence of dishonesty. Later, another player (I think Joe Barton?) (Josh Alman) cheated and put up even more out-of-the-norm stats, and NAQT's investigation into that case uncovered evidence in both Alman and Watkins's cases that they had accessed questions they would be playing later on.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by Cheynem » Sat May 11, 2019 7:23 pm

Do you mean Josh Alman? I have no idea whom Joe Barton is.
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Re: The Quizbowl discord, and why cheating on it is still cheating and still bad

Post by jonpin » Sat May 11, 2019 8:30 pm

After further review, Joe Brosch was the name I was trying to come up with, but he was also caught in the investigation brought on by Josh Alman's actions. Above post edited.
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