NAQT ICT 2007 discussion

Old college threads.
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Post by Kyle » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:10 am

Well, Eric, I in no way implied that I don't want to be your friend too!

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:22 am

Kyle wrote:Well, Eric, I in no way implied that I don't want to be your friend too!
Eric Kwartler is friend to all.
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Post by SnookerUSF » Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:03 am

I was also very disappointed with the questions and for many of the reasons that have been stated so far.

I will say it seemed that NAQT made an effort to increase the distribution quota for the philosophy and social science questions and they were on the whole quite good-maybe one too many bonuses on British philosophers for my taste but not cataclysmically disheartening. I will applaud them for this apparent change, though it does bear some consideration as to what was sacrificed given the continued plethora of pop/mass/random culture questions.

However, the real disappointment comes from the apparent drop-off from the SCT question set. After briefly going over the packet set and subsequent discussion, though there were some of the same criticisms; namely, the over representation of Canada and hockey, bonus difficulty inconsistency, and transparency in tossups-it was received significantly better than this set and for good reasons.

Given the quality of this year's SCT, I think much of the overall negativity directed at the ICT questions is warranted. My expectations of this tournament were quite different, than what the SCT had lead to me believe, which quickly led to my disillusionment that Friday night.

Assuming you hold my above claims to be the case, can the ICT deficiencies be accounted for simply through writer and editor malfeasance?

I am not sure, I think I would be in a better position to answer this question if I knew more about the editing and compiling process that goes in to the creation of the ICT set. My understanding is that the same writers and editors are responsible for ALL of the collegiate level questions in their respective capacities. If this is the case then, there exists an explanatory gap at least for me between the apparent dichotomy in the two question sets.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:53 am

By the way, I want to emphasize that my first objection to the "write it if you don't like it" argument is somewhat theoretical, as I personally will not be in school for at least the next academic year and possibly the next several. Thus, I will be ineligible to play NAQT regardless of whether I wish to continue doing so.

With that in mind, I hereby offer to provide the entirety (20 packets, I think it is?) of the 2008 NAQT ICT under the following conditions:

*I will receive 85% (not 100%) of the total budget which NAQT paid out for ICT writing and editing this year. My Soviet friend says "is terrific bargain"!
*I will subcontract with a skilled science writer to produce that portion of the set.
*I will obey the distribution posted here: http://www.naqt.com/2006-collegiate-survey.html though I will use the actual meanings of those categories (e.g. "literature" will be about Henry James, Mario Vargas Llosa, or Anna Akhmatova, not about Bret Easton Ellis, Beatrix Potter, or an obscure character from a William Stafford poem who shares his name with a hockey player).
*I will deliver the entire set on March 1, 2008 so there is no worry over whether it will be done in time.
*I will obey NAQT's current guidelines on question length and appropriate language and such.
*An NAQT-affiliated editor of my choice will proofread the questions and check for compliance with the above guidelines, and no one else will be allowed to make any non-cosmetic changes.

I know this isn't even going to be considered, but I wanted to put it out there. I am probably going to write the above set anyway and run it on my own to show that the NAQT format can still maintain its trifecta of quirks (timed games, shorter questions, archaic distribution) and still be a semi-decent tournament if people will actually write good questions within those constraints instead of just submitting total crap. So, I'm going to get to work on it regardless, and maybe I can at least get the courtesy of a rejection letter instead of just being ignored by NAQT as usual.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:02 am

Matt Weiner wrote:My Soviet friend says "is terrific bargain"!
Is true! Bargain is super! You buy it, you buy it!
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:37 am

If NAQT doesn't let you take over, you absolutely need to run this as a Soviet-themed tournament. Analog clocks (in soviet chess clock chic), moderators deployed in troikas, portraits of Lenin in each room, black bread and water for lunch, etc.
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:02 am

Matt Weiner wrote:By the way, I want to emphasize that my first objection to the "write it if you don't like it" argument is somewhat theoretical, as I personally will not be in school for at least the next academic year and possibly the next several. Thus, I will be ineligible to play NAQT regardless of whether I wish to continue doing so.

With that in mind, I hereby offer to provide the entirety (20 packets, I think it is?) of the 2008 NAQT ICT under the following conditions:

*I will receive 85% (not 100%) of the total budget which NAQT paid out for ICT writing and editing this year. My Soviet friend says "is terrific bargain"!
*I will subcontract with a skilled science writer to produce that portion of the set.
*I will obey the distribution posted here: http://www.naqt.com/2006-collegiate-survey.html though I will use the actual meanings of those categories (e.g. "literature" will be about Henry James, Mario Vargas Llosa, or Anna Akhmatova, not about Bret Easton Ellis, Beatrix Potter, or an obscure character from a William Stafford poem who shares his name with a hockey player).
*I will deliver the entire set on March 1, 2008 so there is no worry over whether it will be done in time.
*I will obey NAQT's current guidelines on question length and appropriate language and such.
*An NAQT-affiliated editor of my choice will proofread the questions and check for compliance with the above guidelines, and no one else will be allowed to make any non-cosmetic changes.

I know this isn't even going to be considered, but I wanted to put it out there. I am probably going to write the above set anyway and run it on my own to show that the NAQT format can still maintain its trifecta of quirks (timed games, shorter questions, archaic distribution) and still be a semi-decent tournament if people will actually write good questions within those constraints instead of just submitting total crap. So, I'm going to get to work on it regardless, and maybe I can at least get the courtesy of a rejection letter instead of just being ignored by NAQT as usual.
I may have a few things to say once I've had a chance to look at the final version of the set. Here's a preliminary suggestion: Shut up already with the "I, [BLANK], volunteer to write the entirety of next year's ICT by such-and-such a date." First of all, the people volunteering their services don't exactly have stellar track records when it comes to getting things done on time. More to the point, this is a really stupid way of trying to grab some sort of spurious moral high ground. It's as if someone who had no affiliation with ACF whatsoever, save to complain about it, were to intrude on some discussion about bonus difficulty at ACF nationals and proclaim "Hey, sounds like you guys are having trouble keeping bonuses simple! I think I could write a tournament with gettable bonuses, so I propose that I step in from out of the blue and take over, displacing everyone who has been involved with ACF for years. Oh, and if you ignore my offer to do so, made in the form of a post on an online discussion board, you're totally a bunch of assholes."

I hope to have something more substantive to say about the allegedly "total crap" ICT -- an ICT, incidentally, which was at least one third, and probably more like one half, written by me -- at some point in the next few days.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:14 am

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:It's as if someone who had no affiliation with ACF whatsoever, save to complain about it, were to intrude on some discussion about bonus difficulty at ACF nationals and proclaim "Hey, sounds like you guys are having trouble keeping bonuses simple! I think I could write a tournament with gettable bonuses, so I propose that I step in from out of the blue and take over, displacing everyone who has been involved with ACF for years. Oh, and if you ignore my offer to do so, made in the form of a post on an online discussion board, you're totally a bunch of assholes."
I don't think it's quite analogous. First off, I have played in 11 collegiate-level NAQT tournaments, 7 of which I paid for out of my own pocket, for a total NAQT bill on my part of somewhere around $1200. I have also read about 20 NAQT high school tournaments. I am quite involved in NAQT question sets as a customer, high school tournament director or volunteer, and person with at least some idea of what a good question looks like. The idea that I need to be an NAQT writer or member in order to have any grounds to complain is pretty ridiculous for many reasons which should be apparent, not the least of which is that I have been playing NAQT for the last seven years and could not possibly have written for their collegiate sets. Second, the key difference is that NAQT quite clearly does need a drastic overhaul, demonstrated by the fact that despite your own much-appreciated and likely Herculean efforts, it still sucks, while ACF needs adjustments on a much smaller scale. Third, I would email people, but NAQT started ignoring my emails around this time last year, so I guess I just have to rely on the completely absurd idea of some representative from the largest and most influential organization in collegiate quizbowl possibly putting forth even a passive whit of interest in what people on the only active forum for discussion of collegiate quizbowl are saying in the only thread on said board devoted to their tournament.

Maybe you think I'm just grandstanding, but I really am writing this set, and I see no harm in putting forth the idea that maybe NAQT could use it. The fact that we all know this isn't going to be considered by the 5% of the NAQT membership that even bothers reading what current collegiate players think about NAQT says more about the way NAQT conducts itself than about my tournament proposals.

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Post by Steve Watchorn » Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:04 am

With the usual and frustrating caveat that I do not speak for NAQT, I want to let you know that at least one semi-regular (more regular recently) NAQT writer has read and tried to listen to these responses.

I was directly responsible for the placement of the spin-2 clue in the graviton question; it came through pretty much exactly how I originally wrote it. I knew the chance I was taking was whether or not that clue was known by a large number of players (not just physics-knowledgable players) as a go clue for "graviton." If it was only known by mainly physics-knowledgeable players, then I was less troubled about its placement, because that's about the point in the question where I wanted them to have the advantage over non-physics-players, and I had already put in several other unique higher-level clues concerning gravitons (though they were admittedly all string-theory-related). Right after the spin-2 clue, in fact, came the list of other fundamental force mediators, another anvil clue for the physics-knowledgeable. I ramped down the difficulty of that a little more quickly, in the hope of writing a tossup that was not consigned just to the ICT, but could possibly be used in the SCT, if needed.

However, if spin-2 was a more common clue than I realized (I am not a regular player anymore, but I have read quite a few tournaments in the past few years; still, I did not have a large number of graviton questions to refer to) then I placed it badly, and I apologize. I will certainly keep that in mind if and when it comes around again.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. The only other question of mine in the ICT mentioned specifically so far was the "Heart of Midlothian" tossup, though that was one of those edited in such a way that the final product was not something I would have submitted. The idea of a "miscellaneous" tossup (the classification for that particular question) with part history, part sports, and part literature, was mine, but the opera clue and the play-confusing wording of the soccer clue (something that makes sense if you read it carefully, but is confusing to listen to) were added and not in the way I would have done. I also presume my "Enceladus" tossup might get lumped under the "who cares satellites astronomy" banner, though that particular satellite is actually quite an important area of study in Solar System astronomy at this time.

I'm sorry quite a few seemed not to enjoy this ICT very much. I can't say much for the organization, but I will certainly keep submitting questions and trying to keep my ears open for critiques of all kinds. I also have a few other thoughts, which I may get to once I get back in internet contact later today.
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Current Events

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:00 am

Since I'm NAQT's current CE editor, I'll admit that I may have misjudged the prominence of Best Buy's Speakeasy acquistion and hence its pyramidality, though I'd still argue that the largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S. is worth a question in some category. That said, I have tried to respond to criticisms I've heard of the category, and am working to make the ideal more gettable for people who read a good current affairs magazine or two and not who has the most time to memorize every news story in the month before the tournament.

I'm still not sold on the idea that a moderately large lake is less question-worthy than a moderately famous poet. Geography may not be an academic subject in its own right in the way it usually comes up in quiz bowl, but it does represent the physical infrastructure in which civilization takes place, and thus stands in the background of a lot of other categories.

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Re: Current Events

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:55 am

Brian Ulrich wrote:I'm still not sold on the idea that a moderately large lake is less question-worthy than a moderately famous poet. Geography may not be an academic subject in its own right in the way it usually comes up in quiz bowl, but it does represent the physical infrastructure in which civilization takes place, and thus stands in the background of a lot of other categories.
Does NAQT ever release the statistics for how many questions in a particular category were powered compared to other categories? Because I have a suspicion that it's far less for geography than most other categories.

I cannot remember playing against someone who has had in depth knowledge on NAQT style geography questions (read: almanac questions). These questions almost always go to or near the giveaway, in my opinion violating the idea of pyramidality. Regardless of whether they are academic or important, I think they make lousy questions in the most part, and certainly shouldn't come up as often as they do in their present form in the NAQT distribution.
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Post by setht » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:12 am

I liked this year’s ICT set. I thought it was better than any previous ICT. I haven’t looked through sets to compare carefully, but we read several packets from various previous ICTs prior to the tournament, and my impression is that this year’s set had fewer immediate giveaways in the tossups, fewer “word-playâ€

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:27 am

I'll interject for my usual defense of geography. I have only a rough idea of the current pitfalls of naqt geography and how unhelpful/crappy the clues and questions are. But these problems are in no way endemic to geography any more than any other subject - I'm at least one player who feels that it's a perfectly legit area of knowledge (for reasons I won't rehash) when you write about it well and appropriately. The "well" part of this equation means among other things: write on all areas of the globe roughly equally (i.e. stop the blitz of Canadian geography) and give several solid identifiable clues (cities, headwaters, bays, inlets, other shit with names).

If you do this, there are plenty of people who can buzz at all points during the question. In terms of distrib, 1/1 of 20 questions has always seemed a fair reward for the acquisition of geog knowledge to me. It's a really easy subject to write on, after all, because there is so much stuff there - I never find myself searching for an interesting possible geography answer (contrast several other subjects - say chemistry or philosophy). Bottom line: write about in appropriate quantity and write about it with identifiable geographical clues (not historical or literary ones posing as geography, you Weiner-ite clowns), and geography is just fine.

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Geography Writing

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:34 am

I'd also suggest being careful what you use as leads. Back in the day, I used to have so many "great buzzes" on river questions just because I memorized the source sof every major world river, which is what people back then tended to always begin with, especially in ACF.

I have no idea if this is still true or not, but thought I'd say something constructive on the subject.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:49 am

Oh, and one more thing, responding partly to Seth. Don't go nutty saying we should reflect how geography is studied in geography departments in universities. For one thing, this is probably impossible and even if it's not, I don't want to hear tossups on modeling map projections or remote sensing or cultural ecology - a lot of what is really taught in geog departments can already be fit into what we call "earth science" in qb anyway. Also, qb is about memorizing crap with names and connecting it to other crap with names, keep it that way. Of course, it doesn't have to be the same old sourcewaters that people learned to make ersatz buzzes off of in the days of yore.

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Re: Current Events

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:14 pm

ikillkenny wrote:I cannot remember playing against someone who has had in depth knowledge on NAQT style geography questions (read: almanac questions).
The only person I know who was unstoppable on such questions was Jeff Hoppes, but he's no longer playing.
Brian Ulrich wrote:Since I'm NAQT's current CE editor, I'll admit that I may have misjudged the prominence of Best Buy's Speakeasy acquistion and hence its pyramidality, though I'd still argue that the largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S. is worth a question in some category.
Bolding mine. Not to belabor this point, but I want to know why you think this is the case. Yes, Best Buy is large, but its internal dealings are, at best, of totally niche interest to a very small number of people. I notice that the power mark on that question extends all the way to just before "Geek Squad," which indicates that not many people are expected to answer the question before then. Unless one has committed to memory the back issues of the Wall Street Journal, I'm not sure how any of the clues before then are helpful. So what arises is a situation in which someone very knowledgeable about Best Buy powers it on the first or second clue, and everyone else gets to buzzer race on "Geek Squad." Now you have a tossup which doesn't really have any middle clues that distinguish between various levels of knowledge. The problem is that topics like Best Buy inherently lend themselves to such questions.
However, if spin-2 was a more common clue than I realized (I am not a regular player anymore, but I have read quite a few tournaments in the past few years; still, I did not have a large number of graviton questions to refer to) then I placed it badly, and I apologize. I will certainly keep that in mind if and when it comes around again.
The graviton is the only predicted spin-2 particle that I'm aware of, and that's a common clue for it that I think has come up in almost every question on gravitons I've ever heard.

As for the "Heart of Midlothian" tossup, the soccer clue threw me off into negging with "Rangers," although of course there is no such book. The rest of it seemed fine, and if I hadn't done that, I would have known it by the end. The "Enceladus" question by itself is probably ok, as are most of the astro questions, but taken together they made up a large part of the distribution. Memorizing moons and other random satellites would have gotten me more points at this tournament than most of the literature I've read.

Since I harp on this so much, let me just thank both Steve and Brian for actually responding to the points made in this thread. It would be great if more NAQT people would join them.
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Best Buy

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:27 pm

Unless one has committed to memory the back issues of the Wall Street Journal, I'm not sure how any of the clues before then are helpful. So what arises is a situation in which someone very knowledgeable about Best Buy powers it on the first or second clue, and everyone else gets to buzzer race on "Geek Squad." Now you have a tossup which doesn't really have any middle clues that distinguish between various levels of knowledge. The problem is that topics like Best Buy inherently lend themselves to such questions.
That's why I suggested it was a mistake. (I'm hedging just a bit because I don't know how it played across all the rooms.) I expected that the Chinese stuff would be hard, but that the Speakeasy clue would be easier than it apparently was. As for how one would otherwise structure a Best Buy toss-up, I really haven't thought about it, since it would probably be GK, which isn't really my thing.

In retrospect, the facts might have been a good bonus for some level.

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Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:40 pm

I cannot remember playing against someone who has had in depth knowledge on NAQT style geography questions (read: almanac questions).
What do we mean by "almanac questions" here? I've always thought of these as those awful questions that begin with a leadin of the type "it's two hundred and umpteen miles long..." or "with a population density of xyz to the square furlong..." Those are terrible, and even geography players rightly despise them. (Did NAQT's Caprivi Strip tossup actually begin with a clue like this? I hope not.) I agree with Ryan that good geography questions mention actual places, but will disagree that they need to avoid historical and literary clues. The historical and literary clues are exactly why some particular place is actually significant. Those clues are why people would be expected to know about geographical features: from looking at maps that illustrate something (trade routes, migration patterns, the course of a military campaign) rather than maps that exist for the sake of disembodied mappedness. The latter is a sign that you're trying to write about something that's not actually important. (See: every tossup ever written about the Vinson Massif.)
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Post by vandyhawk » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:50 pm

setht wrote:I liked this year’s ICT set. I thought it was better than any previous ICT.
I'll actually agree with you for rounds 8-14. Most of the criticisms I agreed with earlier were from the first RR, and I didn't stay for the finals so I could go see relatives, so obviously can't comment on those.
setht wrote:fewer “word-playâ€

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:05 pm

Just to respond to a couple things Seth has said:

[quote="setht"]this year’s set had fewer immediate giveaways in the tossups, fewer “word-playâ€
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:17 pm

Matt Weiner wrote: I don't think it's quite analogous. First off, I have played in 11 collegiate-level NAQT tournaments, 7 of which I paid for out of my own pocket, for a total NAQT bill on my part of somewhere around $1200. I have also read about 20 NAQT high school tournaments. I am quite involved in NAQT question sets as a customer, high school tournament director or volunteer, and person with at least some idea of what a good question looks like. The idea that I need to be an NAQT writer or member in order to have any grounds to complain is pretty ridiculous for many reasons which should be apparent, not the least of which is that I have been playing NAQT for the last seven years and could not possibly have written for their collegiate sets.
Look, I'm not saying you don't have "grounds to complain." Complain all you want. But there's clearly a difference between "complaining about a tournament" and announcing "you guys are all so incompetent that your only hope for putting on a decent tournament is letting someone who has never written a single question for your organization take over the ICT." Your post was squarely in the latter category.
Matt Weiner wrote: Second, the key difference is that NAQT quite clearly does need a drastic overhaul, demonstrated by the fact that despite your own much-appreciated and likely Herculean efforts, it still sucks, while ACF needs adjustments on a much smaller scale. Third, I would email people, but NAQT started ignoring my emails around this time last year, so I guess I just have to rely on the completely absurd idea of some representative from the largest and most influential organization in collegiate quizbowl possibly putting forth even a passive whit of interest in what people on the only active forum for discussion of collegiate quizbowl are saying in the only thread on said board devoted to their tournament.

Maybe you think I'm just grandstanding, but I really am writing this set, and I see no harm in putting forth the idea that maybe NAQT could use it. The fact that we all know this isn't going to be considered by the 5% of the NAQT membership that even bothers reading what current collegiate players think about NAQT says more about the way NAQT conducts itself than about my tournament proposals.
I actually do think this is grandstanding, but perhaps time will prove me wrong. My more substantial point is about how "large" the "drastic overhaul" is which NAQT "clearly" needs. I didn't have a chance to do the absolutely final work on the set, because I had to leave for California before the last-minute stuff could be completed. But I put in "drastic" amounts of work on the set in the months and weeks prior to the tournament. Without having seen the final versions of the packets, I can confidently say the following:

1. There was much more academic stuff in this tournament than in any previous ICT, both because I helped push through a change in the distribution (more phil, more SS, more fine arts, less general knowledge, etc.) and because I wrote a lot of "general knowledge" questions to be heavily academic.

2. The tossups, obviously, weren't perfect, but across the board they were much more clue-dense and pyramidal than any pre-Subash ICT (setting aside the '05 and '06 sets). Can you imagine a discussion of the 2002 ICT (for instance) in which a central complaint was the placement of clues in the second sentence of a tossup on the Portinari Altarpiece? Are you fucking kidding? Back in the day, we would have wept for tossups on a thing like that, and if their first sentences didn't begin "this 15th-century altarpiece" we would have been doubly happy.

3. Obviously I wasn't at the tournament to gauge reactions, but I spoke to Seth Teitler from California at several points, and he was nothing but pleased with the set (as his post suggests). That was, frankly, the response I was hoping to educe from the top players; that was why I invested hundreds and hundreds of hours in the set. Then I come back and the usual suspects are pissing all over the questions as if this were the worst ICT ever. If it genuinely was the worst ICT ever, fine. But I don't think it was. Moreover, the disparity between the particular complaints presented (which largely seemed to be about nit-picky things like clue placement in tossups on clearly academic subjects like the Portinari Altarpiece or Calchas) and the apocalyptic tone of the posts (I think in particular of Jerry's call for a boycott) really surprised me.

I honestly think that this year's SCT and ICT (if it approximated the state in which I last saw it) were about as good as NAQT tournaments can be. I also think that they were objectively good sets, which should have been delightful to play for any ACF partisan who both a) has a genuine willingness to play NAQT on its own terms (with the clock factor, increased emphasis on current events and trash, etc.) and b) had played SCT and ICT in the pre-Subash era. Instead of people saying that they loved the tournament, or even offering measured criticism of the set, the ICT has prompted the same over-the-top attack ("WORST. TOURNAMENT. EVER") that prior NAQT tournaments have traditionally evoked. I'm beginning to think that the actual quality of any given NAQT tournament just doesn't matter, and that the despisers of NAQT are determined to hate the tournament in advance, regardless of the actual product.

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Disparities

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:40 pm

Moreover, the disparity between the particular complaints presented (which largely seemed to be about nit-picky things like clue placement in tossups on clearly academic subjects like the Portinari Altarpiece or Calchas) and the apocalyptic tone of the posts (I think in particular of Jerry's call for a boycott) really surprised me.
This is something I noticed, too. To be honest, I made a snarky comment off-forum to someone that if the Webb Telescope stood out that much, overall difficulty must have been good. I also think Andrew deserves a lot of praise for the work he put into this set - I know the CE stuff he changed was better than it was when it left me.

As far as cutesy Trash and GK giveaways, I agree it is a problem if they come at the end of a question that's only answerable with them and they lead to a buzzer race, which is what people are alleging happened in the Webb case, though again, I don't know what happened across all rooms. But in the vast majority of cases the good players should be answering them before then, and they're basically a gift to the bottom teams, especially when they play each other.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:53 pm

I think we all should take a time out and recognize the fact that Andrew clearly made a huge difference with this ICT. We're always going to complain, because most of us think publicly complaining is the only way to make our grievances known (while we all are thankful for steve and brian's presence, it's not like NAQT is really responsive to criticism...). That being said, we all noticed the substantial increase in philosophy/social science and fine arts. It was really welcome. That doesn't mean we can't take issue with bad questions, though. For what it's worth:

http://www.artchive.com/artchive/c/camp ... rpiece.jpg

Noted experienced veteran according to Seth Teitler "I" negged with Ghent, but I meant Merode. Anyway, like I said, we should be able to and should continue to complain, and its unfair for anyone to say that his or others' improvements should be sufficient, but let's at least make it clear that those improvements were seen and received gratefully.

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Re: Disparities

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:57 pm

Brian Ulrich wrote:As far as cutesy Trash and GK giveaways, I agree it is a problem if they come at the end of a question that's only answerable with them and they lead to a buzzer race, which is what people are alleging happened in the Webb case, though again, I don't know what happened across all rooms. But in the vast majority of cases the good players should be answering them before then, and they're basically a gift to the bottom teams, especially when they play each other.
I completely understand that rationale and think it's a good one. For SCT. At SCT anyone can play and thus tossups should be as gettable as possible. You're right, good players should have them before that. At ICT, however, everyone's there because they either hosted or did well enough to qualify. Time for the pandering to stop. It's nationals, let's treat it that way...

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Responsiveness

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:06 pm

Just one point: NAQT has taken surveys in the past, and collects statistical data on key indicators. I'm not sure how much has been publicly released - that's an R thing to deal with - but I do know their results help guide what NAQT does, and they're probably a more reliable sense of public opinion than the anecdotal evidence that gets posted here.

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Re: Responsiveness

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:23 pm

Brian Ulrich wrote:Just one point: NAQT has taken surveys in the past, and collects statistical data on key indicators. I'm not sure how much has been publicly released - that's an R thing to deal with - but I do know their results help guide what NAQT does, and they're probably a more reliable sense of public opinion than the anecdotal evidence that gets posted here.
The fact that we convert tossups on (insert stupid answer here) doesn't mean we want to hear them.

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Representativeness

Post by Brian Ulrich » Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:42 pm

The message board posters here are extremely productive in volunteering their thoughts. Complaints about tone aside, people do take them seriously. The problem is that there are also a lot of people who don't post here. Some write in, and the tone of notes I see tends to be more positive than what I've seen here. Those still around programs can seek out opinions from their colleagues. I think the surveys also dealt with overall distribution of the categories, including geography.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:55 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Look, I'm not saying you don't have "grounds to complain." Complain all you want. But there's clearly a difference between "complaining about a tournament" and announcing "you guys are all so incompetent that your only hope for putting on a decent tournament is letting someone who has never written a single question for your organization take over the ICT." Your post was squarely in the latter category.
Replace the words "your organization" and "ICT" with "Penn Bowl." There's an experiment we've already run and what do you know, it turned out to be pretty much the best Penn Bowl in the last 5 years. What makes the ICT different, other than the fact that it's run by a different group of people?
I actually do think this is grandstanding, but perhaps time will prove me wrong. My more substantial point is about how "large" the "drastic overhaul" is which NAQT "clearly" needs. I didn't have a chance to do the absolutely final work on the set, because I had to leave for California before the last-minute stuff could be completed. But I put in "drastic" amounts of work on the set in the months and weeks prior to the tournament. Without having seen the final versions of the packets, I can confidently say the following:
Well, let me take this opportunity to say that I'm extremely grateful for the work that you did; I have no doubt that it must have taken a lot of your time and I'm glad that you chose to do this. It nevertheless remains the fact that you can't cover every category, if only because that seems like it would be a lot of work and I'm guessing you were pretty busy with all sorts of other things. The questions that looked like you had a hand in them were good and the ones that looked like you hadn't spent much time on them didn't.

But that's not even the main issue; why would we expect that only one person of an editing team should do a great job and everyone else not? I mean, if Ryan and Seth had done a good job on Regionals but I had totally blow off my part, I would expect that this would have resulted in condemnations of the tournament. So yeah, it's great that you did what you did, and the tournament is much improved for it. Now if everyone else who is actually a permanent member of the organization and not a one-time editor-for-hire could get on the bandwagon, that would be awesome. Because as far as I can tell, you're not going to be doing this next year, and then where will we be? Probably the same place we were before.
The tossups, obviously, weren't perfect, but across the board they were much more clue-dense and pyramidal than any pre-Subash ICT (setting aside the '05 and '06 sets). Can you imagine a discussion of the 2002 ICT (for instance) in which a central complaint was the placement of clues in the second sentence of a tossup on the Portinari Altarpiece? Are you fucking kidding? Back in the day, we would have wept for tossups on a thing like that, and if their first sentences didn't begin "this 15th-century altarpiece" we would have been doubly happy.
Back in the day, we had two walk barefoot through waist-high snow to tournaments uphill both ways! And we were grateful!

Come on, this is no argument at all. I find it ironic that, having helped raise an entire generation of players on pyramidal tossups and well-written, interesting questions, you're now surprised that all those players have taken these teachings to heart. I remember many, many discussions about question writing, including frequent criticism of people who failed to live up to those writing standards. So, the bar has been raised, especially for those running national tournaments.
That was, frankly, the response I was hoping to educe from the top players; that was why I invested hundreds and hundreds of hours in the set.
Well, maybe that says something about the way NAQT runs tournaments. No one is denigrating your work, but I do know that a lot of people were dissatisfied with many of the questions.
Then I come back and the usual suspects are pissing all over the questions as if this were the worst ICT ever. If it genuinely was the worst ICT ever, fine. But I don't think it was.
I don't think it was either, but it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination as good as it could have been.
I honestly think that this year's SCT and ICT (if it approximated the state in which I last saw it) were about as good as NAQT tournaments can be.
I disagree. I guess we'll see if that's the case when Matt writes his NAQT-like tournament.
I also think that they were objectively good sets, which should have been delightful to play for any ACF partisan who both a) has a genuine willingness to play NAQT on its own terms (with the clock factor, increased emphasis on current events and trash, etc.) and b) had played SCT and ICT in the pre-Subash era.
So we're supposed to like this year's set because it's better than the pre-Subash stuff? I just don't buy it; by this token, we should heartily approve of anything that sucks less than whatever came before. Given that pre-Subash ICT and SCT questions were pretty awful, it's not hard to surpass them. The point stands: there are standards which tournaments are expected to live up to these days, and I thought much of the ICT did not live up to it.
I'm beginning to think that the actual quality of any given NAQT tournament just doesn't matter, and that the despisers of NAQT are determined to hate the tournament in advance, regardless of the actual product.
That's absurd, given that I was the first person to post about how much I liked the SCT this year and what a tightly-edited set I thought it was.

Look, in the final analysis, I'm more likely to be forgiving of a regional tournament that isn't very good. If Technophobia ends up being a poor tournament or PARFAIT isn't quite up to snuff, then that's unfortunate but hardly remarkable on its own. The time and money I spend getting to those tournaments is like an order of magnitude less than what ICT cost me this year. If the prerequisite for even attending a national tournament is paying on the order of $120 just for the chance to qualify, then paying $240 for the ICT entry fee, and on top of that spending around $500 in transportation costs to get to a decidedly inconvenient location, then I don't want "pretty good," I want great. That's not an unreasonable demand; it's the demand of someone who thinks that his time and money is worth more than what he's getting for it. Maybe that's why it rankles me so much more than it does Seth (who, to the best of my knowledge, has never said anything bad about any tournament ever, even the decidedly awful ECSO).

I guess whoever is satisfied with the current quality per unit dollar should keep coming to ICT and not worry about demanding change. I'm not satisfied, so I'm voicing my opinions about what I think the problems are.
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Re: Current Events

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:17 pm

Brian Ulrich wrote:Since I'm NAQT's current CE editor, I'll admit that I may have misjudged the prominence of Best Buy's Speakeasy acquistion and hence its pyramidality, though I'd still argue that the largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S. is worth a question in some category.
Wait, this was "current events" and not trash? After all the years of the very clear mandate--"we don't mind well-written current events, we just hate buzzer-race questions and questions on recent trash stuffed into the current events category"--stuff like this is still going on? That Best Buy tossup was so clearly trash that it could appear unchanged in TRASHionals next week and no one there would notice anything amiss. There's nothing similar about knowing what the president of Belarus has been up to lately or who the Secretary of Agriculture is, as compared to knowing the names of store brands sold by Best Buy. Nothing at all. They do not belong in the same category and the latter just is not academic.
setht wrote:I liked this year’s ICT set. I thought it was better than any previous ICT.
I really think there was more of the usual NAQT frustration on my part, that I associate with tournaments like the 2003 and 2006 SCT, than there was last year. The classic NAQT state of mind is "playing chicken" on tossups--"it can't be that obvious. why would they use that clue there? I would be an idiot to think that the answer is so easy at this point in the question"--and to thus either get outbuzzed by someone more daring, or constantly neg by always playing hunches. NAQT is a format that requires guessing instead of waiting until you are sure on almost every question, but doesn't seem to write in such a way as to rule out all incorrect reasonable guesses. I thought last year had more "shorter ACF style tossups" and fewer of those NAQT "hmm, this is a guy who in the mid twentieth century was the ruler of a country that was once called Cyrenica, I wonder if it's King Idris?" torture sessions. I agree that the distribution improved somewhat this year, especially with regards to visual art, but my whole point in this thread is that NAQT keeps taking two steps backwards for every three steps forward--it's little help to lower the trash quota if Brian Ulrich is going to stuff trash questions into academic categories to make up for it.
I’m not clear on whether the objection to the tossups with harder answers is that those tossups were not written well, or if the objection is that there’s no place for well-written tossups with these harder answers (Idris, White) alongside well-written tossups with easier answers (Potemkin, Solitude). I think we can all agree that the Battleship Potemkin and One Hundred Years of Solitude tossups were weaker than they should have been. Is King Idris so little-known that there are no clues available to fashion an acceptable pyramidal tossup on him in a packet that also has pyramidal tossups on Battleship Potemkin and One Hundred Years of Solitude?
I know who King Idris is, and so did Will Turner when he outbuzzed me in that game. What I don't know is why King Idris would ever be the answer to a tossup, especially one that starts off with the guessing-game clue above, or one that is in the same tournament as much easier questions. It's all well and good to say "just buzz in if you know the answer and don't try to predict question difficulty", but that argument falls apart when the tossup in question was entirely about predicting what the answer might be based on what has come up before ("hey, someone decided to write a tossup on that guy who is always a clue for Qadaffi") and had almost no actual facts in it.

I don't think a tournament that relies so much on guessing and extrapolating answers should have large swings in tossup answer difficulty, because that puts the emphasis even further on luck and guessing and less on knowledge.
The James Webb Space Telescope: first, I guess my stipend makes me a professional astronomer, so I’m probably not at all in touch with the common man on this one, but I don’t think this is way out of line for a tossup idea.
All I can tell you is that this tossup decided the game between my team (fourth place in the tournament) and Illinois (second place in the tournament and featuring physics doctoral student Mike Sorice). It decided the game by going all the way to the stupid clue about the Virginia senator, my saying "Jim Webb," and Mike then figuring out from the fact that my answer was wrong that they might be looking for "James Webb." When half of the field's top four, including one of the few people besides yourself who might have some professional acquaintance with astronomy, do not get the question on the astronomy clues, it's too hard. I also want to point out how gracious Mike was about winning the game on such a goddamn insipid question, and what that says about how far NAQT still has to go. In ACF, if you lose, you resolve to learn more, and if you win, you feel like you accomplished something. In NAQT, if you lose, you feel cheated, and if you win, you apologize. When that setup changes we will know that NAQT doesn't suck anymore.
People are saying that they don’t want to see NAQT turn into ACF, but I think they’re focusing entirely on distribution and ignoring the difference in question length/starting difficulty. NAQT has shorter questions, so the tossup pyramids almost have to start at a lower level than ACF tossups. If you know a lot about a subject, you can probably buzz on the first or second clue in an NAQT tossup.
The smaller available space for real clues is all the more reason to dispense with the guessing-game clues.
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Look, I'm not saying you don't have "grounds to complain." Complain all you want. But there's clearly a difference between "complaining about a tournament" and announcing "you guys are all so incompetent that your only hope for putting on a decent tournament is letting someone who has never written a single question for your organization take over the ICT." Your post was squarely in the latter category.
Well, what is going to happen, then? Are you going to write the ICT? Is Subash going to make his dramatic return? What is it going to take to get rid of tossups on French train routes and "maggots in meat" leadins for Potemkin that would have been right at home in a 1993 packet? I don't understand why you are not even more irked about this than the players are. You say you wrote something like 500 good questions for the ICT this year--how long did that take you? It would take me at least six or seven weeks of working on questions for the whole evening, every single day. I sure would be pissed if I did that and then they slapped my questions together with that Best Buy tossup or Samer's "I hope you watch 14 hours of television a day if you even want to have heard of this tossup answer" version of trash. Why are you okay with this, and why do you think it will change in the future when it so far has not?
2. The tossups, obviously, weren't perfect, but across the board they were much more clue-dense and pyramidal than any pre-Subash ICT (setting aside the '05 and '06 sets). Can you imagine a discussion of the 2002 ICT (for instance) in which a central complaint was the placement of clues in the second sentence of a tossup on the Portinari Altarpiece? Are you fucking kidding? Back in the day, we would have wept for tossups on a thing like that, and if their first sentences didn't begin "this 15th-century altarpiece" we would have been doubly happy.
I agree that this ICT was better than what you call the pre-Subash era, but I also think it was not as good as last year's, and that a lot of the pervasive problems (archaic bonus structures, miscommunication across categories about difficulty, the mindest among most writers that guessing is as important as knowledge) are more fundamental or systemic and will be much more difficult to fix than simply pointing out "hey, I don't think the wording in that Heart of Midlothian tossup was so hot."
I honestly think that this year's SCT and ICT (if it approximated the state in which I last saw it) were about as good as NAQT tournaments can be. I also think that they were objectively good sets, which should have been delightful to play for any ACF partisan who both a) has a genuine willingness to play NAQT on its own terms (with the clock factor, increased emphasis on current events and trash, etc.) and b) had played SCT and ICT in the pre-Subash era. Instead of people saying that they loved the tournament, or even offering measured criticism of the set, the ICT has prompted the same over-the-top attack ("WORST. TOURNAMENT. EVER") that prior NAQT tournaments have traditionally evoked. I'm beginning to think that the actual quality of any given NAQT tournament just doesn't matter, and that the despisers of NAQT are determined to hate the tournament in advance, regardless of the actual product.
This sounds disturbingly Kevin Comer-ish. I don't think anyone called this set the worst tournament ever or even the worst NAQT tournament or worst ICT ever. I still think it was not as good as the 2006 ICT, and that given the massive cost ($240 base entry fee on top of getting to a campus which is drivable for almost nobody and has one of the most expensive airports of any major city in America) it's not unreasonable to ask for this tournament to be as good as MLK 2007, ACF Regionals, or other events which people received much less recompense for running but still had a much greater average quality (despite their own outliers).

I want to like NAQT, I really do. I know that they are going to be the big game in college quizbowl for quite some time no matter what they do, so it can only be to everyone's benefit if they get better. You can see from my constant and forceful praise of NAQT's high school program (despite being a member of one of their competitors, even) that I am quite capable of liking NAQT. But I am not going to like a tournament whose fundamental philosophy seems to be "make educated guesses and accept that you will neg 40 times if you really take this strategy to its logical end, and if you get through the tossup that way, prepare for an exciting 'body centered, face centered, both or neither' bonus" and I don't think I should have to.

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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:26 pm

grapesmoker wrote: Back in the day, we had two walk barefoot through waist-high snow to tournaments uphill both ways! And we were grateful!

Come on, this is no argument at all. I find it ironic that, having helped raise an entire generation of players on pyramidal tossups and well-written, interesting questions, you're now surprised that all those players have taken these teachings to heart. I remember many, many discussions about question writing, including frequent criticism of people who failed to live up to those writing standards. So, the bar has been raised, especially for those running national tournaments.
I wanted to respond to a couple of things hastily, before coming back for a longer post when time permits. My argument was not that people aren't allowed to nit-pick in the interests of perfectionism. I do that all the time after tournaments myself, as you rightly point out. What I don't do is say "I noticed a number of questions which might have been somewhat improved; as a consequence, I propose a boycott on future incarnations of this wholly unacceptable excuse for a tournament."
I disagree. I guess we'll see if that's the case when Matt writes his NAQT-like tournament.
I'd change that to "if Matt writes his NAQT-like tournament."

So we're supposed to like this year's set because it's better than the pre-Subash stuff? I just don't buy it; by this token, we should heartily approve of anything that sucks less than whatever came before. Given that pre-Subash ICT and SCT questions were pretty awful, it's not hard to surpass them. The point stands: there are standards which tournaments are expected to live up to these days, and I thought much of the ICT did not live up to it.
Fair enough, and I shouldn't have come off as saying "You whippersnappers should all just be grateful that this was better than 2002." What I meant to say was something like this: The heated rhetoric of contempt which has figured so prominently in this discussion might have been appropriate to a tournament like the 2002 ICT. But it seems wildly disproportionate to the tournament which I was looking over last week, and which seems to have been enjoyed by players like Seth (who is, in my experience, capable of hating questions when they don't meet his approval). There also seems to be a significant gap between the specific individual complaints people are making about specific questions (e.g. "Are these clues in the Portinari Altarpiece tossup in a perfect order? Is the TGV truly worthy of being a tossup answer?") and the sweeping condemnations which are being advanced on the presumable basis of those complaints.

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Re: Current Events

Post by samer » Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:42 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:It would take me at least six or seven weeks of working on questions for the whole evening, every single day. I sure would be pissed if I did that and then they slapped my questions together with that Best Buy tossup or Samer's "I hope you watch 14 hours of television a day if you even want to have heard of this tossup answer" version of trash. Why are you okay with this, and why do you think it will change in the future when it so far has not?
Out of curiosity, Matt, which questions would those be?
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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 17, 2007 4:58 pm

He's probably talking about the tossup on "Rules of Engagement" or whatever. I don't think that's inexcusable but really, let's ask questions on things we know aren't in even remote danger of cancellation and/or have been on for, say, more than one season.

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Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Apr 17, 2007 5:12 pm

Out of curiosity, is your ICT style tournament going to have separate Div-II questions, Matt?
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 17, 2007 5:12 pm

As a side note, I think the objections to James Webb Space Telescope and Idris are really quite poorly phrased. Both of these seem like perfectly fine tossup subjects; in fact research shows that there was a tu on the Webb Space Telescope in the 05 Terrapin finals. I think noted astronomy dilletante "me" would have been able to pull the name even. If the questions were written poorly or didn't include enough identifiable clues to encourage anything other than haphazard inferring/guessing - then that's a problem, but it should be phrased that way. I don't see why it's impossible to write pyramidal and largely guess-proof questions on both of these things.

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Post by jollyjew » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:20 pm

I really have to come to the defense of one of my pet topics here. I don't understand how, for a national championship tournament which is billed as including trash questions, it is unacceptable to write questions whose answers are perhaps only accessible to players who commit significant amounts of time to trashy activities. If answering questions on "Rules of Engagement" and "Jericho" is really so important to you, watch more TV or peruse the network listings and plot summaries. That really isn't any different than looking over plot summaries of Vargas Llosa novels, is it? If you have a problem with the trash distribution itself that's one thing. But don't complain that the trash was too obscure for you while arguing on the same side which demands the academic questions be up to "nationals quality." If anything, ICT trash questions are much too easy compared to the academic questions. And honestly, the only hours of TV you'd need to watch to answer that question are the hours CBS is broadcasting football. They talked about Rules of Engagement constantly.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:26 pm

jollyjew wrote:I really have to come to the defense of one of my pet topics here. I don't understand how, for a national championship tournament which is billed as including trash questions, it is unacceptable to write questions whose answers are perhaps only accessible to players who commit significant amounts of time to trashy activities. If answering questions on "Rules of Engagement" and "Jericho" is really so important to you, watch more TV or peruse the network listings and plot summaries. That really isn't any different than looking over plot summaries of Vargas Llosa novels, is it? If you have a problem with the trash distribution itself that's one thing. But don't complain that the trash was too obscure for you while arguing on the same side which demands the academic questions be up to "nationals quality." If anything, ICT trash questions are much too easy compared to the academic questions. And honestly, the only hours of TV you'd need to watch to answer that question are the hours CBS is broadcasting football. They talked about Rules of Engagement constantly.
I watched every episode of Jericho aired in the Fall of 2006 and was beaten on the giveaway to that question.

Edit: Perhaps it should be made clear to those who did not hear that question just what it was about. To my recollection there were ZERO clues about plot, characters, or actors. It was a funn trash GEOGRAPHY figure it out!!!!! tossup on Jericho, Kansas that gave clues nobody who watches or watched the show would care about. I would have no problem with a tossup on Jericho, a good tossup with clues about the show at least. It's a decent enough show and it's still on, has been for almost an entire season. There's a difference between that and Rules of Engagement, which is listed as "on hiatus," hasn't aired since March 19th, and only began 6 weeks before that. I still think that isn't the worst worst idea for a tossup, but saying OMFG FOOTBALL PEOPLE LOVE TV isn't a defense.
Last edited by Mr. Kwalter on Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:29 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:Fair enough, and I shouldn't have come off as saying "You whippersnappers should all just be grateful that this was better than 2002." What I meant to say was something like this: The heated rhetoric of contempt which has figured so prominently in this discussion might have been appropriate to a tournament like the 2002 ICT. But it seems wildly disproportionate to the tournament which I was looking over last week, and which seems to have been enjoyed by players like Seth (who is, in my experience, capable of hating questions when they don't meet his approval). There also seems to be a significant gap between the specific individual complaints people are making about specific questions (e.g. "Are these clues in the Portinari Altarpiece tossup in a perfect order? Is the TGV truly worthy of being a tossup answer?") and the sweeping condemnations which are being advanced on the presumable basis of those complaints.
I'll concede that my initial reaction was probably overblown relative to the actual quality of the tournament. I guess it would have been more reasonable to say something like, "this tournament was not very good relative to the standards set by similar events. Here are a bunch of things I had a problem with." Probably calling for boycotts is not the most productive thing, but I've been pretty thorough about documenting the things I have problems with.

There's a whole laundry list of issues that get brought up every time around this year, and at best, they end up being addressed sporadically, if at all. Very few people from NAQT (and no one in an actual leadership position) have bothered to actually engage their critics. I don't know what happens behind the scenes, obviously, but it's no good to have everything going through one conduit (you, in this case) and the rest of us on the outside trying to divine what NAQT's leadership is thinking. My frustration isn't just with the questions, it's with the way that NAQT circles the wagons (or rather pretends publicly that its critics don't exist at all, whatever it may do privately) and essentially leaves us all guessing as to whether anything we say will be heeded.

At the very least, what I would like is for someone to be honest and forthright with me. If NAQT thinks I'm full of shit and my ideas have no merit, let them come out and say so. If their official position is that they don't care what I think because I'm in the minority and most people aren't complaining, ok, say that; that way I'll know to stop coming to NAQT events in the vain hope that something might change this time around. Seriously, let's have a discussion about this, but not a discussion that proceeds through third parties and doesn't shed any light on what's actually going on. When you get down to it, we're talking about writing quizbowl questions, not about cancer-curing trade secrets or whatever. I can't imagine what it is that makes it so hard for NAQT to just come out and engage its critics in a meaningful way. Just look at how long it took for NAQT to reveal the distribution it used, as though telling us was going to be the end of the world.

So yeah, a lot of my invective comes from the fact that all the objections fall into a black hole and almost no one ever responds, not even to say that they just plain disagree (and when they do, they invariable never "speak for NAQT"). I find this frustrating and annoying.

edit: you can find all the points I made after last year's SCT here. To the best of my knowledge, none of these issues were publicly addressed by NAQT at any point.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by ezubaric » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:46 pm

grapesmoker wrote:At the very least, what I would like is for someone to be honest and forthright with me.
While it's an unreasonable demand for the organizer of the largest QB tournament every year to personally respond to anyone who has an opinion about anything related to the tournament (I'm still waiting for R to explain why my pizza purchased at ICT 2003 didn't have mushrooms when the menu clearly said that it should have), perhaps it wouldn't be too unreasonable for a letter to go out to all the teams saying something like:

1. Thank you for attending
2. Full stats are available here
3. Here's what went well, here's what didn't go so well, here's what we're going to do next year
4. Here's who still owes us money
5. You can still buy questions here, etc.

(Which is pretty much par for the course for any tournament held at the college level.)
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Post by jollyjew » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:53 pm

Just so that I actually say it once:

OMFG FOOTBALL PEOPLE LOVE TV

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Post by Leo Wolpert » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:56 pm

Overall, I thought this was a pretty decent set by NAQT standards. Yeah, there's obviously too much trash/gk/ce and all that for my tastes. Also, there were some questions that could have been written better; pretty much every tournament has some questions that aren't up to standard.

That said, it's much easier to complain about memorably bad questions, so I'll do that now:

-Liquid Crystals. Stop writing about this (you too, whoever edited ACF nats science, because the following words came way too early in that tossup, too). Phases? Lyotropic? Time to buzz!

-Lazarillo de Tormes. Maybe it's cause I've read this novel a few times, but "blind master" seemed way too early, leading to a situation where you buzz there if you have even passing knowledge of picaresque novels, or you don't buzz at all.

-Blah/Meh/Both/Neither bonuses. They blow, for reasons stated earlier in the thread.

-Two obscure hockey questions in the finals.

There may be more, and there were some questions that I felt had too much of a "diffculty cliff," leading to buzzer races. Said "cliff" is probably more due to me sucking, not remembering early clues, and letting them get to those spots, rather than the questions being bad.


Anyway, what angered me more than the questions was some of the reading.

First, we had two playoff rounds (albeit in the 2nd bracket) where we got through 16 tossups. 16! I shit you not. I know the readers are volunteering their time (thanks!) but some readers really need to either go faster, or follow the timing rules more stringently (especially on bonuses), or volunteer to be scorekeepers instead. The results of a game with only 16 tossups leave the game as more a matter of variance than it ought to be, especially when the packet may be front-loaded with questions that favor one team and back-loaded with questions that favor the other.

Also, my team was twice screwed over by moderators mishearing someone and deciding to accept or reject their answer rather than immediately asking them to repeat it more clearly. Of course the other team is going to claim my teammate left the "s" off Talcott Parsons' last name (he didn't) because they want the potential 80 point swing to go in their favor. Of course the other team is going to claim they said "Scriblerus Club" instead of "Scriblerist Club" (after I point out that the latter isn't their damn name) because the game is tied and getting 10 more points on this bonus wins them the fucking game. I guess I can almost let the last one slide because someone could conceivably refer to someone from that group a "scriblerist" (I don't know, any 18th century English Lit people care to weigh in? google returns a mere 4 hits for "scriblerist"). But the point remains, if you, the moderator, are not sure what someone said, ask him to repeat it.

Anyway, I can accept losing on NAQT packets because other teams are better at NAQT questions. They know more of the sports/ce/gk distribution with more depth than my team? Fine. They're better at "lateral thinking" than mine? Fine. They're just faster and have more knowledge? Good game, you deserve to win. But it's unacceptable that a victory should be determined, in large part, due to a moderator mishearing an answer or a moderator being too damn slow to read an adequate portion of the packet.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:09 pm

Leo Wolpert wrote:I guess I can almost let the last one slide because someone could conceivably refer to someone from that group a "scriblerist" (I don't know, any 18th century English Lit people care to weigh in? google returns a mere 4 hits for "scriblerist"). But the point remains, if you, the moderator, are not sure what someone said, ask him to repeat it.
Sorry, Leo's opponent, but you're a lying cheating douchebag. Plus, I am fairly sure the answer was not "Scriblerus club" but actually the figure/pseudonym "Scriblerus." There is no excuse for such fuckery.

edit: Leo explained the matter further to me. Whoever it was was just wrong, and thus did not actually cheat. Fuck the moderator, though, stop accepting clearly incorrect answers and start reading questions more quickly.

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Post by Leo Wolpert » Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:22 pm

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:
Leo Wolpert wrote:I guess I can almost let the last one slide because someone could conceivably refer to someone from that group a "scriblerist" (I don't know, any 18th century English Lit people care to weigh in? google returns a mere 4 hits for "scriblerist"). But the point remains, if you, the moderator, are not sure what someone said, ask him to repeat it.
Sorry, Leo's opponent, but you're a lying cheating douchebag. Plus, I am fairly sure the answer was not "Scriblerus club" but actually the figure/pseudonym "Scriblerus." There is no excuse for such fuckery.
To clarify, my opponent didn't try to pass it off thusly, or offer any sort of explanation as to why "Scriblerist" was acceptable. I was offering "scriblerist may be a form of 'Scriblerus'" as a conjecture for why I was willing to let this slide at the time, even though I was pretty sure it was wrong (also, it was the one of the last games of the day, pretty much meaningless, and I was feeling surly and wanted to get the fuck out). Instead, I think they just kind of sat there not arguing with the moderator who was trying to give them the points. Here is how it went down, as I recall:

1) They get bonus. Last part is "Scriblerus" (perhaps not "Scriblerus club") and the captain says "Scriblerist."
2) The moderator accepts it and gives them 20 on the bonus, giving them the game.
3) I say "uhh, it's Scriblerus, not Scriblerist, I protest."
4) Moderator kind of waffles, then claims the answer was said correctly. Seeing as we had been through the exact same thing earlier in the day (how are we to know what he heard, maaaaaaaaannnnnnn?), and seeing the futility of the situation, I said "fuck it" and left.

Anyway, there was no attempt by the other team to claim that "scriblerist" was correct, nor was there a confirmation or denial that they said the right/wrong answer. They did what pretty much any team would do in that situation, that is, shut up and take their points and their win. Whatever, anyway, there's no need to call them liars, cheaters, or douchebags.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:29 pm

ezubaric wrote:While it's an unreasonable demand for the organizer of the largest QB tournament every year to personally respond to anyone who has an opinion about anything related to the tournament (I'm still waiting for R to explain why my pizza purchased at ICT 2003 didn't have mushrooms when the menu clearly said that it should have), perhaps it wouldn't be too unreasonable for a letter to go out to all the teams saying something like:
I don't think it's unreasonable to at least try and address criticism of your tournament in a public space dedicated to tournament discussion. We're not talking about handwritten replies to anyone who complains.
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Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:43 pm

I guess I should post a reply, too. I did enjoy this ICT and my team and I seemed to be pretty uniform in our feeling that it was the second-best we'd played on, which is good. I really very much did appreciate the expanded academic character of the distribution, especially the visual art, philosophy, social science, and myth, all of which were much more noticeably present, real, and likely to be good. I think we're all aware of why that happened and, if we support that as an end (and I do) it would be remiss of us to not express gratitude for those things having happened and all the difficult work they no doubt entailed. So, thank you, Andrew and thank you, whoever at NAQT allowed Andrew the latitude he needed to make those changes.
I also largely agree with Seth that a lot of categories were really much better than they generally are, science being an example of this, though I did feel that there was still a lot of room for improvement in NAQT's science with respect to that at a top-notch tournament like, say, Chicago Open.
That said, I did think there were a few issues that are not simply nitpicks (about things like single trash answers or clue orderings - certainly we all have those, too, but I can chalk most of them up to "no tournament is perfect.") The biggest one for me was a fairly noticeable non-uniformity in difficulty and quality across categories. It did often seem like a lot of categories were straight-up easier or faker than others, to the extent that I often felt like I was playing on a tournament stitched together from two by editors with different paradigms and standards.
In short, it seemed like some non-negligible fraction of the questions of would have been at home in the rightly oft-panned pre-Subash age. I further felt like I was much more likely to encounter such in some categories than others, a fact that I hypothesized was due to Andrew not having had more latitude (or perhaps time) than he did.
I should emphasize that I don't just mean that there were non-standard (for an academic quizbowl tournament, that is) topics present or prevalent - certainly these were present and sometimes prevalent. Certainly I expected them and, though I hope and very much desire that the process of reigning them in will continue until they reach levels more commensurate with those at other tournaments, I will play and do my best to win and enjoy myself irregardless. However, as someone who's edited what I think were high-level tournaments that include trash, current events, and geography, it should be obvious that I don't think these necessarily have no place in the game at high levels.
Secondly, and relatedly, it seemed like a lot of the questions were really guessable - I think transparent is a term others use. I often found myself regretting not having buzzed before I felt an answer had been uniquely identified in general; even more often, I found myself wishing I'd buzzed with my first guess before I heard a clue that tipped off the right answer to me.
A good example of the former was the prisoner's dilemma question, to which the leadin was Robert Axelrod and which didn't seem to contain a uniquely identifying clue until maybe the end (which I didn't hear.) It's possible I missed something, but I think that's just poor either way and there were some other questions like this.
A good example of the latter was the Zidane question which, if memory serves me, had a first couple lines that basically condense to "This soccer player notably committed a foul at some point in, like, 2002," assuming you don't know the clues. Now, the foul in question wasn't the famous one he recently committed and lots of soccer players commit notable commit fouls all the time, but it seems like that question really strongly rewarded someone who is just going to note "Hey, I know a soccer player who committed a foul!"
I think the game of chicken analogy Matt used is apt for these. I also realize that you can say "Well, you should have just known the lead-in." That's so, but, for the large fraction of games that won't get every question off the lead-in, it's helpful if the clues that will cause people to make guesses are towards the end, where they belong. It seemed like there were quite a few questions like these.
So, in short, I'd like to thank NAQT for an enjoyable time and I hope that things continue to get better along the trajectory they followed this year - namely, I hope that NAQT expands its paradigm of offering wide latitude to top-notch collegiate editors for its college sets.

MaS

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Post by cvdwightw » Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:06 pm

I think, regardless of how "good" or "bad" this set may have been (I personally thought it was okay, as in passable for a national tournament with some room to improve, mostly in science), the fact that NAQT let Andrew edit a significant amount of the set and other writers attempted to write their questions in a way that would satisfy some of the most vehement NAQT detractors shows that someone is listening to this feedback and acting accordingly. This gives me hope that they will continue to improve their product at the collegiate level.

I don't think anyone wants NAQT to be ACF. I personally like the change of pace of timed tournaments, shorter questions, and the need to play the occasional hunch to win. However, I much prefer playing 20 tossups (of whatever length) to 18. Both at SCT and ICT we were consistently getting somewhere around 19 tossups heard. I really want to know where all the decent moderators have gone, since NAQT has typically been very good with providing competent staff, and that was really the one black mark of the tournament for me.

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Re: Current Events

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:27 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
Well, what is going to happen, then? Are you going to write the ICT? Is Subash going to make his dramatic return? What is it going to take to get rid of tossups on French train routes and "maggots in meat" leadins for Potemkin that would have been right at home in a 1993 packet? I don't understand why you are not even more irked about this than the players are. You say you wrote something like 500 good questions for the ICT this year--how long did that take you? It would take me at least six or seven weeks of working on questions for the whole evening, every single day. I sure would be pissed if I did that and then they slapped my questions together with that Best Buy tossup or Samer's "I hope you watch 14 hours of television a day if you even want to have heard of this tossup answer" version of trash. Why are you okay with this, and why do you think it will change in the future when it so far has not?
Frankly, I find a number of things frustrating about working for NAQT. There are people with whose ideas about writing and editing I disagree. Then again, that's the nature of any organization -- I'm sure you feel the same way about, say, PACE. And yeah, there were questions in this set that I would have preferred not to have in it, only I didn't quite have the time to replace them. (Unlike last year, when I lost several battles over particular questions -- hello, anagrams bonus! -- I don't know that any of my decisions were overruled this time around.) There were things I definitely thought were clunkers, though they might not be the same things you found disagreeable (I wrote the Idris tossup, for instance, and rewrote much of the TGV tossup).

Here's the thing, though. We just had ACF nationals, which was a well-received but far from flawless tournament. It, too, had its share of clunkers -- in a tournament which featured (I think) around 700 questions, certainly at least 15-20 were as dubious as anything which is being singled out for critique at the ICT set. That's the nature of editing: We try our best, but we aren't going to get it right 100% of the time. Again, I haven't looked at the final version of the ICT, but based on this discussion and my conversations with various people, the percentage of clunkers at the tournament (a set containing 1040 questions) seems actually to have been rather comparable to that at ACF. And yet NAQT is being mercilessly pilloried for those questions, as if they were the rule rather than the exception.

My point is that every tournament has flaws and minor failures, questions which either shouldn't have been in the set or should have been given another working-over before being played. I haven't heard anything to lead me to think that the percentage of such questions at ICT was fantastically higher than the percentage of such questions at ACF. And yet ACF gets all the benefit of the doubt, while NAQT gets heaped with derision. To my mind, a double standard is clearly being applied, which leads me to believe that a lot of people are simply determined to bitch about NAQT regardless of the actual product.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:09 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:There were things I definitely thought were clunkers, though they might not be the same things you found disagreeable (I wrote the Idris tossup, for instance, and rewrote much of the TGV tossup).
See, I don't think the last five lines of an ACF tossup on Idris written by yourself or any other Nationals-editor-level writer would have looked much at all like that Idris tossup, and that's sort of what I'm getting at here. I don't see why, if NAQT wants to have shorter questions because of the clock or for any other reason, they can't adopt the same writing standards as all the good tournaments, but just do it in a shorter fashion. Did you decide to include that "Cyrenaica" clue and a rough year so that people could guess? Why? Did someone at NAQT decide that there will be an explicit policy of encouraging and rewarding "figuring it out," or did you decide that this is what NAQT is all about?

The fact that a very great deal of the questions seemed to revolve around such guess-encouraging clues is what I mean by the systemic problem.
Here's the thing, though. We just had ACF nationals, which was a well-received but far from flawless tournament. It, too, had its share of clunkers -- in a tournament which featured (I think) around 700 questions, certainly at least 15-20 were as dubious as anything which is being singled out for critique at the ICT set. That's the nature of editing: We try our best, but we aren't going to get it right 100% of the time. Again, I haven't looked at the final version of the ICT, but based on this discussion and my conversations with various people, the percentage of clunkers at the tournament (a set containing 1040 questions) seems actually to have been rather comparable to that at ACF. And yet NAQT is being mercilessly pilloried for those questions, as if they were the rule rather than the exception.
Let me be clear that I agree and disagree, respectively, with the two major points you present here. Yes, it is inappropriate to induce "the tournament sucked" from "these ten or so questions sucked." No, it is not the case that only ten or so questions were subpar at NAQT. I think that a large share of questions without any really egregious nonsense clues still fell into the "guessing" paradigm, and that is my number one problem with NAQT as it stands right now, especially since it is in fact a fundamental and tournament-wide problem and not some very specific argument about one question's clue ordering. I also thought that the tossups which did not end with the easiest clue were fairly common.
I haven't heard anything to lead me to think that the percentage of such questions at ICT was fantastically higher than the percentage of such questions at ACF.
To sort of focus my above point on this comment: the percentage of questions which flat-out blew was probably higher than those at ACF--but still low, with maybe 5 ACF questions and 15 NAQT questions falling into that category. But the percentage of questions which were okay but not great and seemed to reflect a problematic philosophical approach was like 40 or 50 percent at NAQT, whereas at ACF all the questions that didn't blow were good questions. The above refers only to how clues are structured in each question and ignores difficulty-appropriateness of answer selection in both tournaments.
And yet ACF gets all the benefit of the doubt, while NAQT gets heaped with derision. To my mind, a double standard is clearly being applied, which leads me to believe that a lot of people are simply determined to bitch about NAQT regardless of the actual product.
I think this has been shown to be false, mostly because the most notorious bitchers about NAQT do not, in fact, bitch about NAQT all the time--witness my commentary on the 2005 SCT and (protest non-resolution aside) the 2006 ICT, as well as my effort on this board to get high school teams to play NAQT questions locally and attend NAQT nationals, coupled with about ten times as much work in the real world with Virginia teams for the same goal. In any case, I think my points can stand or fall on their own merit regardless of what my dastardly motivations for putting them forward might be. Mike Napier and others have ridden this "only people who like NAQT are allowed to criticize NAQT" train straight into a brick wall before and it's really not becoming of someone who should know better than any of us how hollow that line of argument is.

Oh, and in answer to Samer's question: there was a tossup on some dude who is on Ugly Betty. He's so non-notable, at least to me, that I can't even remember who it was even staring at the IMDB credits for that show. If indeed you wrote that question, then I ask: Do you expect people who do not watch the credits to that show regularly to have any chance of getting it right? Is there some reason it couldn't have been a tossup on the show itself, or on America Ferrera, or something that isn't so completely nuts? I think many other trash answers fell into the category of difficulty outliers, though a lot of them were in categories like sports that I am better at than TV so at least I have heard of them (e.g., Indian Wells is really hard, Damon Huard is not insane but is still pretty tough for a tossup).

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Post by samer » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:22 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Oh, and in answer to Samer's question: there was a tossup on some dude who is on Ugly Betty. He's so non-notable, at least to me, that I can't even remember who it was even staring at the IMDB credits for that show. If indeed you wrote that question, then I ask: Do you expect people who do not watch the credits to that show regularly to have any chance of getting it right? Is there some reason it couldn't have been a tossup on the show itself, or on America Ferrera, or something that isn't so completely nuts? I think many other trash answers fell into the category of difficulty outliers, though a lot of them were in categories like sports that I am better at than TV so at least I have heard of them (e.g., Indian Wells is really hard, Damon Huard is not insane but is still pretty tough for a tossup).
The only trash question of any stripe that I wrote in this year's set was the aforementioned "kicker carousel" question; I don't know what gave you the impression that I specifically wrote that question.

In any case, if I were writing, I would have either written a tossup on Ugly Betty (either the show or the char.), or cast it as a bonus.
samer dot ismail -at- gmail dot com / Samer Ismail, PACE co-founder, NAQT editor

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Post by mujason » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:27 pm

Can we lay off Damon Huard, please? He's gettable. He's backed up both Marino and Brady and did well with KC, so well that they're probably getting rid of Green. Go Chiefs!

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Post by DumbJaques » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:38 pm

I think Jason reminds us of an important point. We should remember that we have a lot of respect for one another as players/writers/people who hate Jason Mueller. So let's bring in Pat and Fred for a big special group hug and get back to mocking Jason for writing a bad Damon Huard tossup and for being a tool. We can all sit around a bonfire of CBI questions, hold hands, and power questions about the James Webb telescope.

It's a quizbowl miracle!

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