Jeffrey Hill's involvement in the quizbowl community - the ridiculously long version

April 16, 2015 - Originally written for this thread, but reformatted for this page after it became apparent that it was way too long

Playing career

I was primarily introduced to quizbowl by my older brother, Kyle. I didn't start playing quizbowl until my sophomore year of high school (fall 2002), since I was heavily involved in Science Olympiad in middle school/junior high - at the time, Liberty had grades 6-7 at the "middle school" and grades 8-9 at the "junior high". I managed to make the varsity team at a time when schools generally had only one varsity team of 6-8 people, although we sometimes fielded 2 teams and I would be on the B team then. I was on the 7 person team that won Liberty's first MSHSAA state championship over Parkway Central, although I only played a few quarters and maybe answered one or two questions. We only took 5 to that year's NAC (the last time Liberty ever went, thankfully), so I never got to experience Chip's nationals. We took second at state in 2004 to Parkway Central by a one tossup/bonus margin, and convincingly won the 2005 championship, once again against Parkway Central. I was generally the #2 scorer on those teams, but managed to earn all-District honors in 2004, and all-State honors in 2005 as our #3 scorer. Everything we went to during my high school career was in a four quarter format with generally bad questions.

I then went to Missouri-Rolla for computer engineering and joined the team there, where I played alongside Matt Chadbourne throughout my four years there. We mostly played NAQT sets during my first two years, leading me to believe that NAQT sets were targeted at the college level. I had a co-op in the summer and fall of 2007 working in St. Louis, and when I returned to what was then Missouri S&T in spring 2008, we started going to mACF events, hosting a Terrapin mirror and going to a Penn Bowl mirror that January. My acclimation to NAQT sets combined with my semester off made the transition incredibly frustrating, causing me to question how much I wanted to remain involved with quizbowl. Thanks to Matt's incredible improvement over the previous year, we ended up qualifying for DII ICT the next month, which helped to restore my excitement for quizbowl.

Question writing

Kyle coordinated the writing of Liberty's 2003 varsity and JV question sets, and so I became involved with question writing rather quickly. While we had some basic familiarity with pyramidality even then, the tournament was heavily MSHSAA-influenced and mostly one liners. I coordinated and wrote a lot for our 2004 and 2005 sets, and was inspired by my coach to develop the now-defunct web-based question database we used to collect questions and assemble the 2005 tournament, starting my foray into writing software for quizbowl.

At UMR, we wrote two high school tournaments - a fall tournament in the 20/20 format (although it still used single elimination) and a spring tournament in MSHSAA format. I gained some decent guidance for writing better questions early on there, and I was also involved in a short-lived group of college students in Missouri that attempted to write and sell questions to tournaments, originally spearheaded by Kyle. We had a couple of tournaments use our questions, but support from the other writers quickly disappeared in the second year and I ended up scrambling to finish a set we had agreed to write. I managed to deliver it before the tournament, but much later than I wanted - I waived part of their fee, and that was the end of that organization.

Eventually, our numbers in the UMR club also dwindled to a point where we didn't have enough manpower or motivation to continue writing the tournament, so we started using NAQT sets, including modifying them into MSHSAA format for the spring tournament. Other than contributing a few questions to our 2009 Penn Bowl packet (including a horrendously transparent question on the Treaty of Tordesillas) and a few questions to the initial iteration of the Dunbar Academic Fall Tournament, I eventually decided that I was way too slow of a question writer that it wasn't worth the effort to produce the quality of questions that the community increasingly demanded.

Quizbowl websites and software

The Missouri message board was created in early 2004 by an academic competition enthusiast not affiliated with any school, James Patterson. I joined just before the 2004 State tournament (probably led there once again by my brother), where I met a lot of players from other high schools and several college players, including people like Matt who I would later join at UMR. I think we had a spam problem at one point, so James made the top 5 posters (including Matt and me) moderators. I eventually offered to register and point it to the site.

In late 2008, James decided to step down from running the message board and designated me and Matt as administrators. Later, once I got my VPS running (thanks to hsquizbowl for leading me to a great host), and annoyed with the new message board platform we were forced to migrate to by the host, I converted the board to phpBB and moved it to my server, where the site has been ad-free ever since. My experience with creating websites also led me to take over the website for the Missouri Academic Coaches Association.

Not being familiar with SQBS, I also wrote a web-based tournament scores program for our 2005 tournament that was heavily influenced by the style of tournament run in Missouri, which almost always involved power-matching and single elimination, and only occasionally kept individual stats. It had no support for individual stats or bonus conversion. I tried adding some of this later, but it never went anywhere because SQBS was clearly superior.

We always used SQBS for our tournaments at Rolla and were diligent about posting stats to our team website. After the 2007 spring tournament, the infamous Jeremy Gibbs praised the stat report and asked how it was created. Then Kent Buxton mentioned that the Truman ACO was having trouble with their webspace and unable to upload reports, which sparked the idea of hacking SQBS hosting onto the aforementioned scores program, which didn't take long at all. Not being too involved with the national scene, I never thought to post about it to hsquizbowl. Eventually, Charlie Dees pointed several people to it on hsquizbowl and use of took off rapidly.

Thanks to the Missouri message board and Charlie Dees, the principles and benefits of pyramidal quizbowl started to become much more apparent. The 2008 MSHSAA tournament was written by Shawn Pickrell, who also offered several sets for regular season tournaments. Since he assigned individual packets to tournaments rather than as well-defined multi-packet sets, any sort of private question discussion would have to have access delegated at the packet level. That led to my attempt to create a discussion system to handle mapping tournaments to packets and providing access to only discussions about packets a person has actually heard. I posted about it and contacted NAQT and maybe even HSAPQ about their interest in it, but it didn't go anywhere.

MOQBA and frequent tournament moderator

After Shawn decided to withdraw from Missouri, MSHSAA selected Questions Galore for the 2009 tournament. This was the catalyst that led Matt Chadbourne to formally suggest the creation of MOQBA. At the time, we weren't administrators of the message board, so I offered the question discussion system for our private forum to discuss our plans and goals for the organization. We used that for a while, but since I had mostly been going off of my ASP.NET for Dummies knowledge for web-based software, it was written in VB.NET with Microsoft Access as the database. As the number of posts increased on that board, combined with the complexity of the access-delegation queries I had written, the site became incredibly slow and unusable. I once again used my experience in creating websites to develop and host the MOQBA site.

Being a quiet introvert, I generally did stats for our tournaments. The first time I moderated in a tournament setting was during a couple of rounds during our Terrapin mirror in 2008, where members of the Rolla team switched between playing and reading. With many of our alumni staffers moving on, finding enough staff for our tournaments became more of a problem and it became necessary for me to moderate, and I quickly gained more confidence as a moderator at the remaining events we hosted and helped at.

I was also recruited to staff the 2009 HSNCT through Matt. Liberty was returning to its third HSNCT with my sister as a senior, so I flew to the tournament with my mom and the team. I've staffed HSNCT every year since.

Presumably thanks to my involvement in MOQBA, I was nominated to join PACE in the summer of 2009, and as a result, I have staffed NSC every year since 2010.

At some point, there was a request for someone in PACE to make some enhancements to the old tournament database, and I figured I'd give it a shot. I was totally unfamiliar with Ruby on Rails, and after struggling to make simple changes, decided that it would be better to start from scratch and integrate my SQBS report hosting as a key feature, and the Quizbowl Resource Database was born. I slowly became more involved in the wider quizbowl community through PACE and my work on the database.

After graduating in Spring 2009, I moved back to Kansas City and started working at Garmin, giving me a stable weekday career and leaving my weekends free to staff tournaments. My generally open calendar allowed me to be available to staff whatever tournaments I wanted, so I would frequently travel all over the state to staff whatever tournaments needed me.

Tournament direction

At Rolla, Matt became the tournament director and I would gradually observe many of the steps it took to run a successful tournament. When MOQBA decided to move the NAQT Missouri Qualifier to Mizzou in 2010, and observing the quality of short-staffed events we had run, I recognized how important this event was to our calendar and suggested the idea of having two co-directors in charge of the Qualifier, which everyone liked, and so I joined Matt as co-director of the 2010 edition. I took on the duties for handling registrations, and with Charlie Dees and Alex Dzurick at Mizzou, we handled most of our preparation discussions in a MOQBA forum, allowing all of us to take ownership of the event. Matt ended up having a required class commitment on the day of the tournament, so I directed the 14 team tournament on my own, with plenty of experienced people around me to help me out if I needed it. After that successful tournament, I have continued to lead the effort to organize that tournament ever since.

Current presence in the Missouri and national communities

My presence at numerous tournaments, experience in running the Qualifier, and helping with various tasks at other tournaments, as well as my roles as MOQBA President, administrator, and MACA webmaster have made me a prominent figure in the Missouri quizbowl community. This has been my most active year yet - in addition to co-directing the Qualifier, I have already moderated a personal record of 140 games at 14 tournaments, and we still have nationals coming up! I've also had the privilege of reading the finals for 7 of those tournaments and was delegated with the task of leading the staff meeting at many of those tournaments.

With my strong focus on our continued efforts in Missouri, I'm passively involved in the national community. I'm still a member of PACE and continue to staff HSNCT and NSC, and work on the database whenever I find time.

Despite my quietness, I think it was after the disaster that was NSC 2011 that I started consistently lurking in the IRC, where to this day I don't really say much. Like my slow question writing, in the rare instances I come up with something relevant to contribute, sometimes it takes me a while to completely form a thought, and by the time I've completed it, the discussion has moved on to something else and I drop it. A good chunk of my contributions are related to the Royals, to complement all the Tigers and Twins fans. Occasionally, someone will have a technical question about the database or SQBS and I'll be available to help out.

I've played a couple of open events since graduating from Rolla, but despite reading thousands of questions to high school teams every year, I'm not that great at playing this game anymore. While I don't have much of a reputation as a player or question writer, I'm glad to have found a productive role in the community with my logistical and technological skills.

Oh, and we recently accepted Kyle as a member of MOQBA, so he's following in my footsteps for once.