May 16-17, 2014

Contest Notes

ANUSTART's contest garnered good reviews all around, for its trivia and also its relatively glitch-free presentation. It could have gone badly, though, as Daniel Klein explains:

On behalf of ANUSTART, I'd like to thank a lot of folks who helped turn a near-disaster on Friday into a contest that was running smoothly by 10:15pm.

For background, everything seemed to be running fine into the early evening of the contest. We had started setting up early that afternoon at our East Coast run site using the technology stack that Blue Civic used in the January contest. We had run two mini-contest tests in the last month and our area of greatest concern was the audio stream. By 4:00pm, the stream was working any by 7:30pm, the player embedded into the website was matched up to the stream. All the other parts of the contest--website, IRC, run team laptops--were coming together nicely.

At 7:55pm, we suddenly found ourselves unable to connect to, either to the admin interface, the super-admin-y cPanel interface, or the public page. This is important, because the admin interface is how we enter scores, judge boni, and pretty much do anything else required to run the contest. From that point until about 10:15pm, we entered damage control mode. Many of our attempted solutions, such as router restarts and changes at the ISP's end, disrupted streaming during that time.

The actual solution we settled on was a workaround, all of us, except the streaming computer, would connect via VPN or pass scoring information to someone else who was connected via VPN. There were no direct downsides to this approach except that it was unanticipated (which meant it took extra time to implement) and it made everything more brittle (but fortunately few VPN problems showed up during the contest, except when I tried streaming over VPN). This did push our originally planned 9:00pm pre-contest broadcasting back to about 9:45pm and our actual start time to about 10:15pm, when every room got its host.

This description makes things sound very clinical but we really found ourselves right on the edge of panic when it became clear something major had gone wrong. So thanks go to Louis Moga, Mark Conger, and Drew Wagers for making themselves available and calmly helping us figure out what was happening. On ANUSTART, Dave Letzler and Stephanie Letzler were cool-headed and and were able to make sense of my vague attempts at delegation. Sy Bram gave us permission to fiddle with his ultimately blameless modem and router. Thanks to the rest of East Coast ANUSTART who had to deal with VPN on top of all the other unfamiliar technology. And thanks to West Coast ANUSTART for dealing with reduced communications as we fixed our problem.

Finally, thanks to all the teams for sticking out what hopefully on your end felt like a minor technical hiccough. The amount and timing of feedback we got from you all was just right to let us know when we had problems but not enough to distract us as we got to fixing them.

ANUSTART consisted of the following contributing members--* denotes contributor to writing the contest, but unable to help us run on Trivia night; + denotes the reverse.

Daniel Bahls '04*
Katie Bram
Laura Bram
Laurie Brink '05
Johanna Franklin+
Joseph Gangestad '06
Lee Glasser
Brian Hirshman '06
Daniel Klein '06
David Letzler '06
Stephanie Letzler
Christopher Paci '08*
Aaron Redfern '07
Allison Smith '07
Steve Yorgey Winslow '04 *
Lynette Yorgey Winslow '05*

Regarding Action Trivia, Dave Letzler has this to say:

I'm glad that Blue Civic managed to revive the moribund Action Trivia tradition. We didn't get as much participation, but that's to be expected in May--the young, fresh blood tends to be best at Action Trivia, and it was busy studying for finals. In any case, I put all the video actions we received into this playlist-- Hopefully these can be added permanently to the Trivia archive (assuming everyone--i.e., James of [citation needed], really--is okay with that).

Anyway, [citation needed]'s Actions were, we felt, the star of the night. [citation needed]'s painting for Action 5 threw everyone who saw in immediately into hysterics, both due to the audacity of concept and execution. This was the night's only 6. Moreover, [citation needed]'s wide emotive range in conveying to his audience the dramatic potential of the word problems in a middle-school math textbook was easily the best of the Action 7 submissions. The improbable narrative arc he constructed for his Bond theme is worth looking at, too.

Polar Vortex, though, also put up good showings on all seven actions. Their Action 3 Bond theme was exquisitely arranged in three-part harmony, and their dead-on version of the Bluth chicken reenactments for Action 1 also had the best original addition to the chicken impressions. We were also amused at their video game choice (scrawled on blackboard) for Putin's invasion of the Ukraine in Action 6.

We also got good stuff through the night from Bobby Fisher. Their Rogue ad for Action 2 was short, but it was delivered with the most smolder of any submission, especially its last line. They also had the best concept for Action 4, which managed to impress us even without having the de rigeur nudity or weird sexual scenarios than would surely have accompanied the top performances of such an Action prompt in the late 90s or early 00s.

THE NEST gave us a couple good videos through the night, as well. In retrospect, we probably should have been more amused with the way his Human Torch personal ended than we were at the time.