Online Tournament Guide
This page of NAQT’s online tournament guide details the responsibilities and tasks of a moderator that are specific to online tournaments. It assumes you are familiar with the basics of quiz bowl, including gameplay rules, reading questions, and evaluating responses. If these topics are new to you, seek guidance from the tournament director, your local quiz bowl association, or NAQT itself.
As with the rest of this guide, this page assumes the tournament is following NAQT’s recommendations for videoconferencing technologies, game format, rule changes, and tournament policies.
Before the Tournament
- Check with the tournament director to make sure you know how the tournament will be run. Tournament directors may add to, omit, or modify policies in this guide.
- Buy, install, and test any videoconferencing equipment that you will need. For moderators, either (a) a headset or (b) headphones/earbuds with a (quality) external microphone are required. You cannot get by with a built-in laptop microphone.
- Download and install the Zoom Client for Meetings (or the appropriate Zoom Mobile App). You should not use the Zoom web client (which has worse audio and video quality and limited features).
- Arrange with your family and/or roommates to be alone in the room from which you’ll be moderating during your upcoming tournament. In addition, arrange for relative quiet in the rest of the building.
- Arrange with your family and/or roommates for them to minimize network use during your upcoming tournament.
- If the tournament director arranges a pre-tournament session to test videoconferencing and demonstrate gameplay, try as hard as you can to make it. Online quiz bowl feels different, and even a little exposure can go a long way toward making you comfortable (even if you have lots of experience with in-person quiz bowl).
Make sure you know…
- how to enable/disable your video feed
- how to mute/unmute your microphone
- how to instruct a participant to use “push-to-talk” when muted
- how to change your Zoom display name
- how to admit participants from the waiting room
- how to change a participant’s display name
- how to mute a participant
- Make sure you know whether you will definitely have a scorekeeper for the duration of the tournament. If not, or if possibly not, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the scorekeeper role as well.
- Read NAQT’s rule changes for online games.
- Read NAQT’s suggested responses to technical problems that occur during online games.
- Read NAQT’s suggestions for improving the online quiz bowl experience. Many of these are things that participants should do to make other people’s experience better; as a moderator, you should set the tone and do as many as possible.
- Complete the tutorial for NAQT’s online question system so you understand how you will be reading questions during the tournament.
- Tournaments will use the Zoom videoconferencing platform. You will need to make a Zoom account to be able to host a room.
- If you don’t already have a Zoom account, sign up for a Basic Account. At no point should you have to pay (or enter credit card information). The tournament director will then add you as a user on their own account. Alternatively, the tournament director may invite you (via email address) directly, in which case you will receive an email stepping you through the process of creating an account that will already be a user on the tournament director’s account.
- In the context of online tournaments, a game room will be a Zoom meeting that lasts for an entire day of gameplay and has a specific URL.
- If you already have a free (“Basic”) Zoom account and don’t anticipate wanting to upgrade your account to a paid one (to host your own quiz bowl tournaments or to do anything else), have the tournament director invite your existing account to become a user. Each account, distinguished by email address, can only be associated with a single organization at a time, so if you anticipate wanting to use your account to host non-free rooms for your own projects, you should create a new, free (“Basic”) Zoom account with a different email address for the tournament director to invite.
- If you already have a Zoom account that is a licensed user for another account (that is, it has powers to create non-free meetings), the tournament director should not invite it to join their organization (or, if they do, you should not accept the invitation). Instead, you should create a new, free (“Basic”) Zoom account with a different email address for the tournament director to invite. If you accept the invitation to become a user for the tournament director’s account, you will either lose your existing privileges (with the other organization) or it simply won’t work.
- Alternatively, if your existing account is able to create appropriate Zoom meetings (basically, ones that can hold enough participants and last more than 40 minutes), you can just tell the tournament director that you will create your own Zoom meeting to act as a game room. You will need to send them the Zoom meeting URL in advance so they can put it on the tournament schedule. (Make sure that the person or organization paying for your existing account’s Zoom license permits the use of their license to host quiz bowl games.)
- No moderator (or other participant) may record matches (in part or in whole, for any reason).
- Make sure you know the time zone in which the tournament is taking place so you can properly interpret any times stated without an explicit time zone.
- Practice creating a BuzzIn.Live room and configuring it properly.
- If you have limited monitor size, think about how you want to arrange the various windows for operational efficiency. The image below shows one possibility. The window displaying the questions is on the right (with enough space to display both questions and both “Read” buttons). Zoom is on the left. Buzzin.live is in the bottom corner with just enough showing to see how has buzzed in (since the space bar, rather than clicking, can be used to clear it). The Zoom Chat and Participants windows are popped out. The scoresheet is mostly under the question window, but enough is visible to allow it to be brought to the front when needed.
Start of the Tournament
- Make sure you know the human-friendly designation for your room (e.g., “Room 2”). Ideally, the tournament director will have distributed a complete list of the moderators, their rooms, and all game-room assignments that are known (e.g., those for the preliminary rounds).
- Make sure you know the Zoom meeting URL of your game room.
- Make sure you know whether the tournament is using free or premium BuzzIn rooms. If the latter, make sure you know your premium key.
- Make sure you have the tournament director’s email address and phone number. Make sure the tournament director has your email address and phone number.
- If the tournament director is providing a central chat room for staff communication, make sure you have signed into it but that its notifications will not pop up or make districting noises while you are reading a game).
- Open the Participant and Chat tabs on Zoom (to easily monitor them).
Start of Each Game
- Watch the Participant window in Zoom for players, coaches, spectators, and other participants arriving. Admit them as soon as possible. If you have reason to think that somebody is in the wrong room, raise the issue with them immediately.
Remind players, coaches, and spectators associated with a team to add
[X-spec]to their Zoom display name as appropriate. Remind unaffiliated spectators to add
- Make sure participants comply with the rules about setup, including having a video stream, being muted and using “push-to-talk” if they’re using an internal microphone, not using video stream modifications (like virtual backgrounds), not introducing background noise, and not having visual distractions in the background.
- Once a number of players are present, distribute the BuzzIn game code (free room) or URL (premium room) via Zoom Chat. You may need to send this several times as players arrive. Make sure all of the active players eventually end up in the BuzzIn room.
- Once all players are present, do a buzzer check to make sure everybody is still connected. (To do this, just have each player buzz in and clear the system immediately thereafter.)
- Take note of players who seem to be having technical problems (e.g., appear to be speaking, but with no sound coming through), and try to help with the problems.
- Set up the game so you can receive questions via NAQT’s website. You can almost certainly specify the round and packet at this point. If you know the teams that will be playing and the tournament used NAQT’s registration system (or has otherwise supplied NAQT with a list of teams in advance), you can also specify the teams that will be playing.
- If pre-game instructions from the tournament director are displayed, follow them.
Just Before the First Game Actually Starts
For the first round (and possibly other rounds that might have teams competing for the first time), once gameplay is about to begin…
- Review the basic requirements of online quiz bowl: having a working video feed at all times, using “push-to-talk” for people using internal microphones, having phones set to “do not disturb,” placing phones out of sight (unless they are being used to connect to BuzzIn.Live), and having no windows other than Zoom and BuzzIn.Live open on the computer.
Review the rule changes for online quiz bowl. The most important ones:
- Bonus answers should be prefaced with “Our answer is….”
- After being asked for a bonus answer, teams have three seconds to begin saying “Our answer is….”
- Teams may request that a bonus part be re-read if they were unable to hear it (but there are specific rules about when such requests must be granted).
- At this point, reading an online quiz bowl match should feel fairly similar to doing so for an in-person tournament.
- Under normal conditions, you should only have to click one button on the online question system for every question cycle. If the tossup goes unanswered (with no buzzes or only incorrect buzzes), click the “Read Tossup, but No Bonus Earned” button (below the text of the tossup question). If the tossup was answered correctly, read the bonus and then click the “Both Tossup and Bonus Read” button (below the text of the bonus question) once both questions are finished. In both cases, the system will display the next tossup-bonus cycle.
- You should orally recognize players that buzz in. Don’t clear the buzzer system until buzzing is legal again (i.e., after a response has been judged incorrect or before the next tossup is going to start). (This prevents distracting buzzes and allows the scorekeeper to double-check who answered the question.)
In addition to recognizing the player (usually read from the BuzzIn.Live window), you should verify that the player who buzzed in is active (that is, doesn’t have
[Y-alt]in their Zoom display name).
- If a players buzzes in to answer but can’t be heard, check to see if they are muted. If so, quickly remind them to “push-to-talk” or unmute before calling time.
- If the game is disrupted—or even mildly inconvenienced—by background noise, suspend gameplay and identify which player is causing the problem. Have them remedy the situation and, if they can’t or won’t, require them to enter “push-to-talk” mode. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, forcibly mute them (and, unless this is an ejection for uncooperativity or other misconduct under Rule K.6, give both teams the chance to substitute). Removing players from a game is a harsh penalty, but audio quality is essential to a fair and fun competition. Other players should not have to tolerate a game in which the questions can’t be easily heard.
- As time allows, use teams’ bonus-conferral time as an opportunity to verify that no participants are in the waiting room, no issues have been raised in the Zoom Chat, and no critical messages have been posted in the staff chat room.
- Players do not have the right to provide answers by typing (that is, through Zoom Chat). If technical issues make it impossible for you to hear an answer well enough to judge it, you may request that the player enter the answer through Chat. Judging the answer is at your discretion, but the underlying standard should be that phonetic spellings are acceptable, as are typos/spelling errors that don’t introduce confusion as to the intended answer.
- After substitutions are made, make sure inactive players have
[Y-alt]in their Zoom display names and active players do not.
End of Each Game
- Click “Conclude Game (without reading these questions)” in the online question system.
- If post-game instructions from the tournament director are displayed, follow them.
- Make sure everyone knows the final score and what to do next.
- You can expect to briefly step away from the computer between games, but you should stick around for a bit to see if players have questions about what they should do next.
More Things to Know
Please also read…
- NAQT’s policies on handling technical problems during games
- NAQT’s technical and behavioral suggestions for improving the online quiz bowl experience
- NAQT’s comments on cheating and anti-cheating measures in online quiz bowl
NAQT wants to hear about your experience with online quiz bowl—write to firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions, questions, complaints, or any other comments.