Monday, November 27, 2006

Quality as a Parameter for Policy

There has been lots of talk about quality on RSD these days. Most of the talk occurred after Nationals and was concerned with
whether or not the Mixed Div belongs, but there was also a more recent discussion about whether the glory teams of yesteryear could have competed with the teams of today.This second conversation is rather familiar and benign due largely to its speculative nature. Its an age-old argument in any sport and somewhat in the "glory days" category, but it does set up the general idea that quality is a dynamic and subjective entity. Not surprisingly this discussion is characterized by two age-based camps. The older folks who are adamant that Flying Circus and NYNY would have intimidated Sockeye, and the younger folks who swear by the athleticism of the current generation.

The conversation several weeks ago about whether Mixed belongs in the fall series is a different animal, though, as an assumed standard of quality is being presented as a means of defining policy. This is critical distinction, compared to the old vs new argument, as the highly subjective nature of quality is being asked to determine a course of action for an organization. Jim P succinctly breaks down the Mixed "issue" into two separate arguments: 1) the question of whether the inclusion of Mixed in the Fall Series limits the potential venues for Nationals, and 2) whether Mixed is high enough quality to warrant inclusion is the showcase event in our sport. This post seeks to deal with only the issue of quality.

I think before we consider the quality of Mixed Ultimate, we need to define parameters that define quality in general. There seems to be a general assumption that we all are in agreement about what quality Ultimate is, but I would argue that we are very far from all being on the same page as far as this is concerned. Part of this is the very nature of the shifting criteria that is quality. This point becomes very clear in the RSD discussion when Sam TH poses the question that if we consider that Mixed is lower quality than Open, then doesn't it follow that Women's is lower quality as well. Jim P's response is that "this is different because Women's is the best players of that gender". My point is not to say that I think Jim is defining a position as much as it is to point out that when we draw a line in the sand to define quality, we almost immediately need to start defining qualifiers.

There is a part of quality that can be supported by objective measures. Perhaps we could call this Absolute Quality. These are measures like speed, jumping ability, throwing distance, etc. For the most part, these measures need to take an athlete out of the context of the team experience and then measure their performance in isolation. This is basically the method of the NFL Combine and it does result in being able to say with some degree of certainty that "Person A is faster than Person B". Based on this standard,though, I might not consider # of turnovers as a measure of Absolute Quality as there are needed qualifiers (the teams were evenly matched and played real D). I think fewer unforced errors could be a measure of Absolute Quality, but, again, it involves subjective judgment in terms of defining events as unforced or not. While Absolute Quality might be of interest in terms of stats and playing cards, I think it is pretty obvious that it almost impossible to define a policy for a standard of inclusion based on Absolute Quality. As an analogy, Absolute Quality ignores "intangibles" (things like desire, work ethic, heart) and creates problems when dealing with player specialization (is a faster player "better" than a player who can throw farther?). Just as we don't expect team managers to make personnel decisions based solely on objective measures, I think concerning ourselves with trying to define policy in an internet newsgroup based on an assumed sense of Absolute Quality is at best a distraction.

I think an even more useless criteria could be called Relative Quality. Let's define this for the moment as quality defined by comparison(without objective measurement). To a certain extent, this measure is defined by the "Windy City vs Sockeye" argument. If we, for the moment, consider the 2002 Dog-FG semi as some kind of standard, could we therefore define a standard of inclusion based on that game? What do we do with games like the 2001 or 2005 turnover-laden Open Finals? Should the Open Division not be included at Nationals because the Ultimate played in 05 was not up to the Relative Quality of the Ultimate played in 02? Why is the Mixed Division the only Division that gets to be compared with Open? In the end, basing a standard of measure upon an opinion of Relative Quality looks a lot like any Dogma or Belief System. The definition of dogma actually works very well here ("A set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true") and certainly fits the standard means of communication of the RSD forum. Could there be a better example of this definition than the assertion that Open is the most compelling and most interesting Ultimate due to its quality?

I think one could argue that the above assertion is backed-up up by the bigger crowds that attend Open games. However, this makes the assumption that the number of spectators can somehow accurately determine quality. To me, this is a highly suspect means of measurement and it seems we have made a huge leap, in terms of defining quality, from objective criteria to the whims of spectators.

I think, when it comes to trying to determine policy, that we make sure we do not assume that the Ultimate that interests us as individuals is somehow what everyone should, or would, also find interesting. This discussion of quality seems to be an attempt to re-characterize what are essentially dogmatic assertions in some kind of objective cloak. Certainly, everyone is entitled to their opinion and will be drawn to whatever aspect of the sport that interests them. Quality, without the benefit of a defined set of measures and thus inherently subjective, is probably not a good parameter for defining a decision in regard to inclusion in the Fall Series.


Solo...for now....

I want to get started with my weekly posts again, even though my feed is still disabled to Ultimatetalk. Jim wrote recently about the number of hits his blog has, and while he certainly has the best name recognition in the blog world, I think he can tip his hat to Ultimatetalk for a large percentage of his numbers. Its interesting to see how visitors to your site become currency and can feed into some sense of self-importance. So, to still post without the benfit of Ultimatetalk is a good lesson.

Just a reminder that you can subscribe to this blog via the Feedburner form. If you do, updates to this blog will be e-mailed to you.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

UCPC Website Update

The Ultimate Coaches and Players Conference has just been updated. Please go to for the latest updates, photos, and logistics information. Our goal is to open on-line registration, hosted by BUDA, on December 1st, so please stay tuned.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Upgrading to Blogger Beta

I have spent a bunch of hours over the past few days getting up to speed on this new Blogger Beta upgrade.

There are some pretty cool features and I hovered around on various Blogger Hack Blogs to customize my blog with "peekaboo" posts and nav bar. Geeky stuff, really. So my blog is pretty tripped out at this point...which is fun.

One of the big issues I have been dealing with the way that the rss feed is handled in Beta. In the old version, updates and edits did not affect the overall timestamp of a post in terms of its rss feed. Essentially, the rss feed made the timestamp the publish date even if a post was updated or edited. In Beta, however, all edits and updates to a post result in a new rss timestamp.....the time of the update. So, last week when I upgraded, Beta gave new timestamps to all my posts (the time of the upgrade), and my blog proceeded to flood Ultimatetalk with over 100 posts. I am working with Idris on this (he is being very patient with me), so I hope to have my feed to Ultimatetalk up and running sometime this week. This change will impact bloggers as they will want to keep edits of older posts down to a minimum. There is also potential for reader confusion as the new rss feed does not list posts in order of publish date, but by update or edit date.

In the meantime, you are free to use the handy Feedburner subscription on my blog if you want to receive e-mail updates when new posts are published on this blog.

Thanks, g


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Same As It Ever Was.......

I feel like this really should be on my "Joke of the Day" calendar. Its like deja vu all over again