Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The MNO's of Treasure Hunting - "M"

"M" is for "Marking"

What COCs think, do or not do when they mark your answer sheets can influence how you approach tackling each question, treasure and challenge. It therefore can be very helpful to observe and learn the nuances of each COC. While I would prefer to see "standardisation" in this area, I know it will be a very long way coming.

Still, I hope by discussing it here, I could give it a nudge so more COCs shift towards "uniform practice" in marking.

There are the compassionate COCs who will give partial points for partial completeness to answers. This is often very prominent in in-house hunts - for commercial reasons - to remain popular with the organisers. Unfortunately, this habit spills into the open hunts from time to time too.

I have always advocated "Only the truth, nothing but the whole truth" - if the answer is not complete, then one just cannot have the points - not even part of it. Because the clues were designed to challenge TOTALLY - not half-heartedly. The entertainment value is in getting it completely right - not inviting people to guess and be inappropriately rewarded for just being "lucky". I have always promoted that the element of luck should never be intentionally introduced in this Home Sport.

[Update:Feb 19, 2009]:Some COCs are also inconsistent in the way they treat the "@" part of the answer, leading to inconsistent marking. Sometimes they will insist that the "@" part is to be spelled exactly as seen on the board and require it to be included. Yet the same COC, can be flexible about it for another question, even to the extent of "not included, also okay". And there are questions where the order of the "@" part matters to the COC too - in the wrong order, and you are marked down.

Then there is the case of the "case sensitive or not?". "Copyright" , "Registered", "TradeMark" symbols - are these important? How about punctuations? Same dilemna - if you know the COC's preferences - you are safer.

My hope is that COCs will work towards consistency in these areas and make themselves clear at briefings without being asked. I personally would prefer that we do not fuss over such "pettiness". Other than exact spelling (as seen on the sign) - I would prefer to ignore parts of the signs that has no significance in relation to the intended clues.

My advice to competitors: think through carefully with every team member and make your decisions. Each COC is different. Seek clarity from the COCs at briefings if possible.

So, if you know a COC is a compassionate type - then you will try to get at least PART of the answer correct and hope that his compassion is still there by the time they do the marking.

And when you know that a COC is a strict follower of the "It is either right or wrong - never partially wrong", then you know you just have to get everything correct. This ups the adrenaline but also the satisfaction when you do get it right. This is better for the Game.

Here are areas where "tepat-ness" is often demanded of by the better COCs:
1. Is every word accounted for? Does it answer the question completely?
2. Is the tense or grammar correct or intentionally made wrong?
3. Singularity and plurality - does it conform?
4. Possessive clues - (his, belongs to, olih, miliki) - satisfied?
5. Language - should the answer be in BM, English or dialect? Does it matter?
6. Number of signboards used - some clues point to multiple signboards to get the complete answer.
7. If two signboards offer the same answer - is there anything in the clue that specifically eliminates the other? The red-herring test.
8. If a picture clue - does it fit exactly without a doubt?
9. Sequence of the parts of the clues - are they in a logical order?

The same goes mostly for treasure clues too with some emphasis on the following:

1. Size
2. Quantity
3. Packaging (3 of 75g in one pack is not the same as 3 packs of 75g)
4. Brand
5. Product
6. Form or shape (liquid, dry powder, card, etc)
7. Colour
8. Flavour
9. Made in country
10. Expiry Date
11. Sealed or not
12. Fits every clue? This usually refers to how you write the answer on the Treasure Sheet. Some COCs will insist that you indicate that you have broken each clue. Others will just accept it, as long as the actual product is given in.
13. Beware the virtual "treasures" like a smile, a handshake, a high-five, etc.
14. Inclusion : was it physically delivered/received? COCs adopt different ways to ensure this, but confusion can happen and COCs may not be sure if the item was actually handed in.

Unfortunately, some COCs are still lazy and will ignore some of these "practices" and thus lead to "controversies" later. We hope to see less and less of this behaviour.

JKJR questions are nowadays usually very simple. Most are given with the participants not required to answer them correctly, but must at least be attempted and handed in. Just be sure you do not leave any question UNANSWERED - as some COCs may take that to mean you have failed to attempt it and deduct points for it.

Always double-check (two members) the instructions for JKJR questions and make no assumptions. The same COC may change his style and vary it with "MUST GET IT RIGHT" format and you will be caught with your pants down!

Challenges/Bonuses : While HRU despise inclusion of non-intellectual (by luck) challenges, they will continue to exist for a while. We hope the trend will be towards complete elimination of this. Be sure you understand all the scoring rules for each challenge before you attempt it. And make sure your score has been marked on the score sheet of the marshall correctly - errors can happen here.

When handing in your answer sheets - ensure completeness - no missing pages. Every question answered. Stapled firmly together. Some require that the Treasure Sheet be separated and handed in together with the Treasure Bag - be sure the bag and the sheet carry your team number and name.

Ensure each question page carries your team number and name. Write your team number pre-fixed with "#" to avoid it being read as the "total score" for that page by some untrained "helper".

Not all COCs do all their marking personally. They do hire assistants or helpers. Here is an area of potential risk of errors. A prudent COC will make sure that all markings are consistently accurate. But I doubt it is possible when the number of teams are very high. Due to the pressure of time, they will tend to take some "calculated risks" and hope that nothing goes wrong or detected to be wrong.

Personally, I think COCs should personally mark all "regular" hunters submissions, as their scores usually are winning scores and controversies can be very painful for all parties later. COCs tend to engage helpers with computation of some tie-breaks (those that involve time taken or distance traveled) and these areas are potential pit-falls. E.g. COCs must make sure the helping markers know what is a count down or a count back. Starting from the first or the last question?

Helpers not familiar with the computation of time difference or distance computation may make mistakes that go undetected. COCs should find full-proof ways to ensure accuracies here - like using a double-verification method or tool (Excel, for e.g.). And double-check those that involve top prizes - again and again - not making any assumptions - start from the beginning of the process. As competitors, you must ensure that the recording of the finish time or distance is properly done on the sheets. That's the most you can do.

I think COCs should get personally involved with tie-break cases. Ensuring the judgment is consistently applied.

Then there is the overall tabulation or totalling up. Care has to be taken by COCs again. Transcriptions from other pages can lead to mistakes. Mental additions should be double-checked with calculators or use of Excel. Cross-checking should always be done.

The hardest part for COCs to ensure accuracy is ensuring how the questions are marked if not done by the COC personally. When more people are helping with this part of the marking, there will be tendencies for inconsistencies in judgement as to whether an answer is complete or not. And if COCs practice "partial points" - this can lead to even more controversies.

So as participants, knowing where COCs can go wrong, should take extra care to ensure you do not contribute to the controversies. Answer as accurately and completely as you can. Follow the instructions strictly and make sure you did not miss out on any pages or treasures. Make sure all timings and distance recordings are done accurately. Do your best, hope for the best! The Rest is not in your hands!

[Update: Feb 20, 2009]:Basically, answers are supposed to be recorded in ways that will convince the COC of two things:

1. You have cracked all the clues correctly
2. You have spotted the intended sign or signs (or got the correct treasure)

We have discussed No.1 to a great extent. No.2 is an avenue of challenge to COCs when the answer given is not one of those he intended but it answered the clues perfectly. Especially, if it was a made-up one. The COC has to find ways to be convinced that the sign actually existed. While this is blatant cheating to me, the rules, so far, do not punish it (it should).

Some COCs will take the trouble to go back to the sector and verify - if time and distance permit. Others will engage friends or relatives who can reach that sector easily to help verify. Even then, a 3rd party confirmation may not be convincing or even reliable.

Some COCs will take the "skirt" stand : "I have the final say. If I have not seen it - it does not exist" - say what you may, and they will stick to their own answers.

Contestants who genuinely have not cheated could do better to photograph the sign as evidence (unfortunately, one cannot always predict when an answer will be controversial).

That is one of the reasons the "@" part of the answer is very important to reduce doubts in this area. But the outright cheaters know these rules and will play around it regardless. A real dilemma for COCs and a really unfortunate one for all in the competition if the cheaters get their way.

You have already heard of my story about the "fake" treasure that passed as "real" (century egg story). This is another subjective area. Depending on the product or item requested - this area is impossible to prove cheating. So, best of luck to all parties! Jaga sendiri![Update: Feb 20, 2009]

Another point I like to raise here is the question of "dropped signs". Should a COC drop the question totally and not accept "near right answers"? I personally think so. If a sign is no longer there - the question should also not exist. Null and void. Therefore, the entire question should be cancelled. But we have seen COCs who will accept "alternative" answers and that can be very, very unfair to the rest.

That's "M" ... I am marking my days like each day is a bonus day. I hope to complete the series ... it is one of the things that is keeping me going! More importantly, I hope my contributions will have lasting influence on all treasure hunters, forever!


BlogCe5nT said...

Apologies again, but there are some significant update to this post. Enjoy!

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