GDC Communications

There have been several threads this year hijacked by complaints of the GDC being contradictory, non-compliant, or obtuse. There is no longer the (rather vocal) voice from the GDC on these forums we have enjoyed in past years to answer some of our questions and guide some of our discussions.

What constructive suggestions do we have to improve the communication between the Game Design Committee and FRC teams? Let’s make a comprehensive list of ideas that may be presented to the GDC as solutions for future seasons.

As we think of possible solutions, keep in mind that (unless I’m mistaken) the members are volunteers with ‘real jobs’ (yes, some of these jobs are with FIRST corporate) and real time constraints and real passion for FRC and its mission.

Like many users on CD, I believe there are GDC members reading post but choosing not to post.

-Clinton-

Great thread idea!

I’d like to be able to link directly to question & answer pairs in the Q&A system. This will add traceability to our discussions of interesting entries, and it may also remove some risk of our misinterpretation of the answers.

In addition, I’d like the Competition Manual to be annotated with links to relevant entries in the Q&A as they’re generated.

Dave never answered questions on Chief anyways.

The GDC was as obfuscatory last year and previous years as it is this year. The Q&A needs a fundamental overhaul in how the GDC approaches it for it to be of any use to teams when it comes to the really important areas.

He did not answer specific Q&A requests on this forum, but he did give some rationale for the GDC’s decision-making processes.

The GDC was as obfuscatory last year and previous years as it is this year. The Q&A needs a fundamental overhaul in how the GDC approaches it for it to be of any use to teams when it comes to the really important areas.

That is precisely why I created this thread. There is no question there is a problem. Let’s work toward an equitable solution. What suggestions do you have to change it? What specifically needs overhauled fundamentally, and what specific changes would you make?

Linking to the Q&A system’s individual Q&As would be really nice.
Linking the updated Manual to the answers would be even better.

There are a couple of other things that would be really nice.
–Think through all of the implications of a given answer, trying to see this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know the intent. For example, the bridge definition given in Q&A that allowed the troll-bot scheme.
–What is the intent of the rule? This one thing would really, really help with interpretation. Applied during the manual-writing stage, this could cut Q&As in half.
–If a team submits an unclear question, a request for clarity would be helpful, instead of trying to answer.
–For “design reviews”, trying to look past the design to “what rules could this violate?” and saying something like “We do not perform design reviews. However, if you have a question on rules X, Y, and Z, we will do our best to answer it” would be really helpful.
–If someone asks for a definition, give it to them! What is the common definition of grab, grasp, grapple and/or attach to? What is the GDC definition? Do “certain designs” fit the GDC definition of those words? Right now, some poor head ref may need to make that call–I don’t want to be the ref that sets that precedent!

As can be seen over the years, posting here achieves next to nothing in terms of driving change.

That said, they need to stop answering questions about vague rules with the rules, or giving answers that are complete non-answers, or giving answers of “we do not comment on robot designs” to questions that have nothing to do with robot design and everything to do with rule intent (eg: can you hang from the side of the bridge?).

At times it’s also like the Q&A is the GDC’s way of having fun, where they clearly avoid answering the intent of a less than eloquent question and instead give some useless answer as a method of poking fun at the question itself.

Oh and what the heck is a reasonably astute observer? There’s about 3000 of those reading Chief everyday that are probably split down the middle about what grab, grasp, and grapple mean. If you can’t define the fundamental terms that make or break the rules, something is wrong.

I would like to see the previous years chairman and championship winners be invited 24 hours before release of game to look it over. 24 hours is nothing and i would hope these teams could be trusted not to start building or releasing info. I think this group could get to some of the question really quick and maybe the first update would be the only update some year.

I think one thing that would be massively helpful is some sort of post-mortem on a just-concluded year’s rules so that people can point out problems and inconsistencies with the rules. This can even be directly applicable to future rules. In support of this, I think we should make a list of current general purpose rules that need attention. Example:

I asked the GDC if it really was illegal to drive an FP from a Spike, and magically legal to drive a functionally identical BB RS-550 from a Spike. They blandly confirmed that was the case. When I asked point blank how on earth that made any sense, they simply deleted the question.

It’s an outdated, grandfathered rule that made sense way back when FPs were new and no one ever heard of BaneBots. I understand that. I can also understand that they probably didn’t want to bother thinking about or changing the rule halfway through build season, when it probably isn’t going to affect anyone anyways. Nevertheless, the current rule is pointless and outdated. It no longer serves its original purpose of keeping fools from blowing Spike fuses. It either needs to be updated so it serves that purpose again, or scrapped to simplify the rules and inspection.

There were some similar rulings on gearboxes from kit window lift motors last year. The GDC declared that you couldn’t pull a gearbox off a kit window lift motor and use it with an FRC legal motor because it’s an integral part of the window lift motor. Which I think would make the window lift gearbox some sort of non-legal COTS gearbox. Just because the GDC wants it to be.

I’m pretty sure there’s other rules in there that have similar problems, and we really should make a list of them and try to get the GDC to clean them up for next season.

Too many of the Q&A responses are non-helpful one-word answers like “No”, or equally non-helpful quotes of the rule in question. In other words, the response is not an answer.

My suggestion is to encourage the Q&A people to give more verbose answers. Maybe break it down into the official answer, which would be concise, and the unofficial explanation or rationale. This would allow teams to understand a rule much more thoroughly, and design a robot and strategy that follow the intended spirit of the game.

Another suggestion is to make the Q&A more like a discussion forum. I realize that the good folks working on the Q&A don’t want to get dragged into debates about their answers (and the questions and rules), but they obviously have the power to not respond when the discussion isn’t fruitful. Maybe they would actually like the opportunity to explain an answer in plain English, or to clarify a less-than-perfect initial response.

We’ve been asked not to “lawyer the rules”, and I believe the vast majority of team members are trying in good faith to simply understand the rules so they can play the game as fairly as possible. When the Q&A gives terse, lawyer-ish answers, the community has no choice but to work within that system. Open up and make the system more friendly, and I think everyone on all sides will find it a more satisfactory experience.

Cory’s got the right ideas here (as he usually does). Fundamental changes would need to take place. Please also note that eliminating the FRC GDC’s obfuscatory ways has as much, if not more, to do with the game and rules themselves as it does with any answer they may issue.

Having spent a few years on “the other” GDC, this is not necessarily an easy task. However, taking on the task of making the Robot and Game sections as short as possible while still being comprehensive is the key IMHO. After that, it’s all about word choice. For example, if there is ANY potential disagreement about what words like “grasp” or “grapple” mean, then those words need to get tossed in favor of more specific/understandable terminology OR be included in an explicit definitions sub-section.

Without trying to toss anyone under a bus, I’ve always believed that falling back to a position like, “what a reasonably astute observer would consider…” and other phrases like that are complete cop outs. ANY time a statement like that is issued there’s going to be an issue.

While some of these other ideas here would be potential improvements, they’re mere band aids on a larger ailment that needs to be addressed at a more fundamental level. As someone who used to spend 8+ months of the year answering Q&A Questions for FIRST/VEX, I always wanted to be as sure as I could that we created a manual that invited as few questions as possible, then understanding that there will always be questions.

Yes, there is a problem, at least in my opinion. I can’t exert the effort at the moment to elaborate on those problems. Maybe later.
What I can offer is one approach to a solution: Talk to FIRST about it. Write letters (or e-mails). When you see Bill Miller in St Louis, perhaps at one of his ‘open forums’ he delivers a few times in the pits. I have found that he really does listen, and takes action to the extent he can.

Here I put forth the proposition that ALL rules are Just because the GDC wants it to be.

Having been on the other side of a (non-FIRST) "Open Q&A system, what often ends up happening is that your clients (us) beat the snot out of you on almost every answer. “No good deed goes unpunished” and all that. I think the GDC may just be tired of dealing with some of the ‘difficult customers’ they encounter.

Again, there is a problem, but it’s not only on the GDC’s side.

I know what a reasonable astute observer is, and when my robot is trying to grab, grasp or grapple the field.

Amen.

I agree that some people are very difficult customers, especially when they don’t like the answer they get. When I suggested that the Q&A be made more like a discussion forum, I meant to say a moderated discussion forum. People who get argumentative, or rude, or off topic, will find their posts not appearing, and certainly won’t get further responses. I still believe that the majority of teams are trying in good faith to understand an issue, and most of them really respect the GDC. (I know I do; this year’s game was fantastic.) The moderators are there to help those few people who (often unknowingly) get overzealous in their responses.

I think almost everyone agrees that it’s great to have a Q&A as an avenue of communication with the GDC. We also agree that it could be better. This moderated discussion forum is my suggestion for improvement.

That sounds like the FTC Q&A. I like the FTC Q&A. They should totally do that.