Friday, October 22, 2004

On Connects - I

Only connect
- Howards End, E.M.Forster

When asked my first ever "connect" question at my first BC quiz outing, I clearly remember being nonplussed by it, and asking Kunal Vaed what he really wanted us to do with the question. Evidently, connection questions are one of the biggest differences when one crosses over to the "collegiate" brand of quizzing from the less devious world of school quizzing. Connects are also a recurring bone of contention among all quizzers, so here are some thoughts about this genre of questions.

The concept

I don't know who asked the first connect or when connects became part of the mainstream, but most of us current quizzers have seen connects ever since we participated in open or college quizzes. A simple example for those who may not have heard such a question:

Q: Connect the films Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan.
A: These are the only Indian films nominated for a (Foreign Film) Oscar.
So take a few elements, find something that can thread them together (or with variations) and voila! you have a connect ready.

Now what is the essential philosophy (or atleast, what it ought to be) of connects? To me, three points come to mind (read Niranjan's primer on setting questions which some BC quizzers like to quote from). One, connect questions let you reuse standard (or popular) trivia. Two, they are a great way to alternately present questions instead of the conventional 5W-H way. Three, it encourages a lateral way of thinking, letting you link different fields or people in many ways. A more breadth-wise way of looking at things rather than just depth. There are quite a few examples available at the above link, which were asked at some Mensa quizzes.

Now once you embrace this concept of connects, you will find there are several ways of presenting such questions. Earlier, connects were usually part of the "dry" rounds, asked in plain-text. In the last few years, with audio-visual presentations of quizzes having become the norm, more multimedia connects can be seen. I saw one of my first visual connects at Mensa 2000. I can't reproduce the images, but can give you the crux:

Q: Connect these pics (pic 1: a South African antelope, pic 2: A figurine of a Greek goddess, pic 3: A distinguished German man with moustaches).
A: Footwear brands: Reebok, Niké,Adidas (Adi Daessler).
Soon, in the next Mensa and the first Chakravyuh, we saw mixed audio-visual connects as well and such connects are of course considered part of the course now.

Kinds of connects

Ways of presenting connects are all fine, but the real differentiation (and hence its problems) comes from the content of connects. Now, since at its barest, a connection qustion is a collection of elements and a link, different interpretations of this concept are possible. Worse, these "links" are not always unique, or are sometimes plainly subjective. Compare this to the conventional questions whose basis is always in fact, and hence one can confirm/challenge its veracity to a greater extent and to greater satisfaction than is sometimes possible with connects. But before discussing these, why not take a look at different kinds of connects?

We started "labelling" with Chakravyuh 2001. Connects were becoming quite popular and had usually constituted a significant chunk of the quizpad, plus there were many ways of asking one. At the inaugural edition, we had decided to go in for a style of question setting called seamless quizzing, wherein there would be no subject-wise rounds or special audio-visual phases. Mensa 2001 which just preceded COEP's quiz had come close to it - with only a separate A/V round. We tried to go one step further and mix all questions (something that I think goes perfectly with Infinite Rebounds) without any clustering. Plus keeping with our BC & Mensa influences, we had a large number of connects of different kinds. That's when we came up with the labels Radial, Cascading and Meshed.

Quick examples of these:

Q: Radial Connect: Marlon Brando, Vyjanthimala, Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Pasternak, George C.Scott
A: Award refusals (Oscar, Filmfare,Nobel, Nobel, Oscar).

Q: Cascading Connect: Upamanyu Chatterjee -> Marcus Aurelius -> Russell Crowe
A: (UC) "English, August" has references to (MA) -> In "Gladiator", RC is a general in Aurelius' army

Radial Connects could be replaced by "What's common to the following" - essentially one thing is common to all the elements. Cascading Connects are a sequence (which is provided to the teams) i.e. a chain link. Meshed Connects, well, they are a slot for "all of the rest". Usually in Meshed connects, you could have several interconnections among a sub-group of elements, so it can get tough for the quizmaster to pass judgement on answers (leading to what one quizzer termed as a "Messed Connect")! A rare speciality called the Kekule Connect has also been tried occasionally - in this, the aim is to form a ring i.e. A connects to B, B to C and so on, and then Z connects back to A. There's also the well-known Pyramid connections where instead of connections emerging in just a question, answers to several questions are to be connected to give a answer higher in the pyramid and so on. The Bangalore Stage Two is a case of this with only one level.

Ok, some of these types can border on the frivolous, but the main idea is to allow teams an idea of what kind of connect to solve, given the profusion of connect types. Without it, it becomes quite difficult to sort out the connect. At any rate, that was the thinking behind that idea.

Concluding part of this piece in a few days time. Comments welcome as usual.

1 comment:

Sumedha said...

You should compile a 'Manual for scientific quizzers' :-)