Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On Fairness - Hirak's Blade

After the recent series of posts on the maddening methods, one of our old prabhaaris (the man who almost had the Inquizzition quiz named after him and the orator of the lost Mood-I monologue) Hirak has this to say: (Hirak, pardon me for the usual digs and for including the note before your actual "post" - I included it because I found it relevant)

I was reading the latest series of posts and I think that this discussion is in serious need of Occam's razor. I posted a rather long comment and I have removed it and I request you to post it on my behalf.

You had started a thread about what question setting is all about and that discussion has got subverted on the way. It seems to me that this discussion on systems is quite futile and even if someone does simulate them, the core assumption is that ALL questions will be fair and equal.

Such an assumption can never be made so every simulation suffers from a serious flaw. I, like you, hold a good question very close to my heart and I wish we talk about that more. I also hope that people on notesandstones still believe that quizzing is about fun and learning and not about showing how much you know.

I am currently in stuck in a Third World country (when it comes to quizzing), where quizzing is a rare sport. I am quite jealous of the fact that you guys have enough quizzes to discuss the best quizzing method. Filled with nostalgia here are my two paisa thoughts and a few axioms which which do not seem to be universally agreed anymore.

The discussions have been interesting and the different ideas were refreshingly original. Still, no method has, bar IR, has been tested or simulated. With each correction for unfairness there is an increase in complexity, and hence the chances of adoption of that method decrease.

My hypothesis is: The simplest and best method for fairness will converge to a written final.
It has 'ALL' the elements of a good system:

1) All teams get the same number of attempts.
2) Teams get to attempt every possible question set by the QM.
3) Points in direct proportion to what each team knew.
4) Also takes care of PMQ's and other artifacts of question-framing since everybody is on the same ground.

Of course, despite its technical strengths it is universally rejected because it fails in one vital respect which is 'lack of drama'.

As Kunal noted and which I rephrase as: Quiz Axiom 1: "Quizzes are slightly unfair competitions."

IR is not fair but slightly unfair. A really good system should have the slight unfairness. It is that slight unfairness or element of chance that adds drama and allows a slightly weaker team to win. I still am a proponent of a few buzzer rounds and joker rounds in quizzes.

Quiz Axiom 2: "Quizzing is more about fun than mere regurgitation of facts."

However, fun should not be at the expense of complete unfairness. Most will agree that in essence unfairness has less to do with the 'system' than the kind of questions, and how they are framed. Quizzing should be about the questions and not about the system.

Quiz Axiom 3a: "Quizzers are cribbers"

My chief grouse about quizzes that I lost was there wasn't a balance of topics and some questions were really vague and had no 'Ahaa' value. (Quiz Axiom 3b: You don't complain when you win)

I hope you all agree that we need to talk about content rather than method.

I also believe, that given a reasonably balanced quiz, a good team, regardless of the system, will more often than not finish in the top 3.

Quiz Axiom 4: If you are good, you are good.
You can't fool all the people all the time.

:: Hirak


Kunal said...

I agree that quizzing should be about content and format. But the thing is, format can influence the result in a way that doesn't reflect the quizzers' abilities. A good format, IMO is one that people don't notice. In a quiz with a good format, the post mortem that is usually conducted by the quizzers will concentrate on the quality of the questions. In a quiz with a bad format, most quizzers will crib about the format. A good format makes the quality of the questions count.

Kunal said...

Make the first line "content rather than format".

Salil said...

Many requests are on for more posts on content. Suggestion: How about discussing particularly good questions from each quiz from the recently concluded season? One qn each would be fine too.

eg. I particularly liked the qn in the SEQ: 'We all know that the Beatles sang "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club
Band". Who sang "Sergeant Peppus' Lonely Hearts Club Band", just before his house was struck by lightning?'

(I'd have written the post, but with exams on...)