Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The BCQC: Its downfall and rise

The following is by a now expat member of the group, Nupur, who was at COEP a few years ago. This also reminds me that the story of the BC quizzing scene was last told until the mid 90s. We need someone to push it till '97 as there are many of us who can take the story ahead from there :-). This post is a little provocative for members of that era, so comments are more than invited.

I think the Boat Club Quiz Club was strategically flawed.

These are my views on what I had experienced 2 years ago at the BCQC and I think I kind of understand why there was a major dip in the QC population (and popularity?), in the year 2002. These are my views on what I think was going wrong. I do not know how true it is now.

Explaining the answers: I think this was the #1 reason why many people lost enthusiasm to attend the QC.

Lets take an example.

(I recall this one clearly)

The question was: "What comes in 6 'flavours'. Top, Bottom, Up, Down, Charm and Strange".

The answer was 'Quarks'.

Now this was a 2-3 times repeated question. So the seniors knew it. And they waved it off even before the answer was given . "Ya ya, chalo next question", they said.
I looked around and at the new students, and saw a bewildered, lost and helpless look on their faces. They, obviously, had no idea what was going on! I turned to the QM immediately and said "Please explain it to these guys!!", but it went unheard in the conversations around me.

This is an oft repeated mistake the QC did. The QC was so in-itself, everyone expected the new students to 'pull themselves up to the seniors'. No help was offered, though.

This led to a lot of people losing enthusiasm to come for the QC. I think that the QC could be more sensitive to the new comers and gather a larger crowd. One could argue with the Quality over Quantity issue, but then, the more the merrier right? And once the answer is explained, if someone still doesn't get it, then they will filter out automatically. But one must make it a point to get the answer out AND explain it if possible. I have been, many times, put off completely because some answers (like connect questions) were not explained.

: Newcomers or "kaccha players" were made to team up with the really really good Quizzers, with the view that they will learn something.
In fact the effect was the opposite.
The amateur quizzer never gets a chance to think, since the experienced quizzer has already got the answer even before he finished reading the question. Also, suggestions/attempts made by the newbie, get shot or go unheard by the better quizzer (and this leads to a lowering of self confidence while attempting questions..... its actually a vicious circle, get it?).

: I have NEVER won a prize. I am not a good quizzer, just really enthusiastic. But now when I look back at the way some BCQC quizzes were conducted, I feel that I should have protested. No its not the money obviously, it's the principles. The participants had to put in Rs 10 per head or so (I remember Swapnils quiz had Rs 50 per head). The top 3 teams got all the money.
Now I know where I stand. I am never going to win a quiz. Never.
So why should I pay when I know the money is going to someone else? and more often it goes to the people who decide to keep a fees for the quiz! So if I was a regular quiz winner, what difference does it make to me if I put in a couple of tenners? I will get it all back (and more) sometime or the other! Of course, this reason is not a crowd deterrent, but yes, I have felt disdain sometimes, over a period of 4 years.

Here I feel compelled to insert a comment (which was sent to Nupur earlier): "I would like to dispel (and I think you would agree) any notion readers may hold that money was involved on a regular basis. The purpose was merely to make occasional sessions at the BC more competitive and most importantly, provide people with a chance to set first-rate quizzes, because that was the time only collegians got to organise official events. I rather think that met its purpose and lifted an otherwise moribund time to more purposeful pursuits. We haven't done it in a long time now, mainly because now there are many more quizzes being organised which take care of that. As you may recall, participating was totally voluntary, and the amount won was usually and promptly spent on refreshments for the participants. It was just a token issue and nothing was really intended there. People who haven't been to the BC may not quite get the setting. (And I'm not mistaken, the fee at Swap's wasn't as high as that - I don't think any quiz in Pune then would have charged that much, let alone a poor, amateur grouping :-) " :: Ramanand

    Not including everyone: In the jokes. However trivial this sounds, it definitely had an impact. In fact most of the jokes cracked at the QC were ones you could understand only if you knew the person well and/or existed at a particular place/time. No effort was taken to explain the joke. The attitude was "You did not understand, you're dumb". This evidently, alienated a lot of people.

    Female repellent: The less said the better. It took me 2 whole years to get friendly with the QC. First 2 years, no one made any effort to mix around with the few girls (read me) who used to attend. And yes, if a girl answers the question, all heads turn "huh! she got it right??!!". But that's more male mentality than QC. So forgiven (temporarily).
    But I must mention that I never felt that any extra effort was taken to make the girls feel comfortable. In case someone at the QC is reading this, and feels that they did try, do let me know.

    Politics: Frankly and thankfully, there wasn't much of this at the QC, because we all wanted the QC to stand through all the storms, and thought of it above and beyond ourselves. Yes, we do have the occasional story's a couple of guys had cooked up for the chakravyuh (yes, you two, if you're reading this, I knew it all along :-) )

      Looks like the effects of the first 2 points have reflected in the fact that there are hardly any students from COEP itself in the QC. Most are from other colleges.
      I believe that the QC could have been more assertive than aggressive. They were aggressive towards the learners (what I was all along); its just that I persisted because nothing else in COEP was even close to as value adding as the BCQC, I felt. But I also saw a lot of talent move away because of the attitude of the QC.

      And no, I don't have anyone in mind while writing this. :-).

      If you were at the BCQC and feel differently, please feel free to email me at nupurgtATgmailDOTcom

      :: Nupur

      Nupur also wrote in to add a comment sent to her by one of the BCQC seniors: "This is what I feel should be done : [The post] revealed the disadvantages of not having a structure to the BCQC. We are failing to realize in our quest to keep the BCQC informal, that it is very important to document facts and information (that's why the notesandstones blog has finally come up). We need to keep a database of who all attend the QC, who all took a quiz, when, how, where, Who won? etc. If not all this, we should AT LEAST have a database of people who have attended the BCQC in the past."


      Abhishek said...

      I know what Nupur means - The QC does nothing to ensure that more people get interested in quzzing - it is just a forum for those already quizzers to compete.

      Kunal said...

      I think Nupur makes some very valid points. Most people who come to the BC are already established quizzers at some level or the other (even the new wave of PIET quizzers have hajaar experience at the ESPN quiz or at the FCQS). Most people who come to the BC for the first time never return.

      Um, and can someone please explain the quark funda? It wasn't ever explained to me either.

      niranjan said...

      A very good set of points by Nupur, though I personally do not think that ones needs to do something special about increasing participation at BCQC. I have already posted a reply to Ramanand.

      Some questions in this regard: How many people have taken up quizzing for the first time at BCQC and have continued doing it in a competitive manner for a sizeable amount of time?

      Do we really think that people who have turned up at the BCQC in the hope of 'taking up quizzing' as a possible 'new hobby' should return in large numbers owing to the interest that was generated in the BCQC sessions? IMO, quizzing is related to an individual's choice of having a good time, not a past-time that is cultivated at short notice, which he/she can be lured into or driven to.

      maverick said...

      the membership may have dipped simply because not too many people are interested in quizzing these days. To tackle the problems newcomers face(and i quite agree with Nupur there),abhishek started our own "PIET"ians only amateur quiz club to come up to the level but most people had to be coaxed and cajoled. But if a little effort is made to make newbies a little more comfortable, we're definitely likely to see a slight rise in membership

      niranjan said...

      But have you analyzed why people had tobe coaxed and cajoled? And how many of the 'coaxees' would survive for four years?

      Ramanand said...

      In 3 years of non-freshman life at COEP, I was among those who did some of the experiments that Nupur mentions: pairing up senior-junior etc. At the end of that experience and being baffled by the dip in newer people (you have to understand that when I was in my 1st year, all four engineering batch-years had atleast 2 very competitive quizzers), I finally have come to the same conclusion as Niranjan: that you can only provide a forum and hope for people who are inclined towards it and find it to their liking. Now I have stopped making the COEP quizzers distinctions as long as we keep interested people from the city. The VITians & FC guys have to be thanked for providing this view (one can argue they are good enough to be COEPian quizzers ;-)) )

      One point for Nupur: Niranjan mentions how I foun d the going tough in my 1st quiz which is very true. Probably the reason I stuck was that I knew I could do well in this setting and had been looking forward for many years to come to a place like this. I don't know what my reaction would have had I been less confident of my quizzing. Perhaps I may have quit - I really don't know.

      Harish Kumar said...

      Speaking from a purely personal view-point, I did all my schooling from a place called Varangaon (search for it in the maps)- so I never had any experience of quizzing before I came to COEP, other than the mandatory CCA activities in KVs.I did not do well and still don't do, in most quizzes where I don't team up with a formidable team-mate. So I have done my time in the audience long enough.There are so many areas and questions which are genuine chestnut/bread and butter areas for an average quizzer which are totally alien to me.I'd ideally fit the bill of someone who should have got dejected after a round or two at the BCQC and packed my bags off.I didn't. So I don't think these observations are really the reasons for the dip(if there is one).
      As Niranjan points out - we need to know why they had to be coaxed/cajoled.Another thing that Ramanand had said after doing a quiz on B&W Indian Films- if you don't like the quiz I am doing, what is preventing you from doing a quiz of your own - the way you want it.
      If you notice- only those who have put in effort on their own to set a quiz and then learn from the feedback have been regular at the QC.Those who cry off after a session or two are the ones who don't want to put in any effort.Those freshers who did 'run away' after a session or two are those who were there to have fun, not willing to put in any effort on their own. The dip is numbers is probably a sign of the times. If a majority of students don't like to put in effort,they probably don't belong to the BCQC.Here, I am making a distinction between Pune quizzing and BCQC.When I do a quiz at the PSPL audi, I owe it to the participants and audience(which will include those 'freshers' out to have a good time) to make it entertaining.
      Reg. incentive : Since money is not involved, the only incentive available is good time/fun. It is more difficult to satisfy people because you don't have an incentive which is as easily tangible as money.In fact, I think we would have probably had more people if we had money for every quiz.Atleast one of those 'freshers' would do a quiz which would suit the interests of his/her fellow 'freshers' and the old-timers would lose miserably in a quiz which has Abhijeet Sawant and Qazi as the answers and that victory would have been incentive enough for the winner to attend the next one as well.But yes, that would have required 'effort' by atleast one 'fresher'.
      In fact, I'd say it is not just effort but lot of humility as well. It is not easy to come back after getting massacred.
      I don’t think hand-holding/cajoling has been of much help to anyone. I feel ‘alluding’ to Eric Clapton being a part of Dire Straits is as much a reason to get riled for the rest of your life as saying Steve Waugh is a leg-spinner.
      Note #1 : I have probably used the term 'fresher' throughout the post in a derogatory sense. It was intended.
      Note #2 : I have really tried to keep some jokes/references out of this post so that those who don't get it won't feel dumb. :))

      Salil said...

      I did face the problem of answers not being explained initially. I think I was pesky and impudent enough to stall proceedings and get it explained!
      The other points, such as money and politics, I wouldnt agree much because I have seen no such issues since the time I've been coming.

      Ramanand said...

      anyway, Salil: she said there was no politicking.

      maverick said...

      That is what i was saying....not too many people are interested in doing the hard work these days.
      I agree that nothing can be (or should be)done to increase membership.
      just that answers should be explained, atleast in quizzes where there is an audience (which invariably has a few freshers), if only to prevent them from totally switching off and making things boring.

      thedq said...

      Gentlemen: I am NOT saying that we must lure people into coming to the QC. Encouragement and a healthy setting is all we need to keep people who would leave otherwise. People who dont understand should not be intimidated into not revealing that they dont.At least some questions should be explained, at the behest of these people.
      Salil: To further your point, Im sure that the club knows where to draw the line. Which and how many questions need be explained can be left to the discretion of the QM and/or audience. I am sure you and others are sensible enough not to 'hold up' the QC and ask explainations for 'all' the questions, 'all' the time! :-)

      Ramanand: I remember you telling me that. Wasnt it the Saira Banu/dilip kumar incident? :-)

      BVHK: I disagree with your point on effort. Its easier to sit for a quiz than set one. Putting a quiz together takes a hell lot of effort for me, than it would for say R.[im making R a standard!] But this does not mean that i would have stopped attending because i did not want to put in any effort.

      I think that the excercises that R started off, were a very good step towards making a change at the QC.
      Now im giving a suggestion and i hope people will keep that in mind at every QC session.

      The QC is a TEAM. Not a place where X has to put down other people to show himself up. Everytime a new person comes to the QC, introduce him and let him know that the QC is an open forum. He is welcome to ask any senior to have an answer explained to him, when he dosent understand.

      I am also not proposing that the QC should have to do this for every TDH. If the QC cant keep, at least dont lose people who have some potential.

      Abhishek said...

      Hey Kunal - don't worry about the quarks funda - they are basically the building blocks of electrons,protons and neutrons - different types of quarks make up different sub-atomic particles.

      niranjan said...

      Thedq (whoever you are ;)),

      IMO, QC is neither a team nor a Robin Williams movie. An open forum essentially means that one does not 'have to' get new people inducted. You cannot talk about an 'open forum' and 'senior-junior' in the same breath. The main idea is that everyone is on one's own. That's an open forum. All the respect and disrespect is to the questions and their answers, not to people.

      Frankly, I don't understand the whole point of such discussions. Who are all of us to say 'don't lose people who have potential'? Who are we to judge people and nurture them for quizzing? BCQC is a merely meeting-place for people who want to quiz, not a grooming school or a Harry Potter house.

      Grow up, all ye!!! Get over the senior-junior, mastermind-toddler, COEP-nonCOEP, male-female, human-animal stuff for a change. Just be there and have some quizzing fun if you can.

      thedq said...

      But thats exactly what i am saying. There *is* no fun [the way it was that time], so i gave in a suggestion. Obviously, it wouldnt matter if you were a good quizzer. :-)

      Swapnil Patil said...

      ## Explaining the answers:
      If you dont know the answer and you feel shy to ask the quizmaster:
      - ask thy teammate
      - ask thy neighbor
      /* you could do the above during the post quiz vada-pav or Shabari sessions */
      - ask thy Google (at home)

      ## Teams:
      Most of the combinations were experiments or "for a change, lets try this" -- if you need help see the above section !

      ## Money:
      FIFTY BUCKS per head -- even I would not pay that! But the best person to answer that would be the one who won that quiz -- did anyone remeber receving a few hunders bucks as prize money at BC :) ?
      I dont think that helped the attendance -- we never had more attendence if there was money floating around :)

      ## Not including everyone:
      Get involved -- dont wait for the "formal introduction" -- this is not a FE class on "Fundamentals of BC Quizzing"
      Try to go to the post-BC_session TTMM snacks (whenever possible) -- good way to *learn* about jokes !

      ## Female repellent:

      ## Politics in non-BC quizzes:

      To sum up, reiterating Niranjan's comment -- grow up and welcome to real world (FE college) !

      Vcat said...

      +1 to this post.