Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Pot of Gold System of Equitable Distribution

As a perpetual also-ran in the finals(and non-qualifier) of numerous quizzes, I have always deeply felt for the 4th,5th and 6th teams who despite qualifying get nothing out of the tons of money the organizers have on offer. An audience member who answers a stupid question could end up with much more than the team which came 4th. Case in point Landmark, where everyone(including that hindi-poet guy) except teams 4,5,6 went home without anything. (That's probably better that the CD of #1 Their Greatest Hits Chapter. 2 - includes super hit tracks Channa Vey, Kabhi, Duur, Tanha Dil, Maaeri, Chhod do Aanchal that I got.)

That however prompted me to put into words this idea I have been toying with for some time now. It's called the 'Pot of Gold System' wherein, the total prize money up for grabs forms a central 'Pot of Gold', and that money is divided into the ratio of scores that the teams get in the finals. A few potential drawbacks are:

  1. Loss of 'tension' and 'stakes' for winners place : Consider a situation where two teams are locked on 1st place at 100 points. They wont go all out for the prize because they know they are going to end up with roughly the same amount of money.
  2. Lowering of the stakes: The prizes of course become less top-heavy as the amount of money remains the same, but is more equally distributed. For eg: winners at Landmark would have had to make do with probably 15,000 worth vouchers etc.
  3. If a team makes 0 points it still does not get anything whereas going by the premise that they are better that the people who did not make it, they deserve something.
  4. Arithmetic will become too cumbersome, and the show will become unwholesome for public consumption.
Advantages are obviously fairer distribution and better incentives for laggards. Teams far behind in the pecking order will not lose interest but will also try and mop up as many points as they can. Here is the system I propose which can balance all these factors, eliminating the 3 drawbacks and minimizing the 'unjust' methodologies and systems.
  1. The Pot of Gold is divided into 3 base amount initially. X,Y and Z. X / (no of teams) is the minimum base amount which every team will get. A possible value for X could be the returning of registration costs.
  2. The values of X,Y,Z are so chose that X is much lesser that Y and Z is lesser than Y.
  3. The value Z represents the Bonus Gold which represents the incentives teams get for winning. The amount Z could be divided into 2/3 parts given to the top 2/3 teams.
  4. The value X represents the Pot of Gold, for which the teams are playing.
  5. To minimize the problem of cumbersome arithmetic we can round up / down to the nearest 50 or it also be programmed into a live scoring system.
As usual the whole point of writing this is to solicit your opinions on this, and try and see if it can work. This seems to me a very logical step in making quizzing fairer. I know it still has some drawbacks like it will not work in case of prizes in kind, or people not wanting to give 6 awards / certificates. Anyway it is a very implementable system in an open environment where cash is all that one is vying for.


Ramanand said...

I understand where you are coming from, of course. But though your solution is perhaps "fair" in some aspects, I have the following criticisms:

- we have trouble even keeping score during a quiz - this is going to be even more painful :-)

- my feeling is that let's not turn the focus so much on the prizes. But we should spread out the prizes better. It's something we can start doing from next time. It will naturally make top prizes less attractive, as you say, but for me that's fine.

- Many of us don't really come for the prizes (Except for the last quiz, all our quizzes have been for no prizes.) - or to put it another way: monetarily speaking, the prizes don't quite compensate for the effort taken to get to the quiz. It's best kept that way. Instead of a ratio-based system, de-emphasise the difference in prizes at the outset so that people enjoy the quiz for the questions and not for the prizes. I don't think it will make the finals any less interesting. Quizzing ego will take over :-)

- Also, as it stands now, we have trouble with quizzes having sitters etc and with lack of consistency. Some teams make more points because they get "lucky" at times. Adding a prize-linkage to all this may exacerbate things. Better to focus on the content.

- In a couple of years, I'm sure the business-quizzes-with-magic-prizes will hit Pune. The whole thing is going to get fairly commercialised, IMO. Let's enjoy the couple of years left to us :-)
If people are coming for the prizes only, then well, I personally don't care for that kind of audience. Call me bad names. We can only try aiming for good questions and a few hours well spent.

- This doesn't quite make "quizzing fairer" - it only makes "prizes in quizzes" fairer :-)

What happened at Landmark was a shame of course. We can try to influence other quizzes into having these "socialist" distributions by doing it ourselves too. In fact, I think a quiz I did at PSPL (Pique) was the only one to offer good prizes for not just top 6, but also top 9 teams. The amount of money needed for that is naturally quite a lot. By rejigging the prizes in our Open House (I did a little exercise in that and it is possible), we can offer something for all - not a lot - but a token prize for all. More on that offline.

Abhishek said...

Firstly, only after you mentioned "our quizzes" that it came to my mind that we don't implement this system. What I had in mind was to get other quizzes which are "commercialized" to accept this system.

When you say "de-emphasise the difference in prizes", (talking about large open quizzes here) we cannot ignore the fact that a) to pull in crowds you will need to put in big money
and b)by making the difference in prizes less we are in fact de-emphasising the 'importance' of prizes, thereby making it a more fair. Also i agree when you say this does not make "quizzing" fair - i paraphrase, this makes the "quiz experience" fairer.

However i understand when you say "not here for the money", but frankly when I go to one of Derek/Pickbrain's quizzes i have no other intention in mind. We do not go there for the "good quizzing", so at least by putting this idea on board we can get the others to think about something like this.

As for our quizzes, my suggestion is we use all the vouchers that landmark gives us on the first quiz in the morning, ie the schools/colleges. Our whole objective behind the prizes in this case is not to reward but to encourage new people to participate. It would be great if we left the afternoon open prizeless and give more prizes to the audience and the school kids.

(hope i was coherent, one is rambling prone on such issues...)

Brijesh said...

Believe me, Cash money surfeit kills good quizzing..

Money attracts bounty hunters, not quizzers

Lesser the pay/perks means only the serious ppl come for the quizzes. Let's keep the bounty hunters away.


Ramanand said...

Abhishek: The big quizzes that you speak of really don't care so much about all these complex concepts regarding fairness. Their aim is to provide a good show to the audience and participants. Quizzes like Brand Equity do give lots of prizes to other finalists too, but typically this depends on the amount of sponsorship - I once got things like mango boxes, a bean bag, and a discount on car engines apart from the usual cutpiece (actual or voucher). Your pot of gold ideas doesn't apply to a lot of these quizzes because most prizes are in kind.

I think having small token prizes for finalists can be a step to make the quiz-experience fairer. We don't want people fixating on the prizes, and I don't mind the absence of an audience that is made up of those heat-seeking prizes. There is a golden mean of making a quiz attractive of course by means of the right incentive, but it's a tough one to strike.

We'd also like to have prizes for the open quiz so as to keep interested non-students.

I also share Brijesh's apprehensions about quizzes being hijacked by bounty-hunters. But right now, our Open quizzes are small and so shouldn't suffer from that problem. Right now our problem is quality and consistency of content.

Arnold said...

Shouldn't that be "the value Y" in point 4 in the second list of points?

Abhishek said...

yes, it should be value Y - faux pas there!

Kunal said...

I am in favour of prizes for qualifying for the finals, given out after the elim results, such as the old Quiz-o-mania free lunch + registration fee refund (obviously NA to PSPL open quizzes, but we can come up with a variant). That said, I had really liked the idea of good prizes for the first 9 teams that Pique had - this may be a solution for quizzes that have a huge amount set aside for prize money, but who want to avoid bounty-hunters.