Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Making quizzes popular

We at the BC are constantly asking questions: what makes quizzes good, what made a *good* quiz good, why do we quiz, why don't more people in Pune quiz, and what can we do to help spread the fun and cheer that we get out of this sport.

One such introspection provoked this post by Salil, which received a lot of feedback. A discussion amongst some of us much later also elicited a lot of comments. Salil has put together some of the key extracts of the later discussion (featured below; read the link above for the original set of comments). As you may know, we organise open quizzes once in every two months and we'd like to know what you think of the content in our quizzes, whether you find the quizzes interesting, and what you look for in quizzes. General suggestions welcome too.

Following are from a thread of discussion on attracting more people for our formal quizzes and making them more popular.


If I were a first time quizzer, I'd expect to be able to answer a few questions, and at least be able to relate to most of the others. Now, judging from the low scores of first time teams in BC quizzes past and present, I'm afraid not too much of that is happening.

If we want people to come back for our quizzes, we'll need to make the quizzes more answerable. Now, I've set aam-junta quizzes – quizzes for first timers a couple of times – and I'm clear that to set a quiz that everyone can enjoy, answer and relate to, does NOT necessarily involve dumbing down of questions – you do NOT have to ask 'how many sisters-in-law does Mrs Agarwal have in KKKKusum?'. You can ask a question about KKKusum/Himesh/pop-culture and still keep it workable. That would be something a KKusum/Himesh fan would appreciate the same way that BC regulars would applaud a involved-literature/history/60s-movie question.

To reach out to a first timer AND pique his interest, we need put in questions that aren't obvious, aren't direct, but are in the area of his interests, and are such that he can figure the answers out very easily, so he at least stays back for the finals, and comes back to the next quiz.

We need to look at who we are setting questions for. What I'd suggest is to have(in the prelims), say, 20 questions targeted at regular BC quizzers, and say 15 at newcomers – the latter comprising of nice, easily workable, non-factual questions on topics that would still interest a non-quizzer – say cricket, Indian history, politics, current affairs, non-intricate business. I know our quizzes comprise questions on these topics already, but most questions aren't easy enough for a first timer.

Yes, there're going to be voices that we're pandering to aam-junta, that we'll become populist, and that we don't need to give 'grace marks'. But hey, quizzing is a two way activity – like I said, we always need to keep in mind who we are setting the quizzes for. And besides, we aren't altering our style of quizzing, we're still staying true to our essence, which is to ask workable questions and stay away from factual recollection based questions.

We need to convey to people why we enjoy quizzing, and for the same reason we think they will enjoy quizzing too. Yes, we can merely say let-them-come-if-they-are-interested, but they simply wont show up if they cant make head or tail of the first quiz they go – I myself remember being almost put off while watching a greek-and-norse-myth filled quiz back in my first year of college.

Besides, 'elitism' is overrated – a lot of the times, all it entails is recollection of a petered funda, that we simply happen to know because we've been quizzing for a long time. First timers who are well read, but simply haven't quizzed before wouldn't do particularly well in a lot of our quizzes, simply because they aren't in touch with our quizzing repertoire.

In the comparison with Bangalore-Chennai we could look at the Landmark-Odyssey quizzes, that regularly see 500+ teams taking part(of 3 members). They've 40 question prelims, and at least 10 of those are the sort that everyone can answer. Finals of course are different, and comprise what we at the BC would call standard questions. However, finals still have some quantity of local/pop-culture questions that are tough to figure out, so the audience relates to it once the answer is out.

I don't know if you should call it a dumbing-down as much as a setting-questions-for-the-audience-you-cater-to.


I agree with Shamanth.
A common question I ask is, has my mom heard about the answer while setting a newbie quiz - and that helps me remove some biases that are natural once one has quizzed for a long time.


Yes - this is a nice way of looking at it. It's a very good criteria for picking newbie questions. Perhaps, in addition to this - 'Would my mom be able to answer this question? If not immediately, at least after some prompting and clue-dropping?' would do well.


A thumb rule like this can and should be applied to all questions and not just the newbie questions.
Any quiz which does not cater to the lowest common denominator of the audience is not a good quiz. And this has nothing to do with dumbness etc. There are so many Qs in Niranjan's quiz which are in the so called areas of specialities of so many of our 'recognized' can check how many were actually cracked by those guys.
Having only seamless rounds with infinite rebounds, while being fair to quizzers on stage is not very audience friendly - it is drab. Rounds like the Chakravyuh round or buzzers or negatives make it interesting. I know it is difficult for such suggestions to pass through the standard format of our quizzes.

Siddharth Dani:

One of the toughest things to do is to try and convince a non-quizzer that he would prolly enjoy going to a quiz because he will prolly increase his knowledge of topics he may not have too much knowledge about or that he will get an ego boost by seeing that he really can answer a few "up his alley questions" or just happen to pick up a nice goodie or some cash. (The goodie/cash thing does work sometimes).


[I]n Landmark/Odyssey, you do not have 500(or even 300) teams of quizzers. Of these 400-500 teams, only 40-50 will have quizzed with some amount of regularity - most of the teams are family teams - parents and a kid or dad and two kids types.

They just come because they think it's a nice way to spend a weekend afternoon. Now that impression is inculcated simply because Landmark used to put publicity(and majorly) in schools and colleges. Also, people like it because it always has questions that they could answer and get a few right, and win audience prizes - there's lots of audience prizes in it. Besides, there're prizes like best team name and best school team prizes, so hajaar junta show up.

It clicked because they put in enormous publicity the first time, and made a lovely quiz. The first edition, I'm told, did not see that huge a response. Because it was a brilliant quiz, people told friends, who showed up the next year and it grew.

Speaking for me personally, it was a major influence - to see that sort of crowds, and that number of people having fun, and finally being able to answer questions in my first attempt at quizzing drew me. My first Landmark quiz was in my first year when I hadnt done any sort of quizzing, when hostel junta who'd quizzed in school told me to try it and that it'd be fun. I was pretty overawed by the entire experience.

I dont see why that sort of thing cant be done here. Get crowds - make sure they enjoy themselves, and they'll not only come back, they'll bring friends along.

Kunal Thakar:

I am not very sure about this (above mentioned) approach of asking questions.

If we stick to asking questions where the answers are known, this is going to stagnate the quizzing scene for sure. There will be more depth but the questions will heavily favour the zeitgeist. Asking new trivia or venturing into new areas which aren't known to everyone isn't a bad thing.

Having said that, I do believe that we need to make our quizzes more audience friendly. IMO, the most popular quizzes I have seen in Pune have been conducted by [...] Derek, Pickbrain and Parnab. Whatever be said of their questions, it can't be denied that the audience loves the stupid humour, the excitement created by the jumping QM etc. Infact, Parnab quizzes are super arbit but they ensure good turnouts because of his excellent dramatic skills.


1. Question topics and wording:

I had feedback from a total newbie, non-techie person this time :
My wife. Though she's a cricket buff, her reaction to nearly all of the questions was that 'they simply go over one's head' because of the cryptic phrasing.
We need a few simply-worded, straightforward questions in both the elims and finals. They don't have to be easy to *answer*, just easy to *understand*.

One suggestion : Let's have two people organizing each open quiz. There are definitely enough people willing to do it. There'll be more questions to choose from, some amount of editing and reviewing, and some checks on questions that look simple to the creator but are verbose/abtruse.

2. Getting more people :

I second Shamanth's point about the massive publicity and word-of-mouth generating the crowds. Look at Crossword's so-called 'sale' which features a single shelf of books at 10% off - but look at the publicity they give it, and the people that go consequently. We need something to make new people know about BCQC.

3. Making quizzes more enjoyable overall :

- Make it a point to have questions with humorous answers/fundas, and more straightforward audio-visuals. Audience interest needn't be generated by jumping up and down or needling the participants - accessible humour, movies, and music are more longlasting ways.

- Abhishek, your flash template for quizzes is really good. Do you think you can add some bits of animation in there? Such as fades between questions, perhaps flashing numbers when the score changes, a special screen to dislpay scores ?

- Audience questions are definitely a good idea. Audience questions with straightforward A/V identifies are easy to do and are best to pull people in.

- Let's also think of different prizes for people rather than throwing normal chocolates at them. Keychains? 10-buck coupons for pepsi? Pens? Comic books? Think cute, fun, envy-inducing on a low budget.


* Acc. to me, I'd like to help popularise quizzing as "a intellectually stimulating recreational sport". I don't know how many people are inclined towards something like this - re: the point that Dani makes. But in general, IMO, the most enthusiastic quizzers are "geeks", where geeks are defined as people who are passionate about something in great depth. It may be sports or films or music or books, but talk to them and soon they're spouting love-poems to their favourites. Some of my friends, non-quizzers, are in this category and I find them being fascinated by certain aspects of quizzing when I share questions with them. We need to at least attract and retain these. We also learn a lot from these people in turn.

* I feel we should "enable" everybody who wants to quiz or thinks they can quiz to participate. Our model of no fees, walk-ins etc. is perfect for this. But mere enabling is not sufficient as you have all pointed out. We will continue to tweak our "offerings" - hopefully, every change is designed to achieve something.

* I don't like the idea that we have to necessarily dangle carrots-on-steroids to get >100 teams. [D]o we really want all those ppl who come in only for prizes? Not IMHO. But we do want to make it a happy activity for those 80 coming for the content. We really want to be the pleasant domestic life of quizzing in these parts, not an annual one night stand. If we can also get to do the grand-nights-of-passion sometime, then fine - but I won't lose sleep over it.

* In addition to quizzes having some questions even for the (lowest common denominator), I feel the overall quiz should be pitched at the average participant, not at outwitting the (alleged) best participants.

* It should ideally have topics from a wide range AND the quiz host should be good at those topics - enough to be able to speak about the question and related context. This is hard to achieve. We know that many of us cannot claim wide-ranging interests. But we cannot get the few who seem to have wider ranges to do quizzes each time. So, if you want to be a good QM, then you have got to genuinely broaden your own horizons. Ensuring breadth by picking up questions from elsewhere won't help for long.

* Let's face it: we know exactly what certain QMs are likely to ask. And the QMs exacerbate this "incest" by hardly changing their pet themes over different quizzes. In fact, QMs must take pleasure in outwitting participants who think they know exactly how this pitch is going to behave.

* My personal subjective requirements from quizzes these days:
- breadth of topics (some familiar topics, some new that I can learn about)
-indulging pet themes of QMs fine, but only if the expectation from the quizzer is of fairly universal things to think about
- occasional reusability of old things - old wine in new and astonishing bottles
- workable, but not very esoterically so
- elims reflecting finals
- as far as possible, equidistance of topics to new and old quizzer alike - v. hard to achieve
- lack of sitters - but qm needs to be "aware" of recent quizzes
- Niranjan's idea of survivability of qn - a balance of clues to be given out and held back

* I'm not so concerned abt the number of people showing up increasing each time. [...] But we need to do the "retention" bit. I think colleges and schools should continue to be our highest priority for I feel that grown-ups have already now settled into some sort of recreational pattern and there's not that much of a dent possible unlike with the kids.

My suggestions:
* Give out trivia quizzes/trivia puzzles during the finals. Let audience guys look at that when they're bored. Perhaps the content can be related to the elims/finals questions. They can take it home, mail in answers, and we give prizes.
* What are your views on the Theme Attic thing? I think it's a mistake to get people to write down answers all together. Perhaps we should have ppl call out answers for each qn instead? Person doing it can pick the newbies first instead of oldhands, and give them chocs. Otherwise, ppl may snooze off.
* We should get more feedback from participants. Perhaps we should put up a feedback form on the website too.

* I've noticed ppl, especially kids, leave qns blank. Since guess-work is the framework of most of our successes, perhaps we should incentivise this somehow (look at me spout economics ;-)) - perhaps have -ves if no. of blanks exceeds 5. Yes, ppl will probably write nonsense, but perhaps some will be forced to think +vely

:: Salil


Shruti said...

That discussion makes for a great read guys. And I could identify with quite a few things mentioned here. This reminded me of my FE days when I attended a few BCQC meetings. We used to attend those because we thought that quizzers are quite a catch :D. Anyways, I remember how happy I felt on getting just 3 answers right!! I wasn't a quizzer, neither was I well read which is why it felt great. I don't remember what made me lose interest, but I do regret it. Recently I witnessed a quiz at UMN and it was great fun coz I found that I knew a few answers or could guess some. I think that instead of having simple questions which can be answered by all, it is a better idea to cover a wider range of topics. That way most people will find questions they can answer or those which get them thinking.And this will keep their enthusiasm going.

Ramanand said...

> We used to attend those because we thought that quizzers are quite a catch :D.

ROTFL - And pretty soon you were cured of that impression ;-)

Denila said...

I agree with what Shruti has to say on quizzes covering a wider range of topics instead of just concentrating on a few topics, I feel having more quizzes on current affairs( events that have been happening in the last 5 years to present) would phenomenally increase participation as it is something people are more likely to be interested in, and read more often about. Simple questions would'nt exactly serve the purpose, since that would just not be challenging enough.(like, even if I answer a simple question, i wouldnt be too thrilled about it:)) Half the kick a quizzer gets. be it a first-timer or a seasoned veteran, is in answering the tricky questions.

Ramanand said...

Shruti, Denila: thanks for your comments.

The point about having wider quizzes is well-taken. We have also recognised this aspect, and are trying to ensure general quizzes are as broad as possible. Hopefully, you'll see this in the months to come.

brijesh said...

Hi..My two penny for the discussion

1. To make a quiz interesting, we should never compromise on the quality. But sprinkling 5-10 sitters in a 30 question elims is not a bad idea. But the rest 20 odd questions must be questions to remember

2. Sports, Movies & Entertainment are three topics which always appeal to young quizzers in school and college. A slight skew in the prelims and a mildly increased share of them in the finals is a good idea. Anyway, the advantage is that crackers of Sports questions are many times answered by the Schhol/College quizzers. That way we are not compromising on the overall quality of questions

3. I think BCQC can hold a wriiten quiz of 100 questions with a few audio and visuals a la Mahaquizzer once a year. That way everyone is an equal participant and no one is left out. And Prizes can be given for top two ppl in Open, School, College, and Female categories.So everyone is a winner.

4. Topical Quizzes need to be increased. India & Sports, along with A litterature Quiz for Colleges are all I can think of.
Current affairs Quiz, Arts/Paintings, History Quiz, Map/Geography Quiz, Entertainment/MELA quiz etc are avenues unexplored right now. I am sure ppl like Sudarshan can hold quizzes on their niche- like a Scifi/Graphic Novels Quiz.

5. Why not invite the Mumbai chaps to do invitationals here in Pune? I am sure that can be co-ordinated. The stalwarts in Mumbai can give greater breadth to the quizzes/topics. Something like the Chennai- Bangalore satellite circuit.Similarly BCQC can do invitationals in Mumbai. Broader Horizons better quizzing.

6. Finally, I reiterate.BCQC needs a flagship quiz on the lines of Odyssey & Landmark with heavy publicity & good sponsors. An annual jamboree where families, students, quizmeisters et al congregate in throngs. That will bring in the outstation visitors too




Ramanand said...

Brijesh: thanks, it was more useful than just a two penny worth :-)

as more and more of us set quizzes and get feedback, we will get better and so have a greater number of people who have the consistent ability to set good quizzes. Hopefully, we are progressing here.

Topical quizzes: we're taking small steps towards that, last season we could do some Sports, Lit-Ent quizzes. This year, we will have more Sports and other themes.

Good suggestion on perhaps getting BQC to do a quiz here - can be pursued.

As for the flagship quiz, something you have repeatedly stressed on, we're considering it very strongly this year.

niranjan said...

And why would one want to make quizzes 'popular'? If you have the world, where would you put it? ;))

A few questions that spring to my minuscule mind:

- What is the definition of 'popular'? I am not clear about it yet. Is it Derek the headache? The next Radio Mirchi open conducted by Shamanth and Mandy? KKSBKBT? ;))

- What are the 'goals and metrics' one seeks in 'popularizing' quizzing? At least 50 teams in every open quiz? A bigger 'regular' group of at least 50 people? A participant range of 5 to 75 years? More hits to interrobang and A more quizzically inclined population to come ;))? Quizzing as a subject in school (a lateral thought, but worth considering ;))? At least 10 giant cut-outs of Ramanand in Pune getting bathed in milk and honey?

I think BCQC as an organization trying to popularize quizzing in an 'organized' fashion (sounds like 'organized crime' ;)) may get help from setting such goals rather than having a general and vague discussion on increasing the popularity of quizzes. I hope you do consider this suggestion despite noticing that apparently I don't really give a damn to popularization ;))

Ramanand said...

> At least 10 giant cut-outs of Ramanand in Pune getting bathed in milk and honey?

Ah, the first really useful suggestion on this thread :-). Must start practising my 'punch' dialogues: "If I've answered once, I've answered a hundred times." and "even if I say 'pass', I do it in style". If Kunal S didn't look like Superstar.

Popularisation: my definition would comrpise of "anyone who wants to quiz should be able to" and "you might be interested in quizzing even if you don't know it yet - so want to give it a try?". I can't think of measurable goals for these yet. Still thinking.

There are some semi-measurable goals in mind for the school quiz - based on number of schools that show up, number of teams etc which came up for discussion.

Harish Kumar said...

"If I've answered once, I've answered a hundred times."
Then you will win all the Derek,Pornob and Basu quizzes for just turning up at the venue.I'm sure there are others as well who masquerade as QMs and peddle the same set again and again....

Shamanth said...

[Brijesh] The fundamental issue is not about 'easy questions' or 'sitters' vs 'quality' or 'difficult ones'- it is more about keeping our content simple and accessible rather than long-winded, elaborate and obscure. Besides, 'quality' means different things to different people - to some people a quality question is a 'peter' that they just happen to recollect the answer to - I'm not sure if having 'quality' as a target clears expectations. Simplicity is perhaps more achievable, as Sudarshan points out above.

Reg. a flagship quiz, IMO, given the fact that we have a very well equipped auditorium and facilities available for every quiz of ours, I'm sure we can make every BC Open the way the folks in other cities run 'flaghsip quizzes'.

To clarify, a 'flagship quiz' is a 'big quiz', or a public quiz, one that sees enormous attendances, one that sees people come by to have a good time on a weekend afternoon. I dont see why we shouldnt be able to pull it off every Open we do. Sure, we cant have enormous prizes like big quizzes elsewhere - but prizes are not what brings the audiences in - the experience, the audience involvement and audience prizes do that.

[Niranjan] We'd want to 'popularise' quizzes because quizzing isnt just about a QM setting questions - it's also about interested, enthusiastic people coming forward to answer those questions. The motivations are simple - the number of people who we know are well read, well informed and have the same interests as we do is far greater than the number of people who attend our quizzes.

Ramanand puts it quite well - anyone who wants to quiz should be able to, that we want to tell people about us so they can show up. More interested people will make our quizzes better, and will be definitely worth any 'popularization' effort we put.

And do we need change the way we quiz so as to 'popularize' quizzing, you ask. Sure, we can say we-do-what-we-want-to-hell-with-everything. Indeed, folks at my alma mater used to revel in long winded, page-long questions full of completely unnecessary details, and defend the sadism in the name of 'tradition'. We need to be more responsive to who our audiences are - it's not just about the QM, it's the QM and the participants who're involved in the quiz. Perhaps stepping back just a little helps things.

The point of the discussion above(in the post) simply was that it is not necessary to sacrifice the style of asking questions just to 'popularize' quizzing. The issues are simplicity and accessibility, more than an abstract notion of 'quality'. We can set better, and more enjoyable quizzes without, so to say, selling our souls to inane 'connect-marketing-and-kamasutra' questions.

Reg. measurable goals and metrics - I'm not sure if you're aware - Harish and Ramanand have formulated some well defined(and I must add, very carefully thought out, and very achievable) goals - in terms of attendance and retention. I think these were posted on the quip group a while ago.

Unfortunately, publicity targets alone will not help if we dont give our content too much thought, and if we cant retain our participants, and hance this discussion about the more qualitative aspects.

Shamanth said...

Please make allowances for typos, grammar errors et al in above comment.

Anonymous said...

Hey, one request to all QMs-

the answers to ALL questions should be explained properly. Tell the audience the significance and relevance (if there is any) of the answer and where/when they may have possibly come across it. This may seem boring and unnecessary to all the seasoned quizzers but newbies appreciate it. You will probably be able to retain more audience members this way. I've often walked out of BCQC open quizzes' finals because I really couldn't understand what was being discussed. Maybe I'm a little slow, but then so are many of the people who are not on stage. Answers should be supplemented with plenty of pictures and audio/video clips, wherever applicable.