Is the iPhone ‘killing’ table quizzes?

March 29, 2010 in Culture, Thoughts

I don’t really go in for passing on other people’s content on this blog.  However, here’s an article that caught my eye in this week’s Sunday Independent.

iPhone ‘killing’ pub table quiz

Is the iPhone ruining the traditional pub table quiz? The gadget, which can acquire answers to general knowledge questions in an instant, is frustrating organisers and table quiz enthusiasts.

Cheating at table quizzes used to be very difficult. It would involve conspicuously hauling in 26 encyclopaedias on a two-wheel trolley or cunningly looking into your neighbour’s answer book. Now all you have to do is keep the iPhone underneath your table and search for the answer. Teams are getting full marks in every round.

Stephen Hendrick is a Dublin DJ who calls out questions at table quizzes as part of his fee. He has a regular slot in Maynooth on a Tuesday night and Lucan on a Friday night.

“There’s always the threat of cheating. We have a policy of no mobile phone use and we try to be as strict as we can about it, but it’s supposed to be a fun night out. We can’t start disqualifying groups when they bothered to come to support the cause after all.

“The iPhone is so powerful these days; you can get answers to difficult questions in a matter of seconds. There’s even a music identification application available which can detail the particulars of every song out there. Once the application hears a sample of the song, it can relay the details back to the user.”

Mr Hendrick has been trying to counteract the misuse of the iPhone by asking questions in such a way as the answer isn’t found easily on the web. Instead of asking who the four Beatles were, he’d ask what instruments they played, for example.

Instead of playing a sample of music, he’d read out some lyrics from a song. Playing a video clip and asking “what happened next?” was a great crowd pleaser, he said.

“It’s easy to spot cheaters when they’re getting all the answers right except the ones which are designed to counter the iPhone. We keep our eye on these groups once we identify them. We give them a quiet warning and they tend to behave themselves then.”

Unfortunately, there aren’t as many regular table quizzes as there used to be. This is undoubtedly down to the new technology available to contestants.

It’s not just ruining table quizzes either. You can’t even have a spirited argument in your local pub without the threat of the barman opening up his laptop to mediate – and we all secretly dislike when the barman is right.

– RORY COEN, Sunday Independent

While it’s nice to see a table quiz issue getting an airing in a national newspaper, I feel this article comes at the problem (and it is a problem) from the wrong end.

My opinion on this is that the existence of smart phones will have to cause a change in the traditional table quiz paradigm.  It’s a bit like calculators in maths class.  The Dept. of Education tried to hold back the tide for about 30 years but they’ve now given up the ghost and allowed them to be used.  This isn’t a good thing, in my opinion, but it is the de facto situation.

And so it will have to be with smart phones.  Question setters will have to create questions that can’t be looked up (or would take an impractical amount of time to do so).

The gent quoted in this article, Stephen Kendrick, has obviously started thinking along these lines.  However, he hasn’t really gone very far.  I don’t know how, for example, he thinks someone using a smart phone will struggle to find out what instruments each member of The Beatles used.

It’s just over 12 months now since I hosted a quiz for Habitat for Humanity in Ennis.  Even then I had to consider the  ‘iPhone problem’.

My solution? As few standard rounds of 10 called-out questions as I could manage.  Instead I crammed in two picture rounds, an audio round, a video round and a round featuring a large map of Ireland, to test everyone’s knowledge of the geography they were taught in primary school.

So, is the iPhone going to kill table quizzes?  Hopefully not – but it will certainly change them.

5 responses to Is the iPhone ‘killing’ table quizzes?

  1. There was a table quiz I used to go to in Dublin. It was just 20 questions, asked at the rage of one question a minute. The questions were obscure and would have been impossible without some form of “cheating”. So it was nearly encouraged for people to text mates for answers etc.

    The prize rolled over each week until a team got all 20 questions correct. The prize won rarely.

    I know this would be different now. It was in the days before applications and internet being common on mobiles.

    But it is becoming harder to go in and just sit down and go head to head over 100 questions.

    • Was that quiz in Quin’s?

      If so, I actually did it once. It was damn hard – even with their allowing of ‘phone a friend’, my team only managed 13/20 on the night I was there. Nobody won the main prize that night, if my memory serves me correctly.

      I still remember one question from that night, probably because I got it right! No phone was used either – just a lucky guess! 🙂

      Q: Which football player was born in England, and played for Scotland on the same night his father managed Wales?

  2. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will go hunting for it now.
    I think that the name of the place was Flannery’s. Down from the Bleeding Horse, a sort of staging area for Coppers.

    We once planned to have 3 of us on phones and someone back in the house on the net. However, a flake of pre quizz pints and lack of phone credit (damn tight French flatmates) scuppered the plans

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