Saturday, 18 February 2012

Mastermind - The Wikipedia Challenge - The Results are in.

If you read Malcolm Sumner’s account of his win in Heat 13 last week, you’ll have seen that he prepares to watch each show by spending 15 minutes on Wikipedia to prepare to see how many specialist questions he can predict, which has made the specialist rounds a lot more interesting for him. My original thought was – great idea, and I’ll definitely give it a try .

Then I had another idea. What if – I thought – I used this as an opportunity to test how well you could prepare yourself by just looking at the Wikipedia article on a specialist subject, on the same day that you’re actually on the show. I love this sort of speculation, so I immediately set about coming up with a set of rules for this challenge : -

• In order to be able to avoid the possibility that a successful round might be a one-off, or a terrible round might be a one off, I would select 4 categories from the 8 on offer last night- leaving the other 4 as a ‘control group’ against which to judge the results.
• As far as possible a cross section of subjects should be chosen- ones which looked wider, ones which looked narrower, ones which I might already know a bit about and ones about which I knew nothing.
• Mastermind began at 8pm last night. I began work at 4pm. Which gave me a maximum of an hour for each subject.
• For each subject I would read the article, and select 30 potential questions.
• I was allowed to go to other linked wikipages, but not other sites.
• I had to try to learn the answers before the start of the show. My written questions and answers were not allowed to be used during the show.
• Answers had to be given either before, or at the same time as the contender answered on the show. Answers given afterwards would not be counted, to avoid the temptation to cheat.
• My daughter Jennifer would act as independent referee.

All of which begs the question – how well did I do, and what do the results suggest ? The 4 categories I selected were : -

The Life and Music of Kate Bush. I felt this one would be probably the best for me. Potentially I reckoned in the normal run of things this would give me 2 or 3. Actually, I would have been able to answer just one of them without my wikiprep. Now, bear in mind that I have heard a lot of the singles, and I used to own The Hounds of Love, but that’s it. I haven’t deliberately listened to her music for years. Playing in real time, using no notes, I managed 10 points on the round.

The Franco Prussian War. I guessed that this would be a wider subject than Kate Bush. It’s one of the more traditional subjects , and through a general interest in History I reckoned that I might have had 3 or 4 anyway. Actually, when the questions came up I realized I would have had precisely two of them. Despite the width of the subject I was surprised that my wikiprep meant that I also scored 10 points on this round.

Passenger Liners 1939 – 1979. Yes, I couldn’t duck out of taking at least one really wide subject, and believe me, it wasn’t until I started that I realized just how wide the subject was. I only allowed myself to look at Wikipedia for the challenge, so this meant starting with the general ocean liners page , and looking at the pages about some of the most famous liners. I would have had none of the answers without wikiprep. As it was I only managed 4 anyway.

The Life and Films of Frederico Fellini. Another life and work subject this one, but one about which I had next to no knowledge to begin with. As far as I can recall I have never watched a Fellini film – which doubtless is more my loss than his. Bearing in mind that the rules of the challenge meant that I could only revise from the wiki page, I was very pleased with my 7.


I wanted to see whether it was possible to spend just a couple of hours before the show using Wikipedia to prepare for a specialist subject, and do well enough to get a competitive score. I take the two tens as competitive scores. I was also pleased with the Fellini score, considering that I was starting from a position of next to no knowledge at all. Having said that it would still not have made me very competitive in the show , a good GK score notwithstanding.

• It is certainly possible to use Wikipedia to help you gain a decent score with an hour or so of revision.
• It works a lot better for certain types of subject than for others. Life and work subjects seem to work better than others.
• The more finite and clearly defined a subject, the easier it seems to prepare for from Wikipedia. Hence the good score on the Franco Prussian war, which was a fairly clearly defined historical event which took place over the space of about 6 months.
• It didn’t work very well on a wide and slightly more nebulous subject like ocean liners. Having said that , though, it still provided me with 4 answers that I wouldn’t have had anyway.
• Most of my correct answers came from questions I’d prepared myself, but a small number did come from other remembered facts from the Wikipedia articles that I hadn’t turned into questions.

If anyone else ever fancies repeating the challenge, I’d love to hear how you get on with it.


bj said...

Great idea, Dave, to try it in that way. I have actually thought that even 20 mins or so on Wikipedia could be worth a few answers. I have watched the first of last night's shows on Catch-up, but haven't seen anything about the second, so I will try it and let you know. I will see how I do with a shorter period on each subject and let you know, either later today or tomorrow.

Londinius said...

Brilliant. Thanks bj - I'll look forward to hearing from you.

bj said...

I spent 15 mins (on a timer) on each subject on Wikipedia (and nowhere else), doing them in reverse order of how much I knew about them. Beyond knowing that Motorhead's main man was Lemmy I could tell you absolutely nothing about them, so I did Motorhead, Liners, Kipling and Fellini.
Initial comments are that 15 mins is a ludicrously short time to prepare a SS. During that time I managed only read the Wiki overview on Motorhead and take a quick look at the discography. I managed a little more on liners and Kipling because of the parameters on the subject and I skimmed Fellini because obviously as a full-time film journalist I did have a wee bit of a start on that.
What was particularly interesting was the scores and what difference if any just a few minutes on Wiki would make...
Kipling. Well basically you had to have read the stories or at least memorised the titles to score here. I got two - Baloo the bear (or more specifically sloth bear) and hedgehog, though I would got Baloo anyway. So 2 (1).
Liners. Nightmare. I got Normandie and that was it. 1 (0).
Motorhead, about whom I knew absolutely nothing and the subject on which I managed proportionately to read least of the Wiki entry. And this was the big surprise - nine points, from 15 mins on Wikipedia, starting from zero knowledge. The only answer I would have guessed and it was a guess was The Damned, the rest was very short-term memory from Wiki. I made a special effort to memorise the name of the artist who did their logo. I didn't write out questions, but several things that I though might be questions did come up. So... 9 (1).
Fellini - difficult to know what I might have scored on this, but probably not more than 2 or 3, tbh. It was tricky because of Italian names. In the event I got only 6. Let's say 6 (3).

drgaryegrant said...

I'm a sucker for a challenge and I'm going to try this next week, with the proviso that I'll have to do the work on Wednesday, because any other day i'm at work from 8am til 7pm. Have to say your scores were quite impressive, Dave, for 1hour's study. That could lead on to a certain point I have been making throughout this series but I'll leave it - promise!
It's clear from Brian's remarkes that 1 hour and not 15 minutes is the way to go, however!

drgaryegrant said...

Although having looked at next week's subjects - one of them is the human body...I won't choose that as one of the 4 as hopefully I should be not too shoddy at that anyway! (I'll probably score 1 having said that...every doctor's nightmare on a quiz show is getting a medical question as 'quiz medicine' and 'actual medicine as practised' seem to be 2 different topics entirely)

contentedofcheltenham said...

Thought I'd add my thoughts, as the 'Wiki challenge' (copyright Londinius!)was my suggestion but clearly not an original idea! My method was to copy and paste the Wikipedia article into Word and then go through 'highlighting' possible answers in yellow using the highlight tool. Then a brief skim through. You're absolutely right - I needed half an hour on Kate Bush but found I was then able to answer about half the questions and recognise many of the other answers. With Fellini I only had about fifteen minutes left which was not much time for a worthwhile result but I was starting from pretty much zero. Would otherwise have got the 'Paparazzo' question (which is standard GK)and nothing else. Of course, learning curve theory predicts that I will 'forget' this extra knowledge with equal rapidity!
Malcolm S.

Ewan M said...
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Ewan M said...

Certainly makes the SS rounds more interesting, I don't have the time to devote an hour to each SS round every week but I gave it a go for the Fellini set on this show. I'm amazed Brian managed to get through the Fellini wiki page in 15 mins, it took me over 30 just to read it from start to finish, noting down salient points along the way. I spent the rest of the hour going over my notes and picking out likely questions. No time to check other wiki links. Like Brian I'm a movie fan, but I confess I knew very little about Fellini in advance. My hour's preparation brought me 7 points. I would have got Paparazzo anyway. It's possible I might have landed a guess with Jung, maybe Rota too as a long shot, but there was only one answer I knew for sure without the prep. Incidentally I missed one that I had highlighted during my prep, the Praemium Imperiale (Japanese Art Prize), so I should have had 8. I reckon 8 was the maximum you could have picked up just from the main Fellini Wiki page. Quite surprising how so little prep can boost your score so significantly on SS.

DanielFullard said...

I tried it myself and results were up on TQA. Very similar experience to you, I was totally surprised at it to be honest...especially the Kate Bush round. Every question I think was able to be answered if you learnt that one page...I believe there were 5 points to be had if you just knew the first paragraph! Ill be doing this next week for sure