Radio time

Over the weekend I was catching up on some Ron and Fez, who are on XM channel 202 weekdays 12-3 pm in the east. They were doing a Pro Wrestling Trivia challenge between two personalities on the channel. The loser would have to dress up like the wrestler Gold Dust and walk around a block of Manhattan that way. Not that it is a big deal or anything, but I was annoyed by the way the contest ran. They had special guest Johnny Fairplay in to do the questions and act as host as Fez went against Opie and Anthony’s employee Sam.

So, I know I am about to micro-analyze a radio bit contest with virtually no real stakes. I know that it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Hell, the contest ended up with a 10-1 defeat of Fez by Sam which turned into a really funny bit with Eastside Dave smashing Fez continually throughout the rest of the show. But, I just wanted to point out the inequities of the trivia contest format they used.

This is how they ran their challenge on Thursday of last week. They flipped a coin to see who would go first. Johnny Fairplay would ask the first question. If the first person missed it, then the second contestant had a chance to steal. Then the next person would go and if they missed then the other person would have the chance to steal.

There are a couple problems with this method.

Question distribution becomes really really important. If the questions aren’t very fairly organized, you could end up with one contestant having a distinct advantage. I would argue that there must be some intelligence supplied to the question distribution so that you end up with similar subjects for two questions in a row so that there is similar opportunity to both contestants.

For example, if it is the type of question where there are basically two answers, then if the person misses on a 50-50 guess and the two contestants are close to the same knowledge level, then it is like serving up points on a silver platter to the second contestant. Similarly, if a guess by the first contestant gives any kind of clue to the second contestant, again the benefit will go to the stealer.

In terms of question subject matter, if you are going to ask something specific about a storyline in a specific time period, you should probably have two questions covering a very similar time period. If you are going to ask a question about the careers of a personality before they were in the business, you should again try to match up similar time periods and have two questions in a row with some semblance of similarity. Otherwise, you could end up with one person getting a completely different style of question than the other person.

And if the goal of the contest is to find out who knows more about what, that isn’t really the best way to approach it. Probably the best way to do it fairly, while also keeping the contest entertaining for radio is to use the style they used on “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” That involved one contestant answering questions while the other contestant was in a sound-proof booth. Then the second contestant comes in, finds out what number he has to beat and does his best to answer the exact same set of questions as the first contestant. You could argue that there might be some sort of advantage to going first or second, but it is nowhere near as potentially inequitable a system as the first format that was used on the show.

And again, this isn’t a problem so to speak. The show was still really entertaining. I love the show and listen to it every day. I just wanted to geek out on the rules of a trivia contest for a bit. There are tons of people, I would imagine who spend lots of time coming up with equitable ways to determine winners on game shows. I guess I wouldn’t have minded some kind of job doing that. (IE I am a complete and utter geek and nerd sometimes.)