Tuesday, 1st September 2020


2020 is the year of the Covid19 pandemic. A microscopic virus invisible to the naked eye has impacted the whole world. Suddenly we're all living at arms length, crossing over the road to avoid people, not seeing face to face our friends and family. Happily software like Zoom means we can meet up with family every week and at least see and speak with each other.

So Virginia and I have regular slots during the pandemic to meet up with each side of the family. Which is great. But it's difficult sharing a meal over Zoom so what do you do instead? One answer is do a quiz. Each year Virginia's folks have tended to have a general knowledge quiz on Boxing Day as part of the Christmas festivities, often Virginia has been the one setting the questions. We're now doing a quiz much more often than once a year during this pandemic!

It was when someone did a quiz in Microsoft Powerpoint that I felt inspired to try my hand at creating a quiz. Rather than Powerpoint I created them as HTML pages - the idea was that people could see the questions and answers by going to webpages I would upload. In practice the quizzes have relied on screen sharing inside Zoom or Google Meet.

An aside: the HTML pages for my quizzes are actually generated from data files by a Ruby script. This separates the presentation from what is presented. This should also enable reusing quizzes by remembering questions already used.

What makes for a good quiz? Not that I've achieved a good quiz yet I feel. Everyone must have a chance of getting most of the answers - a quiz on topics you don't know is demoralising. A quiz must be clear on what the goal is - some of my quizzes have failed there. To some extent a quiz should be unusual, that's good. To some extent quizzes should be easy, these quizzes are not university entrance exams. I'm tending now to have 7 rounds in my quizzes with 10 questions in each round. The kinds of rounds I have are:

Round Description
Anagrams I like doing crosswords so word based puzzles are natural example
Missing vowels Guess the name where the vowels have been removed example
Missing word Find the word that can go before or after a set of words example
Pictures Match the names to set of pictures of birds or dogs etc
Rebuses Rebuses are an old kind of picture puzzle