If information were the answer

A good quiz question works like a riddle. It makes people feel as if the answer were at the tip of their tongue and teases them into thinking harder. If the answer is either too obvious or too abstruse, the question isn’t fun.

Back in college, I was an aspiring quizzer. The easiest way to get better at quizzing is to create one’s own quiz questions. I once asked my quizzer friend where he sourced his quiz questions from. His answer was simple – Google.com. I was left puzzled. I thought I knew what Google.com could do, but it hadn’t gotten me anywhere closer to setting good quiz questions.

I later realized how formulating a good questions required one to Google a topic and invest an hour or two in search of an interesting factoid. For instance, I could Google the history of my hometown, Bangalore, and go down a rabbit hole to stumble upon the story of Enayathulla Mehkri, the Arab businessman who visited the city in the 1930s. Back then, bullock carts were the chief mode of transport, and the Arab was pained to see the beasts bear heavy loads up the steep, rough climb from Hebbal Lake. He then spent Rs 10,000 from his own pocket to level the path – a princely sum in those days. The maharaja of Mysore was impressed by his gesture. He reimbursed the businessman and named an important traffic intersection in his honour – one that every inhabitant of Bangalore refers to as Mekhri circle.

I can now use this interesting historical factoid as a basis for writing a question. When it comes to setting quizzes, Google wasn’t the end as I had assumed for it to be. It was merely the beginning.

The internet has given us access to all varieties of ideas and information. But information isn’t the end. It is merely the beginning. The hard part is to make something of this information – use a historical record to create a quiz question, execute on a business idea, or watch kitchen gardening videos to grow vegetables at home.

As Derek Sivers once quipped, if information were the answer, we would all be billionaires with six pack abs. It is execution that is the hard part and that is where we ought to focus our efforts.

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