QuizQuizQuiz: The App

In 2009, in association with Four Door Lemon, we wrote and released our iPhone app, cleverly titled ‘QuizQuizQuiz’ (we spent millions on focus groups to come up with that).

Without making us rich beyond our wildest dreams, the app was a very pleasing success, making it to the Top 5 on the App Store in the UK and all over Europe. We put a great deal of thought into it and feel it was a cut above the usual quiz apps. If we do another app, we’ll do a few things differently, and there were certainly a few things we’d improve upon, but generally we were very happy with our debut effort.

We made the choice to make it stand out by being a little offbeat, injecting as much humour as we could into it, by having odd categories, a few unexpected question types, etc. Generally, feedback on that was extremely positive. The delights of the App Store comments section meant that we came face-to-face with any objections and negativity. Beside the standard topics, our ‘Infinity’ topic included all manner of random categories, like ‘Biscuits of the 80s’, ‘The Big Lebowski’ and, to the rage of one commenter ‘The Life and Times of Ryan Giggs’ – even a pre-moral purdah Ryan Giggs was too much to bear. Imagine now!

Fair enough, really. Some people will get a quiz app because they want a straight serious set of quiz questions. Well, most people will. Our app had plenty of those, around 5000 questions in total (and that’s just in English: thousands more in French, German, Italian, Spanish), founded in good hard fact and general knowledge. The fact we injected a bit of fun, silliness and eclecticism into the game made it more enjoyable to write, hopefully more enjoyable for most people to play and, we think, more successful.

We may well build a new app very soon. What would be your dream quiz app?

Oh – and do read the blog post by Four Door Lemon about the app: it makes for interesting reading on the economics of a quiz app (or indeed any app).

Write what you know … or don’t

As we’ve been putting together a new database for the start of a new year, I’ve been looking back at some of the questions I’ve written over the years. There are some pretty good quiz questions in there. I can say that with some confidence because they’ve several times elicited a good response from the quiz participants – interest, amusement, even delight. However, what I noticed was that hardly any of those questions I’d written which I’m proud of are on anything resembling one of my “specialist” subjects.

In fact, I think the opposite is true. One should try to avoid writing questions about one’s interests. I speak from bitter experience, of weighing down early quizzes with fascinating facts about Bob Dylan, Scottish indie pop, Greek novels, Anglo-Saxon kings and West Indies cricket of the 1970s. None of these questions have passed the test of time.

Which is not to say that there can’t be good questions about esoteric subjects. It’s more that the expert on that subject will not be the one who finds the nugget of information that makes a good and accessible question. The elitist in us comes to the fore, I think, when we’re on our own turf.

When it comes to subjects we’re a little less sure of, that’s when we’re more likely to take delight in something simple which will transfer itself into a good quiz question. In my opinion, quizzes may be tests of knowledge which the best team should win, but they should be fair tests, with a wide range of subjects but a solid base in what is general knowledge.

However, if anyone should happen to want a quiz all about Belle and Sebastian EPs and Camera Obscura album tracks, I’d be happy to provide it …

Have you ever been to a quiz where you’ve heard the dreaded words (or similar): “Now, the next question is probably too difficult, but if you are a big supporter of Scunthorpe United, like I am, then you’ll love this.”