Hive Mind Challenge: the Wrap Up

Our victors' trophy - now with the Brixton Hive

Whew, it’s done. Hive Mind Challenge 1.0 has come and gone like a whirlwind.

You’ll remember that the Hive Mind Challenge is a game that Adrian Hon and I developed. It’s a cheating pub quiz – you’re allowed, and supposed, to use any means necessary to answer the questions. This includes searching the internet and calling friends. In other words, the game’s a test of collective intelligence. At first glance, this might seem totally easy, and for round 1 of the questions (see below) it was. But once you get past the ordinary-type trivia you get in normal pub quizzes, the challenge shifts into a whole new gear.

Overcoming FAIL

I arrived early at our venue, the Coach & Horses in Soho – only to discover a case of EPIC FAIL: the pub’s WiFi was down.

For a pub quiz based entirely on the idea that people are supposed to use the internet to find their answers, this was a Bad Thing (TM). But as the crowd assembled, they mobilized most impressively to get their answers. Many people had 3G-capable smartphones or dongles for their laptops. Others were more enterprising: a few people went to the bar next door and conned their way into getting a password for their WiFi.

Their resourcefulness was rewarded, as having fast internet connectivity proved all the difference in Round 4. I was very impressed.

Lessons Learned

This run through was an experiment, the Alpha run of the Hive Mind Challenge experience. We learned a few things that should improve future versions.

The first thing that seemed to surprise people was just how hard the questions were. When we asked Question 2 of round 2 (“What animal is depicted on page 7 of the November 7th issue of the Economist?”), an audible groan of disbelief rolled through the crowd. Once the initial shock had passed, everyone set to it with alacrity and we were very impressed with the quality of the responses. Here are the questions, and their answers, so you can get an idea of what to expect in future versions of the quiz.

The second thing that really made a difference was connectivity and hardware. Getting a good 3G signal is far from reliable in London. If the local WiFi is down, trying to get word out to your friends on the net is like talking through a mouthful of peanut butter. And it’s just as hard for their answers to reach you. The advantage in this quiz clearly went to those people who went the extra mile and blagged their way onto the WiFi network from next door. Next time, we’ll have to have guaranteed bandwidth, and encourage people to bring netbooks at least. This is a competition where you need processing power in your hardware.

All in all, though, I’m quite pleased with the results. Everyone seemed to have a good time and we learned a lot. I think our players were magnificent, especially considering the bandwidth issues with the wonky WiFi. But as one of the Brixton Hive put it, “Usually messing about trying to get on the internet is annoying – but this time it just made it feel all MacGyver.”

We sure had fun, and we’ll be putting lots of improvements into Hive Mind Challenge 2.0. If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

See you there . . .

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