Thursday, November 12, 2015

Quiz Show...

“Samantha. Come in. Sit down.”

Sam settled in to the chair across the desk from her boss. Well, the boss of her boss actually. She had been bumped up the chain of command this morning.

“I assume you know why you are here today?”

Sam started to answer but realized it was actually a rhetorical question when Ms. Averson kept talking.

“I want to read a few things to you. ‘You are highly capable and strong. Your friends look to you for solid answers in times of chaos.’ Here is another: ‘You are mysterious and deep. You don’t let people in very often but once you do you are committed to them for life.’ Do these sound familiar?”

Sam waited again.

“Do they sound familiar?”

Oh, okay, this time she was supposed to answer, “Yes. They are examples from the quiz handbook.”

“Not just examples, Samantha. Templates. You have 8 standard templates you are to work from, Samantha. And each of those 8 templates has 6 variations. Now I want you to listen to these: ‘Your lack of perspective is astounding. There are billions of stars in the galaxy and even the ones that are already dead shine brighter than you.’ And this one, ‘Your over inflated sense of self worth is off putting to your friends and acquaintances alike. Pretend to get lost. See how many people notice. It won’t be as many as you think. It will be two. Only two.’ Do these sound familiar?”

“Yes. They are answers to the “What do People Really Think of You?” quiz.”

“Now, do those answers sound ANYTHING like the other ones I read?”


“Then why were they possible outcomes on your quiz?”

“Well, because that’s what the result was.”

“That is my point. They should not have been the result. How did they become the result?”

“Because that’s how people answered the questions.”

Ms. Averson closed her eyes for a moment and rocked her head slowly from side to side. Sam could see she was feeling a little stressed. She should probably take the “What’s the Best Vacation Spot for You” quiz and head on out.

“Do you find this funny?”

“Excuse me?”

“I see you smiling over there. Do you think this is funny?”

Sam thought for a second. The answer was yes, absolutely. After all she had been hired to write “Scarily Accurate” quizzes and was being reprimanded for writing them too accurately. So yes, it was pretty funny. But she wasn’t stupid. She knew the expected answer was no, not at all. It was just very difficult for Sam to lie. She found it to be a waste of time. “I don’t think you think it’s funny.”

“You’re right. I don’t find this funny at all. We cannot release a quiz like this to the general public.”

“Why not? I mean, it’s not wrong. I think it could be the best work we’ve done.”

“It is absolutely not the best work we’ve done. It is nothing like what we do. You did this all on your own. This doesn’t follow our algorithms. It doesn’t follow our templates.”

“The math works. I used the quiz answers and the access they allowed to their Facebook profiles, and their friend’s lists, and what comes up when you Google them. It’s a very complex algorithm but it only takes a few seconds to process the results and I included that really cute cat animation to watch while it works if those few seconds seem too long.”

“I actually do like the cat animation.”

Sam smiled and started to go on…

“HOWEVER, you cannot have a quiz where a possible outcome is, ‘People think you are a pushover and take advantage of you at every turn. Nothing in your life so far disproves this theory. In fact, you should check your husbands texts tonight. You will be AMAZED at the results.’ This is not okay.”

“Well, that one is fairly rare.Okay, not as rare as I would have thought, but still it’s not the most common outcome.”

“Samantha, you cannot tell people their spouses are cheating on them through a quiz result.”

“Why not? They are taking a scarily accurate Facebook quiz where they want to know what people really think of them. This is a scarily accurate quiz that tells them just that.”

“That’s exactly it. People do not actually want to know what people think of them. That would be insane. They don’t want to know that the dog they would be is ‘abandoned’ they don’t want to know that if they were a color they would be ‘institutional green’ that isn’t why people take these quizzes, Samantha.”

So Ms. Averson had seen her previous work. Her father always said that it was good to make a name for yourself. Seems like Sam had.

“People take these quizzes to feel good about themselves. Every result we give them, every answer they see, there is always something that is positive. Always something general enough that it could apply to anyone, yet specific sounding. We aren’t in the business of telling people who they are, we are in the business of validating who people think they are. So you can see that we cannot use any of the quizzes you have designed. This really leaves us no choice….”

Sam knew then that she was being fired. Actually she had known when she was called to Ms. Averson’s office. If it were going to be just another suggestion that she be less accurate and more cut and paste he boss would have handled it. She had already started running down possible job leads in her head. She could always see if her cousin Jill knew of any openings.

“Samantha, did you hear me?”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Averson. You were firing me?”

“Firing you? No, I was offering you a transfer.”

“A transfer? What else does do besides make quizzes.”

“ is just one of our subsidiary companies. We are part of a much larger network. We have search engines, shopping sites, email servers (though those don’t get much use anymore), photo sharing sites, special interest bloggers. We really cover a wide range of on-line activity and we feel as though your talents will be better put to use someplace else.”

“I’m not much of a shopper.”

“No, Samantha, we don’t want to move you to another branch, we’d like to move you more toward the central company. Transfer you to headquarters. The algorithm you designed caught my eye and when I showed it to my boss, well, let’s just say she is very interested in your work.”

“So I’m not being fired?”



“I would like to set up a second set of interviews for tomorrow.”

“Second set?”

“Why yes, this has been the first. We needed to see what you would say and how you would react when confronted with your work. You passed. Now we need to move along and see if you would be a good fit at headquarters. And if you are interested. I think you will be. The results you got here with limited data, very impressive. When you see what you would have access to there? Well…like I said, search engines, email servers, shopping sites, photo sharing, you get the idea. Are you interested?”

Sam thought about it. She didn’t have anything else to do right now so why not. “Sure.”

Ms. Averson picked up her phone and dialed her assistant, “Please book Samantha Green on the next shuttle to DC. Thank you.”

“Good luck, Samantha. And do you mind if I keep the cat animation?”

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