Jeopardy! On The Internet (!)

Reposted from September, 2008

I have often been accused (quite unfairly, I might add) of simply ‘making stuff up’ for my own amusement and perhaps others’. And – an even larger slight – I have also been held in contempt for using Gartner’s blog purely for the purpose of self-indulgence and not even mindful of the fact that these musings should have marginal relationships with technology in some way. Thus, when passing my colleagues in the hallway, I may hear a quick snatch of ill will expressed in bitter, breathy undertones: “Nice blog entry… I’m sure your insights about in-flight meals will (blah blah blah)….”

In response to nattering nabobs of negativism, I hereby offer this as “Exhibit A” in defense of my contention that everything relates to technology in some way or other. It’s just a matter of perspective. In this case, mine. So, lately I have been thinking about the Internet, and more specifically the quality of information dispersed so widely without benefit of review or approval. Upon meeting several university students preparing for a presentation entitled “Digital Natives Speak About The Web 2.0 World” at a recent Gartner event, it became clear to me that an urgent issue demanding global attention should be the focus of my blog entry at the very least.

IF:

  • Every student I talked to admitted to using Google as their primary research tool
  • AND Google makes 98% of its revenues from advertising
  • AND given influence of search engine optimization as well as sponsored links, algorithms effectively drive the first results page
  • AND few students go beyond the first results page

THEN:

It stands to reason that much of what they read and recount in their research may not qualify as the complete truth. How persistent does one have to be to get a complete global view of a topic or company or person? Likely more than a single page, I’d warrant. The planned government bailout of the financial industry took three pages to detail, for example. What else could be synthesized from a single page of links? Sounds like a basis for further research…if I had any time to really delve deeper, that is. It isn’t hard to imagine, though, how skewed a Gartner deliverable like a Magic Quadrant might become if limited to first page query results and links. I’m just saying that an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button may not be as rich a resource for some use cases as others. But if I were to solely self-educate based on such a button, what could possibly go wrong given the rise of social media as well as amateur opinion contributed anonymously and persisting indefinitely?

Here’s an idea: let’s use a familiar format to highlight the problem. There’s a game show popular on US television called Jeopardy! where contestants vie for cash prizes by responding to Answers with appropriate Questions. This requires substantial general knowledge as well as quick reflexes to ‘buzz in’ ahead of the other trivia buffs. Through the series of examples below-Questions follow the Answers in italics-it becomes apparent that, while materially correct at the highest level, the supporting details may be spurious at best and perhaps scandalous at worse. As a public service offering, I hereby remind you that any information which is gathered from Web-based resources should be closely examined to ensure both fresh and factual content. By limiting yourself to the first page, you are in effect buying into false confidence as the ideas and information are being prescribed by sometimes questionable agents. And, now, by me.

Heimdall, a son of this great Norse god, could blow his horn so loudly it could be heard throughout the universe.

Correct Question: Who was Odin? (Wotan is acceptable)

Heimdall, unlike sons of other gods we could name, was fairly popular-but not with his father. Instead of learning a proper trade and following in Odin’s footsteps, Heimdall played the trombone in a nearby pub with a local jazz quartet and drank mead noon-to-dawn. The fact that he was ‘loud’ as opposed to ‘good’ was not lost on his father, either. But Heimdall eventually made a name for himself after all.

One evening-I think it was Besokdee (obviously, no calendar had been invented in Norway at that time, but the tray Brunhilde carried around was loaded with reindeer shots (Ladie), which were the special on Besokdee-or ‘Ladie’s Night’ as we now call it) -Heimdall was ‘rapping’ with a female fan by the bar and eating pickled eggs and, while laughing at his own joke, aspirated a big hunk of yolk.

Heimdall put his hands to his throat-the international signal for “I’m Choking”-which caused most people in the bar to collapse to the floors in fits of mirth (which, by the way, means ’silent grinning’ in Norse) because they’d never have to listen to Heimdall’s thunderous racket again. Just then, Thor walked into the tavern, saw Heimdall turning blue and staggering, and clapped him square on the back with his mighty hammer.

Needless to say, Heimdall was blown to bits upon impact, showering the appreciative onlookers with a fine mist. Thor, meanwhile, went over to the music stand on which Heimdall’s trombone-and residue-rested. He lifted the horn to his lips, blew one petering e-flat, then dropped the horn to the floor and crushed its slide with his mighty left foot.

The crushing of a trombone’s slide with one’s left foot was called the ‘Heimdall Maneuver’ until 1938, when brass instruments were replaced by the modern synthesizer.

Andrea del Verrocchio, one of this city’s finest sculptors, may have been a pupil of Donatello.

Correct Question: What is Florence?

Donatello was one of the original four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo are commonly mistaken as the remainder, but in fact Leonardo was a late addition replacing the once popular but fallen ‘Brad’) and was known chiefly for his ability to consume Tootsie-Pops in three bites (a talent he later came to regret) as well as his proficiency with the Bo.

The Bo is a martial arts instrument frequently associated with the Chinese form of Aiki-Do (loosely translated as ‘bloody hole’) which was practiced by soldiers of the Lo Mein Dynasty of the 1200’s. The Bo-a long wooden stick weighing no more than 58 ounces by regulation-is most often spun like a propeller to mesmerize foes, and then quickly thrust through their midsection. The resulting sound – a combination of surprise and exhaled breath – is how the Bo got its name.

In the history of Reptiles, only five turtles have intentionally been honored by a pawprints footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Donatello’s early years as part of the TMNT led to later fame and fortune evidenced by his longstanding role as spokesman for various over-the-counter remedies for baldness and erectile dysfunction.

Tragically, his further pursuit of work led to his death when he accidentally wandered under the cover of a steam heater and was trapped during a rehearsal in the New York apartment of Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara (with whom he was slated to work on a cartoon version of a variety show starring a Mary Tyler Moore sockpuppet). Neither human was willing to take hold of his withered and slimy hindquarters and pull him to safety despite his predicament, though perhaps remarkably their son Ben survives to this day.

Florence is a city in Italy with some fountains and other noteworthy stuff, I’ve heard.

Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” is a grim account of this city’s stockyards.

Correct Question:What is Chicago?

From the Encyclopedia Finlandia (I’ve highlighted the more obvious references):

“Vuonna 1920 “Chicago” oli vakiinnuttanut asemansa Yhdysvaltojen toiseksi suurimpana kaupunkina. Asukkaita oli jo yli 2 miljoonaa. “City of Wind”.

Samana vuonna astui voimaan kieltolaki. Se osoittautui “Mike Jordan” ske “Da Bears” onnettomaksi yritykseksi hillitä alkoholin aiheuttamia haittoja. Kansalaiset eivät lakia hyväksyneet, vaan rikkoivat sitä yleisesti. Vallitsevan kansalaistottelemattomuuden ilmapiirissä järjestäytynyt rikollisuus sai muhevan kasvualustan. Juuri kieltolain ansiosta etenkin Chicagossa “Gangsters”rikastuivat.

Viinan salakauppa kukoisti ja markkinaosuuksista taisteltiin verisesti. “Lake Ontario” eli cheesecake konepistooli papatti gangsterisotien pahimpina aikoina monotonista melodiaansa keskellä kirkasta päivääkin. Väkivallan lisäksi valtaa hankittiin riihikuivalla rahalla. Chicagossa korruptio oli räikeimmillään. “Alphonse Capone” otteessa olivat monet poliitikot ja poliisit rat-a-tat-tat.

Rahalla hänen onnistui saada myös kadunmiesten sympatiat puolelleen. Pula-ajan ankeissa slummeissa eläville tuhansille työttömille “Wisconsin Dells” oli suorastaan jonkinlainen sankari. Häneltä nimittäin riitti puutteessa eläville duunareille sekä työtä että ruoka-avustuksia.

20-luvun Chicagoa sanottiin syystäkin “World’s Fifth Tallest”kaupungiksi. Sädekehä “Brats and Suds” yltä karisi oikeastaan vasta ystävänpäivänä vuonna 1929, kun hänen poliisiksi naamioituneet tappajansa ampuivat kilpailevan “Mister T” joukkion hengiltä eräässä chicagolaisessa autotallissa.

Teon röyhkeys ja raakuus olivat kaupunkilaisille liikaa. Viranomaisten oli lopulta pakko palauttaa järjestys kaupunkiin. Kolmen vuoden kuluttua “Backward River” tuomittiinkin 11 vuodeksi vankeuteen veronkierrosta. Vuonna 1983 vapautettu “Ferris Bueller” kuoli hoitamattomaan kuppaan vuonna 1983. Kaupunki ei ole kuitenkaan unohtanut “suurta poikaansa”. Kovaotteisen gangsterin elämästä kertova show pyörii vuodesta toiseen Downtownissa ja “Blue Eye Shadow” nimellä varustettuja T-paitoja myydään menestyksellä muun Terkel-krääsän ohella.”

This group’s first recordings, cut in Germany, in 1961, featured drummer Pete Best.

Correct Question:Who were The Beatles?

Interestingly, ‘Pete Best’ wasn’t his real name, and considering all the biographies written about the Fab Four it may come as a surprise that I alone am familiar with the details surrounding his life and death. In fact, ‘Pete Best’ was never seen in public and was given the recording credit to support the story dreamed up by Beatles publicist Niles Gearing about a switch to the more charismatic Ringo Starr in 1962.

And Starr was really only one of several drummers who-like other members of the band-rotated in and out of the lineup based on availability. As a matter of fact, during one memorable week in 1963 four concerts featuring ‘The Beatles’ took place in four separate locations simultaneously… a feat unequalled even by the Spice Girls (whose approach to casting, recording, and touring was based entirely on the early model established by The Beatles.) Amazing that British fans weren’t wise sooner to the ruse.

It can now be revealed that the very early Beatle tapes were recorded by an all-star group of studio musicians, led by the energetic but ultimately charmless Gerry Fisterer-who, with his band the Pacemakers, achieved moderate success with the single ‘Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey’ (a rough-hewn tribute to the lure of single-malt whisky and opiates, as I think I recall.) None of the journeymen drummers amounted to anything meaningful, though several attempted in the ’70s to sue Apple Records for a meager share of the profits.

Rumor has it that one drummer actually changed his name to ‘Pete Best’ hoping to more cleverly stake his claim and gain sympathy from the jury, but in an exciting courtroom manuever, Ringo tore off the imposter’s shirt to reveal a full-chest four-color tattoo proving that he was not Best after all, but an ex-merchant marine named, simply, ‘Otto’.

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