Bring on Watson (Or, how I did in the Jeopardy! contestant test)
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  business_analytics ibmwatson
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What are mollusks?
Who is Coleridge?
What is the Industrial Revolution?
Ummm....Grrr. I knew that one.
What is Dubliners?
U.S. Lakes and Rivers? Pass.
Wow. That was fast.
Such was my experience last night during the Jeopardy! online contestant trial. 50 questions covering everything from mollusks to luddites to ancient mariners and it was all over in less than 10 minutes. It's doubtful I was competing against Watson, but if the comments on the Jeopardy! Facebook page were any indication I was competing against nearly 200 other people.
The questions were served up automatically through a Flash interface. It wasn't a complete replication of the show experience because I didn't have to respond in the form of a question and thankfully, spelling didn't count. The toughest part was having the categories change with each question, which made it impossible to build up some momentum by increasing my familiarity with specific domains on the fly. Understanding the category titles added another processing step and with only 15 seconds to answer I thought I'd have a better chance of getting it right relying on the clue itself. This, I imagine, is why so many contestants focus on entire categories rather than skipping across them and it will be interesting to see if this is how Watson will plays when it has control of the board.
So, how did I do?
Unless any of us gets a call in the next few weeks we'll never know, because the Jeopardy! team doesn't reveal the answers. But of the 45 or so I did answer I was either completely certain or pretty confident of being right. I didn't guess on any, choosing instead to skip them altogether.
But even if I don't get the call it was an exciting, if taxing experience. "This must be what a database feels like," I thought to myself. "Non-stop queries coming at you from every conceivable domain, and a pressing demand for an immediate, accurate answer every time. And no prizes for second place."
Sounds like a typical day in the life of a business analytics professional, doesn't it? What if there was a better way to serve up all these answers?