The Skeptics Guide to the Universe Quiz Games

Answers to some frequently and not-so frequently asked questions

(by AKM Services)

What's this all about then?

The idea behind the game was conceived as an addition to the SGU's Friday live stream to provide a more interactive experience for their audience. frank @ AKM Services approached the SGU and offered to develop the site and provide it to them for free (with a little bit of self-interest in that a 'sponsored by' note would be included).

Since our business is the development of such sites, our minds did turn to the idea of also making commercial use of the software. We're still mulling this over, but it's likely to go that way.
But regardless of that aspect, we promise that the SGU will have free use of the site so they can keep running these games with their audience.

How does the synchronisation work?

Important note: you will be able to play the quiz regardless of the time synchronisation step. Even if you don't do it, or get an error message trying it, the game will work. It may not be in sync with the live stream but you can play it through.

This game has been conceived and is developed as a companion to online live events, in particular online live streams. Unfortunately live streams are received by their audience with a time lag that depends on various factors, some technical, some rooted in the way the streaming platform operate (consider e.g. that streams may be analysed for offensive content). How large this lag is, depends on the platform and the audiences' situation and is therefor different for each user. Based on anecdotal experience it may range from 1 to 20 or so seconds.

In contrast to this, the interaction of the players and the game host with the game platform are in real-time, i.e. they happen out-of sync with the live-stream.
As a consequence it may happen, is likely to happen, that the game host triggers an event (like starting the game) that is immediately propagated to the players, but from the players' perspective the event is registered well before they witness the event in the live stream.

In the first version of the game, where the game host controlled the flow of the game manually (by opening, then closing each question), that led to awkward pauses and a very disrupted flow of the game.

To counteract this, two elements have been introduced: time line synchronisation and automated game flow.

The automated game flow removes the requirement for the game host to trigger each step in the game. Only at the start and end of a game do they need to manually trigger certain events. Once a game was started, it will run through purely based on a timer.
Apart from generating a dynamic and fast paced game experience, the automated flow is also a pre-requisite for the time line synchronisation to work.

Time line synchronisation was introduced to match the live stream experience with the game interaction and works as follows. Before the game starts, the game host will announce the synchronisation procedure which consists of a countdown and everyone clicking the synchronise button when they hear the countdown reaching zero (or whatever phrase the game host choses).

For each player the system then calculates the time difference between the game host clicking the button and the player doing the same. If the player clicked at the correct time, this will be the amount of time that she is behind the time line of the live stream.

When the game host starts the game, it would normally start for each player as well. But we now know the individual lag of each player and we just delay the game start for them by that amount. That will sync up their game play with the live stream.

Caveats:

  • If you are more than 30 seconds behind the live stream, you will not be synchronised. Your lag will be set to 0.
  • If your computer's clock is off, the measured time lag will be wrong. If it is less than 0 or more than 30 seconds, it will be set to 0.
  • In case your lag changes whilst the game is running, your synchronisation will drift.

Aren't you re-inventing the wheel?

There are indeed already online quiz games available that also support playing live games. Some examples are kahoot.com & myquiz.org. However, whilst these sites offer free plans, those are limited to only a few players (10 or so). To run a live event with hundreds of people, like the SGU is doing, would cost a substantial amount of money.
On top of that, since we are developing this together with the SGU, the system will support the specific requirements and wishes of the SGU and their audience.

Are you going to make the code open source?

Whilst the system will always be freely available to the SGU, we are currently still considering its commercial use. Until a decision on that has been reached and a business model defined, we are unlikely to release the code under an open source license.

What about accessibility?

We will make any feasible effort to make the site as accessible as we can. If you are facing specific challenges in that regard and would like to help us by being a tester, please contact the SGU on info@theskepticsguide.org.