Regular readers will know that I like quizzes, and won’t be surprised to learn that I sat up till far too late last night playing “Test the Nation” – the “National Quiz About 2005″, to quote the BBC strapline for the show.

I have to say, it wasn’t my best “Test the Nation” score ever, but I didn’t really expect it to be: being about 2005, there were a lot of questions about films I haven’t seen – and probably never will – and so-called celebrities I’ve never heard of, and whom the world will probably have forgotten before their names penetrate my consciousness. But I didn’t do too badly on the news questions, and I made a few lucky guesses, and according to the programme’s lookup table, my 67% put me in the top 20% of the population, and only two right answers behind the highest-scoring team in the studio.

I still fume a bit at the way they present the statistics though: those in the studio, or playing online, have their scores entered into a database and used to calculate such detail as which of the nations of the UK are cleverest, where the smartest towns are, and so on. I’ve ranted before about how the differences are statistically insignificant, but the whole sampling premise is a bit dodgy too. They present the numbers as if they represented a fair cross-section of the population, rather than a fairly small, and specifically-targeted area. For a start, anyone who likes televised snooker would have been watching BBC2 last night, and I’m sure they’d have lowered the national average if they’d played.

Using the internet rules out entries from all those who don’t have it, and most of those using pay-as-you-go dial-up: even from those left, they’re only getting figures from people who are competitive enough to want their scores counted, and generally they’re going to be the keen quizzers who will tend to do well.

Still, it was a bit of fun, and more importantly I wrangled a blog out of it.

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