2020 in Review: The Product and Trivia Itself (Pt 1 of 3)

Written by:
Collin Waldoch
Posted:
January 26, 2021

Collin from Water Cooler Trivia here. I’m one of the co-founders, and I’ve written about 6,000 trivia questions for the site.

New Year’s Day was three weeks ago, but at least we’re closer to January 1st than the folks who launch “2020 Wrapped” on December 1st each year, right? 

I wanted to jot down my thoughts on the past year — thoughts about our trivia product! And the business around it! And the technical side of WCT! It ended up wordy. Excellent, but wordy. 

So we’ve tri-furcated the year in review to three parts. 

The Product and the Trivia Itself

More than 5,000 groups submitted 1.7 million trivia responses to more than 6,000 unique questions this year. That’s a boat-load of data. So I strapped on the scuba mask and went diving. Here’s the four key takeaways.

  1. Folks Know Their Pop Culture (75% correct!)
  2. Customization Makes Things Personal and Pleasant
  3. 3 Hardest and 3 Easiest Questions of 2020
  4. Teams are Starved for Asynchronous Team Building

Learning 1: Folks Know Their Pop Culture (75% correct!)

We guarantee you’re never going to see a repeat question; it’s explicitly built into our software. If you’ve seen them all, no worries, we’ll just write some new ones specifically for your team. 

Each time we add a question, we include metadata. Specifically, we

  • Choose one of eight categories for the question
  • Note if the question is US-centric
  • (Sometimes) Add an expected expiration date of relevancy
  • Write a two-word alliterative phrase as a clue

We typically aim for ~70% correct on most questions, and we consider it a (very) personal failure when either 0% or 100% of participants get a question correct. 

The power of this metadata: we can see which categories are harder or easier for our weekly trivia participants. So here’s the % correct breakdown by category.

Pop Culture the easiest but Current Events the trickiest. Smack dab in the middle is Fine Arts.

Learning 2: Customization Makes Things Personal and Pleasant

Some people hate Fine Arts. That’s fine. Some can’t stand Sports. Also fine. Some people enjoy the challenge of getting only 30% of questions correct, some shrivel into a ball under their desk with that score. Specific, but still fine.

We want the weekly trivia quiz to be a great fit for each team, so we allow beaucoup customization options. Here’s a look at which customization settings groups are choosing. Increasingly popular is the ability to remove US-centric questions as an increasing share of teams using Water Cooler Trivia are based outside the US.

A settings page annotated with data? What more could a human want?

Learning 3: The Hardest and Easiest Trivia Questions of 2020

Want to know the easiest and hardest questions from this year? Me too. We asked over 6,000 different questions, but many were personalized for a single group. When we trim the list to only questions with at least 500 responses, we have 1,365 questions.

The three hardest questions from that list:

What is the name for a "flower" that is actually composed of thousands of flowers grouped together to form a single flower-like structure? The botanical term for this is a pseudanthium.

Answer: Composite Flowers (3% correct)

What did the U.S. Congress enact for almost ten months in 1974 to combat fuel shortages?

Answer: Daylight Savings Time(3% correct)

What is the name of the international Language Arts competition for students in grades 3 - 8 which has thrice-annual challenges of twenty analogies? The purpose is to learn a new set of vocabulary words.

Answer: WordMasters (5% correct)


And the three easiest questions:

Before the 1930s, airport codes were only two letters. As a result, some airports added the letter X to the end of the extant code, including what airport code in California?

Answer: LAX (98% correct)

What is the name of the position of the player whose primary responsibility is often considered throwing the football?

Answer: Quarterback (96% correct)

Downward dog, sun salutation, and plank are all poses in what increasingly-common practice?

Answer: Yoga (96% correct)

Don't tell the brain yet that there's not room for three. She'll be very disappointed.


If you knew any of the hardest questions, it’s time for you to sign up your team for Water Cooler Trivia so you can show off your oodles of trivial knowledge.

Learning 4. Teams are Starved for Asynchronous Team Building

We didn’t build Water Cooler Trivia for remote teams. In fact, we didn’t build it for in-person teams or “hybrid” teams either. We just built it for teams of all shapes and sizes. One reason we love trivia is that it doesn’t need to be logistically intensive. It’s an individual experience: sitting at a computer testing the knowledge in your noggin. Then when the results are released, it becomes a communal experience of sharing and celebrating. 

Office-land shifted virtual in 2020, and we saw a plethora of “virtual team building” activities and platforms sprout up in the wake. 

Our gut told us these activities — think Zoom happy hours — are meaningful but can become draining. More logistics and another block on the calendar.

By default, Water Cooler Trivia is asynchronous. Here’s the default schedule upon sign-up:

  • Quiz send at 9am Monday
  • Responses due by 7pm Monday
  • Results sent at 10am Tuesday

The quiz is open for 10 hours, so folks can submit answers over their first coffee of the week or as a lunch break activity. 

We data-spelunked to see if groups expand or compress the period during which the quiz is open.

 About half the time they don’t touch it (the 6-12 hour bar is the default). But if a group *does* adjust the timing, there’s a 90% chance they’re going to keep the quiz open for a longer period of time rather than a shorter period of time. 

Why? Folks like doing things on their own time. It’s an on-demand world these days, and team-building fun is no exception. Remote has accelerated tenfold this year, and we’re convinced that asynchronous is the next major workplace trend. 

One more thing we wondered: do teams prefer moving the weekly trivia ritual to later in the week? Turns out “mostly nope” as Monday remains the most common day for the quiz to be sent.

Up next: The Business Stuff

As a reminder