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#491417 - Tue Aug 18 2009 03:44 PM Tips for Authors: Time Dependency
Terry Online   FT-blank

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Registered: Wed Dec 31 1969
Posts: 17731
Loc: USA
Time Dependency & Date Stamping

A great deal of an editor's time goes into working with authors to fix the problems of Time Dependency and Date Stamping. Let's first detail what these are, and why we care about them.

Before we start, let begin out with this:

Our goal is for future submissions to abide by these rules. At points in the past our rules may have been looser, and I am sure you can point to a number of questions and quizzes that have "time dependency" issues. Just because you can point to such questions in the past does NOT mean we want to continue that in the future. Our goal is to always improve. Thank you for understanding.

1. Time Dependency is Not Allowed
    With over 1,000,000 questions online, it is difficult enough to deal with reports of inaccuracies and fix stylistic errors. The last thing that we want is to have a large number of well-formed questions becoming incorrect as time passes.

    It would create an enormous amount of extra work on our part if we had to update questions like "Who is the president of the United States?" every few years.

    Therefore, all questions on FunTrivia must be written in such a way that they will remain accurate as written for the foreseeable future.

    Other examples of poor, time dependent questions:

    Who holds the record for the most NHL goals?
    Who is Madonna married to?
    How many movies has George Lucas directed?

    Almost any question can be asked. You just need to think very carefully about your wording.

2. Date Stamping is Not Allowed
    It is very easy to turn any "time dependent" question into one that will never become stale by adding the words "As of 2002," or whatever the date is in front of it. "As of 2002, who was the president of the United States?" clearly won't go stale.

    While it is not stale, it is an awful sounding trivia question! Imagine how silly that will sound in 2013. A question like "As of 1987, how many records had Michael Jackson made?" sounds very strange in 2009.

    Date stamping like this is not allowed on FunTrivia, because it creates awkward sounding questions that are awkward to answer. Instead of using words to the effect of "As of," we try to find better ways to word questions to ensure that they will be enjoyable for years to come.

    Solutions

    * Use Past Tense to Avoid Many Problems

    Questions written in the present tense are most likely to cause time dependency problems. All of the following can cause problems:

    1. "Who is Bill married to?"
    2. "Which of these shows is running on the ABC network?"
    3. "What is the tallest building in the world?"

    By putting these into the past tense and finding some sort of event to peg their timing to, you can write better questions:

    1. "Who did Bill meet on the set of his movie, "Bill in Hawaii", and subsequently marry in 1988?" [Fixes the time problem AND is a lot more interesting!]

    2. "Which of these shows premiered on the ABC network?"

    3. "This skyscraper was completed in Dubai in 2009, overtaking the "Taipei 101" building by over 300 meters to become the tallest building in the world. What was this Dubai building called? "

    * Avoid Relative Time References

    "Next year", "last season", "currently", "in the last few years", "last year" are all disallowed because they will all be stale in the future.

    Questions like these should be rewritten to specify a specific year, or event pegged in time.

    Bad: "Who scored the most goals last season?"

    Rewrite: Better, but boring: "Who scored the most goals in the 2008 season?"

    Rewrite: Much Better: "This player scored a remarkable 30 points in the 2008 season while dealing with a serious leg injury. Which player was this?"

    * Change a Problematic Word:

    Time ticks on, and words such as "all-time", "best ever", "the only", "the record holder", "the man who" etc can quickly become stale. That all-time record can be broken. The only person to do it may soon share the distinction with someone else. Often these questions can be fixed with a simple change of the problematic word to allow the question to be enduring:

    If someone is the "only" someone to do something, then they are logically the first person to do it.

    Bad: "Who was the only player to score X goals in a game?" (may change)

    Rewrite: Good: "Who was the first player to score X goals in a game?"

    Bad: "Who is the all-time holder of the X record?" (may change)

    Rewrite: Good: "When he retired in 1988 from the New England Patriots, he held the record for X. Name the player."


Some Examples of Good and Bad Questions

    Bad: Who is the president of the USSR?

    Bad: As of 2003, what is the best selling album of all time?

    Good: "'21st Century Breakdown' was released in 2009. How many albums had Green Day released before that album?" This way, the question is pegged to an event that will be much easier for Green Day fans to remember than the year itself.

    Good: "The Chicago Cubs won two World Series championships in the twentieth century. When was the last of these victories?" The twentieth century is a natural time unit that players will have no trouble thinking in terms of, and is safely over -- so the question won't grow stale.

    Good: "Before the events of September 11, 2001, how many airplane hijackings ended in fatalities?" This is indeed stamped, but with a past event rather than with a current date. Furthermore, the past event is one that dramatically changed the way in which airplane hijackings were viewed; it makes intuitive sense to divide the field into a "before" and "after."

    Good: "In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which runner set a world record at 9.69 seconds in the 100-meter sprint?"

    Good: For a book: "This quiz deals with everything up to the end of book seven".


Edited by Terry (Tue Aug 18 2009 04:03 PM)

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#614810 - Wed Apr 13 2011 05:26 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: Terry]
Oidioid32123 Offline
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Good ideas Terry!

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#614821 - Wed Apr 13 2011 07:58 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: Oidioid32123]
skunkee Offline
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Registered: Thu Oct 16 2003
Posts: 8913
Loc: Burlington Ontario Canada  
While I concur wholeheartedly with everything Terry has said, I also want to point out that time dependency needs to be avoided in Interesting Information sections too.

In Movies we get a lot of comments like "He was nominated for seven Oscars but only won three." While that's not in the question, unless the actor in question is dead, he can always be nominated for and win another Oscar and then the quiz will invite Correction Notes.
If you want to name the movies he won Oscars for, that's great, because that's a fact that won't change.
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#615317 - Thu Apr 14 2011 12:14 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: skunkee]
shuehorn Offline
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Loc: Lawrenceville Georgia USA     
Good point, skunkee. Thanks for bringing this one up again as it is a good reminder for quiz makers.
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#615320 - Thu Apr 14 2011 12:49 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: shuehorn]
ladymacb29 Offline
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Loc: The Delta Quadrant
My favorite tip is instead of saying only, use first. Only can change with time but what was first can never change.
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#615350 - Thu Apr 14 2011 02:14 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: ladymacb29]
salami_swami Offline
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Registered: Thu Nov 01 2007
Posts: 8188
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May I also add, for movies or books or something...

If you write a question about a movie or tv show or whatever that is NOT already out, still pretend it already has.

For instance, if I were to write a question about the movie "Rio", which does not come out until tomorrow, I would NOT write the following...

"Rio" will arrive at theaters on April 15, 2011.

That will already be stale in a few days. Instead, you should write it like this...

"Rio" was released in theaters on April 15, 2011.

Notice that I used past tense, even though it hasn't happened yet. Yes, it may be a big awkward to read now, but for years and years after, it will be perfectly acceptable and fine to read.

Another huge example that I have often seen in quizzes; 'Where will the 2012 Olympics take place?" Since the location is known years ahead of time, this is often a fact used in quizzes. However, after these Olympics, it is nice to see it say "Where DID the 2012 Olympics take place?" It will seem odd until it has happened, but since, no matter how far ahead you go in the future to ask a question, there will always be more time AFTER the event than before. So it is ALWAYS best to use past tense.

smile Just my two cents.
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#615352 - Thu Apr 14 2011 02:23 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: salami_swami]
ladymacb29 Offline
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However, you still shouldn't put something in the past tense that hasn't happened yet in case it doesn't happen.

For the Olympics example, you should ask what country was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

For the movie, maybe say what year the movie was filmed?
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#615374 - Thu Apr 14 2011 04:56 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: ladymacb29]
salami_swami Offline
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Deleted so as not to confuse smile


Edited by salami_swami (Thu Apr 14 2011 07:18 PM)
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#615397 - Thu Apr 14 2011 05:36 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: salami_swami]
jmorrow Offline
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Actually, the Movies category doesn't allow questions about films that have not been released yet, so this issue shouldn't arise.

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#615422 - Thu Apr 14 2011 06:44 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: salami_swami]
ladymacb29 Offline
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Posts: 15421
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Originally Posted By: salami_swami
True, LadyMacB. Perhaps a quick edit could always be done... You could ask what country was AWARDED the 2012 Olympics, then later on, you could tweak it to say "who hosted"... wink lol.


Yes, but we don't encourage changes made to quizzes after they are online as the editors would then have to re-edit the quiz. And that's not even taking into account if the quiz is archived.
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#683195 - Sun Jan 22 2012 07:33 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: ladymacb29]
nautilator Offline
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Registered: Mon Jan 09 2012
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Loc: Pennsylvania USA
Is there an official policy on potentially but rarely changeable time-dependent facts? Like 'what is the largest country in Africa?' -- that's that sort of thing that could (and does) change over time, but very rarely.

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#683199 - Sun Jan 22 2012 09:21 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: nautilator]
looney_tunes Offline
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But it does change, and has meant that a number of quizzes have needed overhauls - both largest country in Africa and Libya's green flag are currently cropping up and needing correction. It is better to avoid anything that could be foreseen as possibly changing. Refering to a category in which I edit, Literature, an author who has died can probably have their body of work considered complete, and treated as such. (Note I say probably, as posthumous publication does occur.) A living author who says they have finished writing a series, however, cannot be trusted to do so.
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#683200 - Sun Jan 22 2012 09:27 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: looney_tunes]
ozzz2002 Offline
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Loc: Sydney NSW Australia        
On the other hand, the unforseen sometimes happens. When the planet Pluto was demoted, dozens of questions were immediately rendered as incorrect. Also, when Queen Elizabeth passes away, I can imagine that there will be many corrections needed.

A 'trick' that I recommend- read your quiz as if the current date is sometime in the year 2030. Questions like 'Where will the 2020 Olympics be held?' will look rather silly and will need to be adjusted accordingly.
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#683204 - Sun Jan 22 2012 10:12 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: ozzz2002]
kyleisalive Offline
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Posts: 5655
Loc: Toronto, Canada, eh!
Quote:
A living author who says they have finished writing a series, however, cannot be trusted to do so.


Stephen King's 'Dark Tower' comes to mind. Expect an eighth book in the next year or so.
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#683292 - Mon Jan 23 2012 12:23 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: kyleisalive]
JanIQ Offline
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Any question as "the first one to" will be fine forever. Unless HG Wells strikes with his Time Machine...
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#683294 - Mon Jan 23 2012 12:42 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: JanIQ]
salami_swami Offline
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I had to look up the Libyan flag... I had no idea it has changed within the past year. That is a favorite fact for many; that Libya's flag is 100% green.... We'll have to start saying that it USED TO BE completely green. wink

And as far as posthumous works, Stiegg Larson's "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" series comes to mind. wink
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#683548 - Tue Jan 24 2012 10:34 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: JanIQ]
shuehorn Offline
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Originally Posted By: JanIQ
Any question as "the first one to" will be fine forever. Unless HG Wells strikes with his Time Machine...


smile Let's hope that doesn't happen in our quiz-writing careers.
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#685457 - Mon Jan 30 2012 08:10 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: shuehorn]
elvis99 Offline
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Registered: Wed Dec 08 2004
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Loc: Fort St John BC Canada        
who ever reads this first i am wondering about old tv shows and old movies for example
i have wached a movie called the ghost train on youtube it is a full lenght feature on you tube there is another called the last days of the dinosaur on youtube

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#685458 - Mon Jan 30 2012 08:13 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: elvis99]
kyleisalive Offline
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Loc: Toronto, Canada, eh!
If the movie received a release way-back-when there should be no problems with it. The same goes for TV shows-- if it aired at some point, we'll likely be fine with it.

Since the shows were aired and the movies were released, there is no likelihood of them changing over time.


Edited by kyleisalive (Mon Jan 30 2012 08:14 PM)
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#685522 - Tue Jan 31 2012 02:56 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: kyleisalive]
mehaul Offline
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Loc: Florida USA
A question in this form is in the current run of New Questions:
Name - known internationally - is married to xxxxx of which country, who took office in ddmmyy?

Doesn't that "is married" part violate the time dependency rule? At some point they may divorce or one may get widowed/widowered.

Wouldn't:
xxxxx, married to internationally known Name, took office of which country in ddmmyy?
make it right?


Edited by mehaul (Tue Jan 31 2012 05:56 AM)
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#685537 - Tue Jan 31 2012 04:16 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: mehaul]
looney_tunes Offline
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Did you send a correction note about the time dependency? You are right that such a statement may change in the future, but the editors in the relevant category may be prepared to live with that, or it may be an oversight in the pressure of editing so much material. In either case, if you send a correction note an editor will take another close look at the question.
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#685551 - Tue Jan 31 2012 06:24 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: mehaul]
dg_dave Offline
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Registered: Sun Oct 05 2003
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Loc: Dallas, TX USA              
Originally Posted By: mehaul
Wouldn't:
xxxxx, married to internationally known Name, took office of which country in ddmmyy?
make it right?


I'd think that is still possibly time-dependent. A better way to write it would be:

Jane Doe, who married John Doe in (insert past year here), took office of which country on (insert date here)?

This way if they do divorce, we can't go back and say, "Oh, they got married in (example) 1991, and divorced in (example) 2011. Now the question doesn't read right since they are currently divorced." The year 1991, using the example, was 21 years ago, and no one can change what happened.

I'll add two names to the above to show what I am referring to:

"Bruce Willis, married to Demi Moore, took office of which country in (example) October 1999?"

Using the example date above, the two were married then. They are no longer together, and you'd be getting CNs on it as it is written above, saying they aren't married.
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#685567 - Tue Jan 31 2012 08:22 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: dg_dave]
shuehorn Offline
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Registered: Tue Jul 04 2006
Posts: 2998
Loc: Lawrenceville Georgia USA     
And if you want to avoid the start date for whatever reason, you could reword it as follows:


"Bruce Willis, while married to Demi Moore, made the movie XXX with so-and-so in October 1999"

The use of "while" just means that the two conditions overlapped at some time in the past and makes no claims about their still being married.


Edited by shuehorn (Tue Jan 31 2012 08:23 AM)
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#685621 - Tue Jan 31 2012 11:32 AM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: shuehorn]
bloomsby Offline
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Registered: Sun Apr 29 2001
Posts: 3628
Loc: Norwich England UK            
The simplest two tips are as follows:

1. Avoid anything that must become out-of-date in the foreseeable future, like 'Who holds the record for ...?' This is inevitable in any competitive activity.
2. Please look at all questions from the point of view of players and ask yourselves, 'What will this question look like one, two, five years from now?'

Editor, History and People


Edited by bloomsby (Tue Jan 31 2012 11:33 AM)

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#685652 - Tue Jan 31 2012 02:33 PM Re: Tips for Authors: Time Dependency [Re: bloomsby]
mehaul Offline
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Registered: Wed Feb 03 2010
Posts: 5188
Loc: Florida USA

DG,
Jane Doe, who married John Doe in (insert past year here), took office of which country on (insert date here)?
says Jane was the office holder

Bruce Willis, married to Demi Moore, took office of which country in (example) October 1999?"
Exactly matches
xxxxx, married to internationally known Name, took office of which country in ddmmyy?

Sue (have to makesure it's not spanish liz he he he),
"Bruce Willis, while married to Demi Moore, made the movie XXX with so-and-so in October 1999"
There is no third so and so in the mix.
Did you mean:
"Bruce Willis, while married to Demi Moore, (made the movie XXX)took office (with so-and-so) in which country in October 1999"
Again same as
xxxxx, married to internationally known Name, took office of which country in ddmmyy?

Bloomsby,
It is a question of matching person (xxxx) to place (country) at a certain time (mmddyy), no competition involved. The addition of a wife into the mix adds a second level of time stamping to the question which should never have been allowed and is corrected by placing the relation into a stand alone clause (married to) which eliminates the need to time stamp the relationship.
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