back to article Technology quiz reveals that nobody including quiz drafters knows anything about IT

A terrifying new quiz has indicated that the state of knowledge among Americans regarding IT topics is abysmally low: but the questions are such as to indicate that even the drafters of the quiz didn't know much. The quiz in question is one from Pew Research, intended to find out "What Internet Users Know about Technology and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well I got 12/12

    What a terrible survey

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I didn't

      I got 10 (without reading the whole article first). Still I love the line:

      America: Only slightly worse than a bunch of monkeys guessing at random.

  2. chuckufarley

    Everyone in the USA...

    ...knows that the internet is for porn. And cat videos. Anything else is not a first world problem.

  3. LaeMing Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I assume this quiz was made up

    by the same people who make up those quizzes for Cosmo.

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Re: I assume this quiz was made up

      And Facebook. Actually, I'm a bit surprised they didn't trial there first. Maybe (although it's unlikely) because Facebook was thought to be an unrepresentative demographic.

  4. Ken Y-N

    9 out of 12

    I didn't know that Zuckerberg went to Harvard, but I read that question as meaning "Which was the first university to have an official public presence on Facebook?" not "Which university's students was Facebook first made available to?"

  5. Dunhill
    Unhappy

    missing the boat

    not really internet questions

    i don't use failbook and twatter so i can go wrong already with 3 questions

    i never was inspired by an i-thingy so what do i care what year it was invented and what does this have to do with internet?

    real questions are not really there , just a few

    made 9 out of 12

    but my real internet knowledge from the beginning up was not tested at all

    but what can you expect in an age where almost every kiddo thinks that f.b. is THE internet :(

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: missing the boat

      And everyone over the age of 30 thinks Google is the Internet. <sigh>

      1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: missing the boat

        And everyone over 50 misses Gopher...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Unhappy

          Re: missing the boat

          I'm not over 50.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Not a contradiction. No mention was made of people under 50, only people over 50.

  6. werdsmith Silver badge

    Of no consequence

    Most of those question just don't matter. I had not heard of Sheryl Sandberg until I read this article, why should I?

    I doubt that there will be a tech crisis because people don't know the date that the first iPhone appeared.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Of no consequence

      Exactly - this is the typical worthless trivia drivel game shows care so much to put on display and reward: doesn't matter what it is about as long as it's guaranteed to be useless for making any vaguely important decision about anything. That's what we want people to keep their minds occupied with after all, otherwise some of them might actually start thinking for themselves and asking uncomfortable questions, innit...

    2. Tim Bates

      Re: Of no consequence

      "I doubt that there will be a tech crisis because people don't know the date that the first iPhone appeared."

      Even people who queued up to buy the first model wouldn't remember what year that was by now... Unless some other significant event happened around the same time.

      Seems odd someone's "web IQ" would be based on the knowledge of the past and present CEOs of random tech companies.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Of no consequence

      I had not heard of Sheryl Sandberg until I read this article, why should I?

      And if you had, why should you be able to identify her by sight? The quiz is monumentally stupid and ill-conceived, but those two questions are the worst of the lot. (Not to mention inaccessible to visually-impaired users.)

      Pew should fire whoever's behind this particular piece of rubbish. It's that bad. And the statistical analysis presented in the Pew article adds insult to injury, pretending the data captured by this survey means anything at all.

  7. D@v3

    10/12

    Apparently, I didn't answer the question about twitter, didn't know the one about the Facebook uni (guessed Stanford, Harvard seemed too obvious)

    Would have been slightly less, had I not read the article, didn't know the one about Mosaic, also had no idea who the woman was. In my defence, not because she is a woman, but because she works for facebook. I also would probably not recognise the higher ups from many other tech firms.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: 10/12

      10/12

      No idea who that woman is and to be honest she is not an important figure so I don't knwo why should would be known.

      I thought that Privacy Policy question was a trick question !

      1. thondwe

        Re: 10/12

        PDF question also dubious - I'm pretty sure there's at least one e-mail client on some device somewhere which can't send an attachment!

        1. Conrad Longmore
          Coat

          Re: 10/12

          Even on an ancient system you could probably UUENCODE it and send it in the body text.

          I think I am being pedantic though.

        2. Gordon 11

          Re: 10/12

          PDF question also dubious - I'm pretty sure there's at least one e-mail client on some device somewhere which can't send an attachment!
          It didn't say it had to be readable at the other end, so you could send it as the body, rather than the attachment.

          Then again, it's easy to write a mail client which will only take keyboard input (just as some Unix passwd commands only take keyboard input - not command-line redirects) , so couldn't send any file (even a text one).

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: 10/12

            Then again, it's easy to write a mail client which will only take keyboard input (just as some Unix passwd commands only take keyboard input - not command-line redirects) , so couldn't send any file (even a text one).

            Bah. Uuencode it and enter the data by hand. That's what we did in the old days. Not like today's lazy point-and-click users.

            No doubt that's what the authors had in mind when they anticipated such objections. Which they surely did, for such a well-crafted study.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: 10/12

            Then again, it's easy to write a mail client which will only take keyboard input (just as some Unix passwd commands only take keyboard input - not command-line redirects) , so couldn't send any file (even a text one).

            Even systems that take keyboard input from a hard-wired terminal only can send files, although it may take quite a bit of effort, and not all options may be available to Joe Random User. You could for instance UUencode the file, send it to the puncher on the ASR33, start the mail program, read back the punch tape and hey presto, you've got it ready to send. Or even UUencode by hand (the algorithm is not that difficult) and just type the lines as you encode them.

        3. VinceH Silver badge

          Re: 10/12

          "PDF question also dubious"

          What PDF question?

          1: WWW vs Internet

          2: Twitter vs 140 characters

          3: Moore's Law vs transistors

          4: Privacy policy vs confidential data

          5: First popular graphical web browser

          6: Photo of Billy Gates

          7: Photo of Sheryl Sandberg (I'm presuming a sandberg would sink a camel if its name was Titanic)

          8: iPhone year of release

          9: Kilobyte vs megabyte

          10: Net neutrality

          11: First university on Facebook

          12: What does URL stand for

          (12/12 - but I only answered number 7 correctly because she was mentioned in the article.)

          I wonder if its varying the questions for some reason - perhaps randomly [tries again... same questions], or perhaps if earlier questions are answered incorrectly [tries again, getting them all wrong... same questions].

          Odd.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: 10/12

            > I wonder if its varying the questions for some reason

            Yes, I imagine it is, and it's probably setting a cookie to fix the set that you see. I didn't get a question about where hashtags were used, f'rinstance.

            Quizzes like this are like the glossy magazine equivalent: a bit of fun for the participants. If anyone is basing any sort of decisions on the results, they're insane, especially since one could lie in the demographics section. I'd like to see the results for centennarians.

            1. jcitron

              Re: 10/12

              "...Quizzes like this are like the glossy magazine equivalent: a bit of fun for the participants. If anyone is basing any sort of decisions on the results, they're insane, ..."

              This is something some hairbrained HR director would probably do.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: 10/12

            I wonder if its varying the questions for some reason

            On the results page they show the scores to 15 questions, so they are indeed varying

  8. adnim Silver badge
    Meh

    question 4

    Is that a trick question?

    1. A Known Coward

      Re: question 4

      No

  9. AMBxx Silver badge
    FAIL

    People daft enough to click on a link in an email

    Nuff said

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: People daft enough to click on a link in an email

      Beat me to it, AMBxx.

      Totally useless "quiz" ... unless you need/want yet another outfit to completely ignore as being meaningless in the great scheme of things.

  10. frank ly

    "The quiz in question is ..."

    questionable and quizzical?

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Nothing about the NSA?

    Some guy said something bad about your telecommunications. Who was it?

    1) Bush

    2) Croyden

    3) Shut up and vote

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    8/12

    At least 4 of the questions had f-all to do with IT knowledge. That's my excuse, anyway.

  13. I_am_Chris

    12/12

    Although, I wouldn't have known who that Facebook exec was without reading this article first.

    Given that <1% of respondents got 12 right, I'd say the quiz was pitched at the right level and yes El Reg you're being harsh :)

    Given the BBC has to explain what IP addresses are regarding the latest anti-terror bill tells you everything about general internet knowledge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: 12/12

      But why should most people know about IP addresses? It's for the most part hidden and never needed. If it was't for my job, I'd doubt I would know.

      Ask someone to find the brake servo in a car or the carbon brushes on a washing machine, you would get equally blank looks, yet they are essential parts of each device, hidden away until they go wrong and you need to either find out yourself and fix or get an "expert" to fix it for you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 12/12

        Ask someone to find the brake servo in a car or the carbon brushes on a washing machine, you would get equally blank looks

        I think that's the point though. This whole "technology" quiz issue smacks of old-timer grease-monkeys complaining about a "cars" pop-quiz which contains only questions about celebrities, upholstery, and release years - nothing about torque, brake servos, hansel sprockets, etc..

        1. Uffish

          Re: hansel sprockets

          Ok, I give up - where are the hansel sprockets on my car?

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: hansel sprockets

            Where exactly is the Flux Capacitor ?

          2. garden-snail
            Go

            Re: hansel sprockets

            Driving the Gretel chain, obviously.

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: hansel sprockets

              get an "expert" to fix it for you

              For some reason, no-one expects the car fix to happen in the next 10 minutes ("that's all the time I have") and to be thrown in for free ("make a commercial gesture, here"). This is followed by "what is antivirus"?

              Fuck all those people.

          3. jake Silver badge

            @ Uffish (was: Re: hansel sprockets)

            "where are the hansel sprockets on my car?"

            Between the radiator springs and the chrome reverse muffler bearings. Unfortunately, you have to access them with a left-handed angle grinder, and a metric pipe wrench.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: 12/12

          This whole "technology" quiz issue smacks of old-timer grease-monkeys complaining about a "cars" pop-quiz which contains only questions about celebrities, upholstery, and release years - nothing about torque, brake servos, hansel sprockets, etc..

          Read the Pew article. They're claiming the quiz data measures something called "Web IQ" (already a clear indication it's meaningless, to anyone capable of critical thinking - but so many aren't), and they present various statistical analyses and conclusions. If they're going to take it seriously, they deserve the criticism.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: 12/12

            If they're going to take it seriously, they deserve the criticism. getting fed to 4chan.

            FTFY

  14. James 51 Silver badge

    No chance people fed the wrong answers in for a laugh?

  15. Professor Clifton Shallot

    The Moore's Law question result ...

    ... is for me the most interesting thing about this. As the article points out complete ignorance ought to lead to a 50-50 split so to have more than two-thirds of answers wrong is significant.

    I'd love to know if people thought they knew what Moore's law was but were wrong, if they just thought transistors had nothing to do with computers (because they are in old radios?), or what.

    1. fandom

      Re: The Moore's Law question result ...

      They may have thought it had something to do with the speed of the CPU, it seems to be a common misconception.

      1. yoganmahew

        Re: The Moore's Law question result ...

        But the 'law' is double the number or an increase in efficiency. The question made no reference to an increase in efficiency, so I thought it was wrong?

    2. James Cullingham

      Re: The Moore's Law question result ...

      Even if they had looked up the answer to this one it is easy to be led astray. If, for instance, you visit mooreslaw.org — a site which certainly sounds authoritative — and the home page is headed "Moore's Law, or How overall processing power for computers will double every two years".

      The text then states:

      "Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated around 1970; the simplified version of this law states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years. A quick check among technicians in different computer companies shows that the term is not very popular but the rule is still accepted.

      "To break down the law even further, it specifically stated that the number of transistors on an affordable CPU would double every two years (which is essentially the same thing that was stated before) but ‘more transistors’ is more accurate."

      So if you don't read very far you will be considerably misled. No wonder people are confused.

      At least Wikipedia is more helpful.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Meh

    9/12

    ie: I got the ones requiring knowledge about american people wrong.

    I would expect from the title that the quiz be a bit more technical.

  17. retardism

    >It was conducted among a supposedly representative group of 1,066 American internet users earlier this year, by means of emailing them a link to the questionnaire.

    Anyone dumb enough to click on any link that comes in through an email gets an automatic F for internet knowledge.

  18. foxyshadis

    Trivia in, trivia out?

    Now let's see what the NYT crossword completion percentage is among the same crowd complaining about the low test results. After all, that's just a collection of basic facts, too....

  19. tfewster Silver badge
    Happy

    This is good!

    The high numbers of correct responses to the Net Neutrality, definition of URL and sizes questions is encouraging. As is the similarities between segments, i.e. sex, education and age. Bearing in mind that they surveyed normal people, not techies, and it's a very positive result.

    Slightly worrying is the number of people who still fall for the "Privacy Policy" con.

    I think the most of the rest of the questions fall into the "whatever" category. Even the distinction between the Internet and the WWW isn't something you often _need_ to know as a user, Apps handle that for you ;-)

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: This is good!

      Oh, please. It's not a "positive result" at all - it's completely meaningless. The design of the survey and the testing methodology are abysmal. The only thing this study demonstrates is that Pew Research is willing to produce and publish utter garbage - which is a pity, because they also do some decent research, and this sort of crap just muddies the water.

  20. A Known Coward

    9/12

    I don't use twitter, why is knowing the character limit important and who cares?

    Who the hell is Sheryl Sandberg? Internet leader?? Non-entity more like.

    Again, I don't use Facebook, I don't care about Facebook or it's history. I saw "The Social Network" but I guess it was a forgettable film as I don't remember much about it.

    The iPhone answer was just a lucky guess. What does that have to do with the the 'Web'?

    So does that make me an internet ingnoramous? I mean I'm apparently one of just 9% who used Mosaic in the early nineties, but I know less about the internet and WWW than someone whose total experience comes from the Twitter and Facebook apps on their iPhone?

    Where are the real questions? These are just trivial fluff.

  21. Misky
    Alien

    Odd Choice

    What an odd choice of questions. From the obscure Browser question to the inane iPhone question. Did they write hundreds of question on raffle tickets then pick 12 out of a hat?

    1. garden-snail
      FAIL

      Re: Odd Choice

      I would hardly call Mosaic an "obscure browser". It was the first browser in popular use, and it credited with single-handedly popularising the World Wide Web.

      It may no longer be in development, but it's achieved legendary status in the history of the WWW, and has had (and continues to have) a profound impact on the way we access information in the modern day.

      In a supposedly tech-savvy quiz, I'd say the phrase "NCSA Mosaic" has a similar level of relevance to the phrase "Tim Berners-Lee".

    2. Tim Bates

      Re: Odd Choice

      "From the obscure Browser question"

      Internet Explorer started life as Mosaic redressed... That said, the question is a bit odd in a 12 question general internet knowledge quiz. I'd have expected more questions about cookies, email and other such everyday things, not a corporate name guessing game.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Odd Choice

        Internet Explorer started life as Mosaic redressed

        IE began as a rebranded Spyglass browser. The Spyglass code base came from Mosaic (Spyglass was the commercialization arm for NCSA UIUC), but IE wasn't taken from Mosaic directly.

        Originally Microsoft planned to buy the BookLink browser, but AOL got to it first.

        As far as the quiz goes, I knew the answer to that question (I used Mosaic, and the original CERN www client, back before Netscape existed), and I still think it's idiotic. It's a bit of IT trivia that's useful for historians and of interest to nerds but has no bearing on a practical understanding of the web and Internet.

        Of course, neither do most of the other questions, which is one reason why this study is complete crap.

  22. Alan Edwards

    12 out of 12

    I got them all right, given my job it would be a bit embarrassing if I didn't.

    I did cheat slightly because the article mentioned Cheryl Sandberg - I knew it wasn't Marissa Meyer, it would have been between Sandberg and Huffington.

    The privacy policy one was tricky, the policy can say 'we put all your information out in public', so long as it's the policy it counts.

    Seriously, 1% of respondents got none right?

  23. William Boyle

    Gah!

    IT knowledge? Not even close! More like a test for iPhone users on popular / current social (mis)information.

  24. cortland

    Were those questions

    about IT?

    FWIW, Moore's law isn't, strictly, about the number of devices, but the rate at which that number grows. IT isn't much about that, either, but what we do with what we've got. IMO, OMG, YMMV et cvm spirtvvs Vodka. Amen.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds familiar

    Again, only 28 per cent (in a similar True/False question) were aware that the World Wide Web and the internet are not the same thing.

    Were they exclusively polling British MPs?

  26. Eponymous Cowherd
    Happy

    0/12

    It's much more fun trying to get them all wrong.....

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Methodology?

    Send random people a link... they go and take a test. So, not the brightest folks for hitting the link in the first place. I wonder if the email addy's of those who hit the link were sent to Lagos for "processing"?

    1. WorsleyNick

      Re: Methodology?

      Those who click on a link in an e-mail from an unknown source deserve everything they get, however having been on a survey panel that is not how it works.

      The survey company knows quite a lot about the members of the panel. They selected a representative sample from their survey panel and contacted them asking them to log into their accounts, but not via a link in the e-mail.

      That said, I thought the quiz was banal or irrelevant. I knew the answer to the Twitter question, precisely because it is one of the reasons that IMHO believe is useless.

      Why should I be able to recognise a face in a pretty awful photograph of an executive of Farcebook.

      URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Hmm does that mean that if you know what it stands for, you understand its use and why it is used?

      and so on.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Methodology?

      Their methodology is crap, but it wasn't "send random people a link". From the Pew article:

      The survey was conducted by the GfK Group using KnowledgePanel, its nationally representative online research panel

      In other words, someone at Pew (I'm thinking an intern, or some manager's nephew) came up with a bunch of questions1 - possibly during a bout of drunkenness. They then contracted out to GfK, which sent them to their stable of captive test-takers.

      1We know there are more than twelve, at least in the version attached to the article, and respondents appear to get a randomized subset. See discussion on page 1 of the comments.

    3. jcitron

      Re: Methodology?

      Yup and it's the same people that click these links that drive us IT support folks crazy as they download malware then complain their machines infected and can't get any work done.

      When AOL was king of the land, they were the ones that would send attachments of attachments with attachments of more attachments to their fellow AOL users. These were the messages of pictures of stupid stuff and cutesy puppy dogs with big eyes.

      Nothing has changed. The poll just shows the common perception of computer technology as more and more less than technology savvy people have been using it.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PRESS 'ANY' KEY TO CONTINUE

    Always thought it was one of those 'urban myths' that the Americans were phoning up the Microsoft helpline to ask them where the 'Any' key was on the keyboard...apparently not!

  30. Bucky 2

    Just a Facebook game

    It's obviously not a serious study.

    It's like that Facebook quiz that rates you an "Art History Major" because you can identify the Mona Lisa and the Creation of Adam.

    My best guess is that the creators of the quiz were surprised by their results and published them, but as everyone here has observed, it was just a list of questions created for entertainment purposes--not a scientific inquiry.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Just a Facebook game

      It's obviously not a serious study.

      It's serious if someone of any importance treats it as such, and the Pew article makes it clear that they're going to pretend it's valid and useful. Dismissing this sort of crap as a game just encourages bogus research.

  31. cortland

    The winner is...

    It's not about IT.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Selection bias. Only people stupid enough to click the link in a spamvertisement survey took part.

  33. This post has been deleted by its author

  34. Nick London
    Coat

    They got Moore's law wrong.

    Moore's Law as stated above by James relates to the rate of change of transistor density; not as the question states "to how many transistors can be put on a computer chip".

    As an engineer, not an IT perso,n rate of change and how many are very different concepts.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    USA! USA!

    12/12

    7 was elimination & guesswork. I'd seen Whitman and Mayer before.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @AC (Was: Re: USA! USA!)

      C'mon, AC. You are letting down the side. That was a year and a half ago.

      Seriously, rest-of-the-world, not all of us Yanks are fucking idiots.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EPIC FAIL

    How anyone in this era of search engines can manage to get answers wrong is completely and utterly beyond me....

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