Who Wants to be a Millionaire - easy way to help win?

I was watching ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ (I usually don’t) and I realized that if I ever went on I would have a big advantage over the people who keep calling friends or family members who don’t know the answer either.

I would simply make sure that all the people I might call for my lifeline had internet access. A quick google search would answer almost all the questions I saw on the show. On one of them the contestant took so much time that I had time to discuss what the answer might be with my wife, then walk to my computer room, look it up, and have the answer before the contestant made his guess.

A report that tried how successful this would be can found here. They used Ask Jeeves though, the fools…

But anyway, that’s irrelevant. The important bit in this report is found at the end:

They may prohibit it, but how do they enforce it? Do they send people to the house of everyone on their list?

I agree that using Ask Jeeves is dumb. The trick is picking out what the important words are in the question and searching for them, on the example that took too long from that article I just typed ‘1980 olympic boycott’ in google.com and had the answer immediately.

But did you “pick out what the important words were in the question” over the telephone, type them into Google, search for them and get the answer, all within 30 seconds?

Thought not.

Come back and tell us all about it when you win that million.

I’ve seen them try this tactic, and it ultimately fails. The contestant spends so much time care-full-ly read-ing the ques-tion and all of its pos-sib-le an-swers in-clu-ding spel-ling, that the 30 seconds is up before the friend can hit Enter.

What gets me is some of the questions and answers are so long themselves that it takes 30 seconds just to say them. And then the friends make them repeat. By the time they are all ready to say their answer, the clock is at 1 second and all you hear is a mumble.

Having been a contestant on WWTBAM (I never made it to the hot seat, so all this was moot for my phone-a-friends), I can tell you that nobody was monitoring my phone-a-friends, and nobody told them that it was illegal to use reference books or the Internet.

So there’s nothing to prevent phone-a-friends from having a dictionary, encyclopedia, almanac, or laptop computer with them. Some of my friends DID have such items ready to use.

However, as a PRACTICAL matter, I doubt whether those things would have helped much. 30 seconds simply isn’t a very long time. I don’t recommend that anybody waste time experimenting, but… if you were to log on, and bring up Google (or whatever other search engine you like), then wait for a phone call, and then try to do a fast search based on what you hear over the phone, I bet you’d have a VERY hard time finding the right answer and getting it to your friend within 30 seconds.

Remember, the phone-a-friend isn’t watching the TV screen. All he/she has to go on is what you say on the phone. It may take the contestant you ten seconds to read off the question and the possible answers, and the guy at the computer 5 seconds to process what he’s been told, a few more seconds to type in the right keywords, a few more seconds for Google to spit back websites that might contain the right answer…

The contestant MIGHT get lucky that way. SImilarly, if a phone friend waited at home with a huge Merriam-Webster dictionary on his lap, he MIGHT have enough time to find a definition within 30 seconds. But the odds aren’t good.

Better to pick a phone friend you think might know the answer off the top of his head than one with reference materials, or even a computer.

Another conversation with Jeeves:

Me: Hello, Jeeves. Do you want to be a millionaire?

Jeeves: How can I become a millionaire?

Me: All you gotta do is feed me the answer to a question when I ask you. I’ll split the cash I win with you.

Jeeves: Where can I find encyclopedic resouces on currency?

Me: No, dude. I’ll ask the questions. You answer them.

Jeeves: Post my question for other people to answer: “No, dude. I’ll ask the questions. You answer them.”

Me: Look, are you in or not?

Jeeves: Opine Bovine: What a Silly Cow

Me: Hey, screw you! I don’t need to be insulted.

Jeeves: Reprisal – Part Two

Me: Will you help me be a millionaire or not?

Jeeves: Who wants to be a Millionaire?

Me: Ha, ha. You’re not gonna help me, are you?

Jeeves: Queen song lyrics

Me: That’s it?

Jeeves: Paws Come With Claws - That’s One Of Natures Laws

Me: Man, you are a totally lame search engine.

Jeeves: Where can I find comparisons and reviews of search engines?

Me: I don’t think you want to know, buddy.

Jeeves: Where can I see photographs of friends?

Me: Why do you insist on answering a question with a question?

Jeeves: Why do you insist on answering – Talk Miamisburg Forum

Me: You’re just a barrel of monkeys, aren’t you?

Jeeves: If you’re so smart, Doctor, why aren’t you rich?

Me: Because I can’t win a million bucks without your help!

Jeeves: Where can I find scores for the NBA team Milwaukee bucks?

Me: Oh, f–k off.

Jeeves: Your search is likely to return adult content.

The rules were updated when Michael Davies concluded there was no way to enforce a prohibition against Net connections. In fact, they actually recommend it now. I had 2 of mine logged on, with Google open, but the one I used didn’t have to resort to it.

Obviously, the contestant would have to think of the right keywords before announcing intent to use that lifeline. The 30 second limit is in real time in the studio - once the contestant gives the name, there’s no tape stoppage until the call is over.

I’ve seen a couple of times when I was almost positive that there were more than one person on the other end of the phone. The contestant read off the question and answers and the guy on the phone repeated the question and each answer as he said it, then it sounded like people in the background were talking, and then the friend told the contestant the answer. The contestant said, “are you sure?” The friend replied, “Yes, we’re sure.” :rolleyes:

That’s OK too, Dignan, as long as only one predesignated person does all the talking. There’s no way to enforce a rule against that, either.

Regis said it was alright for someone to use a computer to find the answers.

However, this is a better idea. Assume the questions come in sets of four, 1-4, 5-8 etc. Each set has A-D only once. Therefore, if the answers were, a, b, d, then the next one is almost always c if it appears in that SET of four. I saw this pattern for the first 200 shows, I don’t know if they changed it.

There was once a case where this was attempted on the American show.

The question was, What was Carol’s maiden name on The Brady Bunch? The phone-a-friend then proceeded to type “carol brady maiden name” into a search engine. She didn’t get a result by the time 30 seconds was up.

. o O (“carol brady maiden name” was an extremely popular search that night. Lycos reports that the week of April 28, 2001, the search was more popular than “Michael Jordan” or “South Park.”)

. o O (Carol Brady’s maiden name was Tyler.)

[sub]ASCII pop-up bubble design inspired by “Pop-Up Millionaire Recap,” created by Dean Scungio for alt.tv.game-shows. Inspired by “Pop-Up Video,” ©Viacom International, Inc.[/sub]

Seems to me that the most efficient way to leverage the Internet isn’t to have one guy sitting in front of Google. The best strategy is to have your phone-a-friend be a really fast typist; as they hear you read the question and the answers, they enter them into the chat-room send line, bit by bit, so the fifty or so carefully selected Straight Dopers also in the chat room can respond. It’s basically a “poll the audience” thing, where Dopers hit back with “B! C! No, B!”, except, of course, that fifty Dopers will be twice as smart as the entire studio audience.

Drawbacks: The fifty Dopers will want a cut of the winnings, naturally, for their trouble. Also, if you waste the phone-a-friend on a really stupid question, you’ll be mercilessly mocked on the boards until shortly before the heat death of the universe.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just have a speakerphone/ multiple telephones rather than relaying info to friends?

Also, maybe getting 50 SD Google veterans at one time onto IRC or something would work.

I think the key is to not worry about the answer options.

This is the way we did it: We all waited in an irc channel. The plan was, when the call came, Carol (the contestant) would only read the question. Screw the answers–either we knew it or we didn’t.

The phoned friend would lightning fast-type the question in to see if any of us could lightning-quick supply the answer. Her spouse would have google up on the other machine, and would search as soon as his wife (the phoned friend) verbally repeated the answer. That covered us if we DIDN’T know it.

Alternative would be to have all your friends together in a room and use a whiteboard to write down the question as soon as it was read to you (to spare the time spent in repeating the question aloud).

Of course, Carol never got into the hot seat, so we never got to test our planning.


Speakerphones, however, are explicitly forbidden. At the time I was part of the IRC answer pool, that was the ONLY restriction (they said nothing about computers)