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Jeopardy! Whiz Becomes Encarta Spokesman 339

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the riddle-me-this dept.
Ant writes "BetaNews' story says Microsoft tapped Jeopardy! king Ken Jennings, who recently finished his 75-game run on the show, to become the spokesman for its Encarta product line. Jennings will embark on a nationwide media tour called 'Quiz the Whiz' that challenges news desks to stump the human encyclopedia with questions from Microsoft's Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005."
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Jeopardy! Whiz Becomes Encarta Spokesman

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  • In Case It Be Dotted (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:53PM (#11013902)

    Jeopardy! Whiz Becomes Encarta Spokesman
    By Nate Mook, BetaNews
    December 6, 2004, 11:00 AM

    Microsoft has tapped Jeopardy! king Ken Jennings, who recently finished his 75-game run on the show, to become the spokesman for its Encarta product line. Jennings will embark on a nationwide media tour called "Quiz the Whiz" that challenges news desks to stump the human encyclopedia with questions from Microsoft's Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005.

    Jennings broke the game show record books this year and attracted a cult following by answering 2,700 Jeopardy! questions and raking in over $2.5 million in winnings. Before he takes off to Europe with his family next summer, Jennings hopes to pass on some of his passion for learning.

    "It seems like a natural fit: Encarta has a long-standing commitment to furthering education, and I've had a lot of kids tell me that watching me on "Jeopardy!" has made reading and learning seem just a little cooler," Jennings told Microsoft in an interview.

    Jennings also warned against relying solely on the Internet for researching information. "The Internet can be an incredible resource, but the scary thing is you never know what's out there or whether the answer you will find will be accurate. In fact, out of curiosity I searched for myself once and turned up all sorts of erroneous information," he said. "One seemingly reputable and authoritative page even had my name wrong!"

    Ironically, Microsoft also mixed up his name in the interview, referring to the trivia whiz as "Jenkins."
  • Stumpers (Score:3, Funny)

    by teh_mykel (756567) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:54PM (#11013908) Homepage
    Stumper question #1: "What is Linux?" either unknown data, or grossly misrepresentive data, or simply undetailed data. Compare "Who is Bill Gates?" for maximum biasm.
    • "What is Linux?". I doubt that this question could be asked as the questions are from "Microsoft's Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005."

      The beta version had the following:

      "What is Linux:
      All penguins should die and go back to the Antartic circle where they can be eaten by whales and then have the whales molested by Steve Erwin, giving the whales intergestion. From Bill"

      But it was removed due to protests from the ASPCA and the WWF

    • Compare "Who is Bill Gates?" for maximum biasm.

      I don't know when this was, I imagine early 1990s. The correct question was, "What is a sound blaster". I believe the statement was phrased something like this is the first device to offer sound on a computer. Talk about major bias and bogus. I don't know my history but I would have thought the correct question would have to do with the people who first noticed that they could manipulate the EM interference and hear it via their radio. I.e. way before th
  • PC Encyclopedias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by javaman83 (144935) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:54PM (#11013912) Journal
    Do a lot of people even use these anymore?
    I figured by now, the internet would have overtaken these completely.
    • you bet! Usually only when they come with the new PC, or the parents get it for the kid because they think it will automagically increase their grades.

      I used MS Encarta on a few stupid projects in middle school if I remember corectly. The information on the CD was pretty useless though if I remember, I hope they've improved it.
    • Re:PC Encyclopedias (Score:4, Informative)

      by solowCX (796423) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:06PM (#11014029) Homepage
      I think Microsoft knows CD-ROM encyclopedias are mostly dead, that is why Encarta is mostly a website with a Premium Subscription service now, found at http://encarta.msn.com/ [msn.com].
    • Re:PC Encyclopedias (Score:3, Informative)

      by adeydas (837049)
      i used encarta by borrowing it from a friend for sometime and i have gotta say that its nothing more that a glossy and animation-loaded package... britannica encyclopedia or for that matter any other encyclopedia wins hands down.
    • Re:PC Encyclopedias (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      Do a lot of people even use these anymore? I figured by now, the internet would have overtaken these completely.

      I do, but not Encarta. Brittanica is the gold standard. As for the Internet; sure, it's what I use for 99% of my fact checking, but if I actually need some background and something I can feel is authoritative (rather than a say a Wiki that anyone with an axe to grind can distort), I use a real encyclopedia.

      • Re:PC Encyclopedias (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jonathan (5011)
        Now that I have a doctorate in microbiology I like to look up relevant articles in encyclopedias and see how biased/incorrect they are -- and I find that they are considerbly more biased and wrong than Wikipedia's. BTW, "Britannica" no longer hails from the Royal Isles -- it's just a cheap American brand name, no different from Encarta.
    • Re:PC Encyclopedias (Score:2, Interesting)

      by optimusNauta (784677)
      Mostly I would agree. The only time I would use an encyclopedia would be if I am in a library and I need a quick factsheet on something. Wikipedia has pretty much replaced all my software encyclopedia needs. Another victory for Free (as in Freedom) stuff.
  • Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by codesurfer (786910) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:55PM (#11013917)
    Right after his "loss" on the show. I still say it was a throw. Interesting marketing (and I bet it'll be successful) ploy for MS, I just wish Ken had thrown his popularity behind the open source community.
    • Oh, here we go with the obligatory anti-MS BS. I say kudos to MS for using his genius to promote an equally awesome product. No one is forcing him.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, the draw of that huge $0 paycheck must have been really hard for him to turn down.
    • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

      Right after his "loss" on the show. I still say it was a throw.
      Indeed- take a look at the final question from the interview; it makes you...wonder.
      I don't consider my last show a loss -- I definitely don't consider this experience something I'm walking away a loser from (laughs). I did feel some relief, as it's been a long and exciting experience for me -- I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with my family.
      • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Deadstick (535032)
        I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with my family.

        A. This many people have expressed an urge to "spend some time with my family" when not fired, under grand jury investigation, or pissed off.

        Q. What is zero?

        rj

        • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bobobobo (539853) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @04:44AM (#11015876)
          Well he is LDS(Mormon) and one of the central tenets of the religion is family. Genuinely loving your family and wanting to spend time with them. He's being honest here, it is a classic answer any self-respecting Latter-Day Saint would give.
    • >. I still say it was a throw.

      Well, if we're going to be dealing in the currency that is conspiracy theories, I'll take "Based on the movie Quiz Show for $500, Alex."
    • I can't begrudge him for making a few bucks off what is likely to be temporary fame. He's a good guy and deserves some success. Microsoft has money and open source by definition has limited resources. He has every right to think of his family first. Open source verses corporate software is not the first consideration for everyone. Does anyone know if he has any interest in open source or not? Not everyone has a preference. It's a choice of working or not. How many programers out there are working for Micros
    • He bricks one question after getting 2,700 right and he's throwing games?

      His Fed-Ex answer certainly had a logic to it. The person that got that one right and won said that she only knew it because one of her good friends works for HR Block.

      What I really wanted to see was for Jeopardy to call up all the old 5 day winners and make Ken play against two of them at a time. Have they ever brought back 5 day winners to play each other? That would be a kick ass tournament.

      -B
    • I just wish Ken had thrown his popularity behind the open source community.

      Because we all know how well _that_ pays.
  • by YetAnotherName (168064) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:56PM (#11013926) Homepage
    If there were a moderation, "1, Cynical", I'm sure I'd get it, but seriously ... for all of the knowledge apparently amassed by Mr Jennings, there is still a difference between trivia and knowledge. And there is a distinct whiff of one of the most vile of odors: marketing.
    • I'm wondering how long he has to study before the tour...
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:02PM (#11013990) Journal
      still a difference between trivia and knowledge

      But I'd be willing to bet there is a large positive correlation between the two.

      Yes, I'd mod you cynical. There is no evidence to indicate Ken Jennings was a moron with a great memory. IN the two shows I say (other people's houses), he was quick with comebacks to Alex. I also understand he was an engineer.

      And as for marketing... get over it. Ken wants to make some more money. Good luck Ken!
      • You're correct. However trivia is knowing alot of little bits about different things. None of those bits are necessarily useful by themselves unless you're in a trivia competition.

        Knowledge of a subject implies you understand it and can implement or apply, not spout a handful of factoids
        • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:27PM (#11014187) Journal
          I agree. But many of the comments seem to indicate no correlation between the two, or even a negative correlation.

          I choose to be happy for Ken. I wonder why so many others choose to be envious.
          • I choose to be happy for Ken. I wonder why so many others choose to be envious.

            I'll take a stab at that. You are part of the group that realizes that wealth is created -- not simply discovered and collected -- by those with the will and motivation to make it happen. The envious people are part of the group that thinks wealth has always existed, and the rich are the ones who simply got there first or took more than their "fair share".

        • by finkployd (12902) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:51PM (#11014355) Homepage
          However trivia is knowing alot of little bits about different things. None of those bits are necessarily useful by themselves unless you're in a trivia competition.

          Wow, I totally disagree with that. I have found that having some working knowledge in a wide range of topics is better (overall) than knowing everything about one small topic. Most of the people I know who focus with laser like intensity on one small field are complete failures at every other aspect of their life. And I work at a University, I know a lot of these people ;)

          Personally, I am first and formost a middleware/security/cryptography geek, but I also get into history (specifically wars), economics (my major in college), music, biology, and other various topics that strike my fancy.

          I certainly am no expert on these topics, I probably do not pass the level you would consider trivia. I do, however, consider my life greatly enriched by learning all of these little factiods and trivia. At the very least I do not feel lost if conversation turns to something other than middleware/security/cryptography. Which (suprisingly) happens a lot, people just don't seem as excited about that stuff as I am in normal social situations :)

          Finkployd
    • > And there is a distinct whiff of one of the most vile of odors: marketing.

      I have to agree.

      Everything I hear about this Ken Jennings makes me dislike him.

      Why didn't he use his position as "unchallenged uber-geek" to do something for the general public good rather than flogging some crumb-ridden piece of crap?

      String 'im up with cat5 is what I say! He's made us geeks look like a bunch of tuppeny whores.

      --
      Buy me an iPod NOW! [buymeanipo...reeloaders]

  • I.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by double-oh three (688874) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:56PM (#11013928)
    I felt a disturbance in the force, as if 10 thousand nerds cried out and then were silent.
  • Why is it (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:57PM (#11013937)
    ...that when I see the phrase 'natural fit' in a MS press release, I think of some poor bastard yet again taking it in the ass from BG?
  • Seriously? I thought Encarta died a long time ago. It was useful about 10 years ago, back in the days before I had net access.

    Does anyone still actually use it?
  • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Monday December 06, 2004 @10:58PM (#11013950) Homepage
    ... I searched for myself once and turned up all sorts of erroneous information...One seemingly reputable and authoritative page even had my name wrong!"

    Just a guess, but maybe they were talking about someone else?
  • Noooooo! (Score:5, Informative)

    by bdesham (533897) <bdesham@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:00PM (#11013972) Journal
    ...but we spent so much time on your Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]!

    (Seriously, look at that article... someone put waaay too much time into it.)
  • by MBCook (132727)
    I remember when CD drives first became popular in computers, encyclopedias on CD were a big deal and Encarta was very popular. It was on a CD encyclopedia (under Win 3.1) that I saw the famous footage of the Hindenburg disaster for the first time that I can remember (that was also the first video clip I can ever remember seeing on a computer).

    But I saw Encarta in a computer store the other day and thought... so what? With the internet now common and simple to use to find things (thanks to Google and it's f

    • Exactly. CD encyclopedias are as dead as the ones made from pulp.

      Good for Ken, though. I expect that if he sharpens his public speaking he could hit that circuit and make an extra 5K per talk or more. Though, Ken probably already knows that.

      • I agree. I think he could definatly parlay his success into speaking engaugements for graduations, maybe for motivational/public speaking classes, study advice (he must know good ways), etc. He seems to be pretty at ease in front of a croud, doesn't have an annoying voice, etc. There is a lot he could do.
      • I expect that if he sharpens his public speaking he could hit that circuit and make an extra 5K per talk or more. Though, Ken probably already knows that.

        Maybe not. That seems like a seasonal type job to me...
    • by AvitarX (172628)
      Well when I first used a computer encyclapedia it was a 1x CD ROM. The net is much faster for me now, but many people don't have broadband, so that sound clip of Beethoven may be a long time in coming.

      If you are stuck with dial up (especialy 14.4k) and want to see pictures and hear sounds and see movies about the stuff you are looking up the CD still has it's place. The slowest CD drives you can find operational are, at 8 mbps, fast enough to be a good broadband connection (8x arbitraily decided as the s
    • that was also the first video clip I can ever remember seeing on a computer

      I remember being awed over the Weazer song "Buddy Holy" on the Win95 CD.

      Ahh the good ole days....when 90 MHz was all you needed to be cool.

      • Yeah. That amazed me too (and on my 386 no less!).

        Of course, it ran fine. Then I installed 95 and it wouldn't run smooth anymore because 95 took up more resources than 3.1.

        And I would have KILLED for 90mhz back then. Simpler times.

    • When we first got Encarta back when I was 15 on our Aptiva, the very first thing I saw was Neil Armstrong's first walking on the moon. It blew me away. I had never seen it and the ability to see videos of stuff like that was amazing at the time.

      Alas, as all things go, the internet one upped that I don't really see the point for a cd encyclopedia anymore.
  • Why Encarta? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LGagnon (762015)
    Give him a real challenge: ask him questions from Wikipedia. [wikipedia.org] Encarta doesn't have half the information that Wikipedia has.
    • True, but at least Encarta does fact-checking, however corporate-biased it may be. There've been false "facts" on Wikipedia for months, I've seen it happen. (And no, I didn't fix it, since it was a research project into the accuracy of the wiki.)
  • gotta admit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jwind (819809) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:02PM (#11013993)
    He is the perfect spokes person... i mean sheesh, he swept the "beer and wine" topic one night-- and he's a Mormon folks. He's an information sponge.
  • '"It seems like a natural fit: Encarta has a long-standing commitment to furthering education, and I've had a lot of kids tell me that watching me on "Jeopardy!" has made reading and learning seem just a little cooler," Jennings told Microsoft in an interview.'

    http://chronicle.com/free/2000/08/2000081501t.htm [chronicle.com]

  • by merdaccia (695940) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:04PM (#11014010)
    Ironically, Microsoft also mixed up his name in the interview, referring to the trivia whiz as "Jenkins."

    How priceless would it be if they got his name wrong in Encarta too.

  • Questions for KenJen (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xmedar (55856) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:04PM (#11014014)
    What causes Pip in poultry?
    How old is Mae West?
    Who was the last British heavyweight champion of the world?
    How far is Winnipeg from Montreal?
    When did Florence Nightingale die?
    What is the height of the Empire State Building? What was the date of General Gordon's death?

    and last but not least

    What are the Thirty-Nine Steps? Come on! Answer up! What are the Thirty-Nine Steps?
    • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:37PM (#11014256) Homepage
      What causes Pip in poultry?

      When chickens read Great Expectations.

      How old is Mae West?

      She's dead. But you're still welcome to come up and see her sometime.

      Who was the last British heavyweight champion of the world?

      Doesn't matter, the Irish still didn't recognize him.

      How far is Winnipeg from Montreal?

      It's too cold to tell now; ask again in summer.

      When did Florence Nightingale die?

      When her life ended.

      What is the height of the Empire State Building? What was the date of General Gordon's death?

      Is there a connection between the two?

      What are the Thirty-Nine Steps? Come on! Answer up! What are the Thirty-Nine Steps?

      Here ya go [imdb.com]. Bring popcorn, it's great.

      • Yes, I know, the original poster was just quoting from the Thirty-Nine Steps, but I wanted to have fun anyway. And yes, I meant my last line wholeheartedly: it's a great movie. But no, even after watching it you won't know what causes Pip in poultry, sadly.
  • That's it? (Score:5, Funny)

    by fearanddread (836731) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:04PM (#11014017)
    75 shows and then he gets to be the Encarta spokesman? Seems a bit of a letdown somehow.

    I'd like to see a Texas cage match between Jennings and Trebek.... winner gets Jeopardy hosting duties.

  • OK, I just got this idea.

    Why not give Ken his own trivia show where people try to stump him? It's not that far from what MS will have him doing.

    So then I remember that episode [bravotv.com] of Keen Eddie [bravotv.com] (great show killed before it's time). The case in the episode involvs an EXTREEMLY famous man in England (fictional, of course) who had a trivia show where no one could stump him. One day he was stumped and then lost his show. He then became a bike messanger who forgot what he did with a package (this is the guy who re

  • by Enrico Pulatzo (536675) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:14PM (#11014089)
    Does he know the answers, or merely the questions?
  • by CrazyJim0 (324487) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:16PM (#11014110)
    42

    See if he knows the question.
  • ya know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Heem (448667) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:16PM (#11014111) Homepage Journal
    Jennings is a progammer. I'm sure he reads slashdot. So - how about it Ken? Where are ya?
    • There's absolutely no reason to assume this. I have 5 friends and two brothers who are into engineering or computers, about half of them programming--and though most are aware of /., I'm the only one who reads it regularly.
  • What is selling your soul?
  • So why did he do it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by marktaw.com (816752) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:38PM (#11014261) Homepage
    Why did Ken Jennings - multi millionaire - decide to hook up with Microsoft to promote a less-than stellar product. Is it...

    Because he really believes in it?

    Because he loves the celebrity and thinks spokesperson is the next logical step in his career?

    Or because Microsoft has agreed to pay all the taxes on his Jeopardy winnings?
  • by bje2 (533276) * on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:39PM (#11014266)
    KJ would make an excellend slashdot interview...someone shoulud work on that...
  • by rtphokie (518490) on Monday December 06, 2004 @11:40PM (#11014279)
    as is proven in this video [ebaumsworld.com]. His mind wasn't always on trivia it seems.
  • Fails Marketing 101 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by droleary (47999) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @12:35AM (#11014633) Homepage

    Jennings will embark on a nationwide media tour called 'Quiz the Whiz' that challenges news desks to stump the human encyclopedia with questions from Microsoft's Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005.

    So the media campaign is to draw attention to what, exactly? If you stump Jennings, he is knocked down a peg and you demonstrate that he was more lucky than anything in getting asked question on Jeopardy he just happened to know. Why bother with any specific education/product if success comes only from a coin flip? If you don't stump him, Encarta is knocked down a peg because he shows that he has more knowledge than what they're trying to sell and that you should probably buy another product if you want a more comprehensive reference. There is no win-win here; someone at MS should be fired for thinking up this gimmick.

  • he gained his C-level fame for winning at a difficult quiz show.
    Unlike others who got their fame from losing 500lbs eating mediocre hoagies [subway.com], singing so horribly everybody couldn't help but laugh [yahoo.com], or crashing at the guest house of a murderous football player [imdb.com]
  • by windside (112784) <pmjboyle@BOYSENgmail.com minus berry> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @12:43AM (#11014701)

    Did anyone else find it just a little bit weird that Jennings lost on the same night as Jeopardy aired the episode in which every category was somehow related to Seinfeld, not to mention the final category that was actually questions (answers?) about Seinfeld, read by actors fromSeinfeld...

    The tie-in was a plug for the recently-released DVDs (one week before the airing of the episode, to be exact). Most Jeopardy episodes don't contain this kind of plug... in fact not a single one comes to mind in recent history. Doesn't anyone else find this the least bit weird?

  • I know the guy happens to be a Mormon, and a software engineer.
  • Strange (Score:5, Funny)

    by Azathfeld (725855) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @01:03AM (#11014881)
    I never thought I'd hear of a man making millions of dollars and then deciding to become an encyclopedia salesman.

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