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Suppose you wanted to design a quiz game in which knowledge questions are asked. What would be a good set of topics to subdivide all of human knowledge into?

Try to avoid bias towards academic or pop-culture topics; try to cover everything.

Also try to limit yourself to a reasonable number, let’s say around 20 topics.

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closed as not constructive by beam022, Monica Cellio, user1873, Johno, Tom Au Nov 7 '12 at 23:59

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Obviously this question has no correct answer, as it's completely subjective, but if you're just looking for an idea, I'd suggest making your categorical break-down theme based.

If you compare other popular quiz games, say Classic Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy, the first is trying to cater to being a family game that everyone can play, so it makes its categorical breakdown along typical areas of interest for different types of people Arts people, Sports people, Science people, etc. Jeopardy prides itself on cleverness and wordplay, so its categories reflect that.

Keep in mind that the act of categorization isn't sorting things into existing buckets base don obvious differences, it's about creating a differentiating metric and categorizing things based on that metric. For example, if you restrict your set of things to visible objects, you have an infinite set of metrics like color, weight, size, density, use, origin, lifespan, etc. One you choose a metric there's often a continuum within that metric which you must create arbitrary points. For example, you take color and break it into Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Those categories now artificially group your world. Of course, you could just as easily have chosen lifespan and grouped thing into "fleeting", "temporary", "normal", "durable", and "indestructible". It's really unbounded.

So, what's your theme? Is this about energy aliens, looking at a human world and trying to figure things out in terms that make sense to them? Maybe the categories are "hairy" and "smooth". With those terms in which category would you place "Key" and "Shoe" into? Part of the fun is seeing how the category informs the question's answer.

One of the fun things about many board and card games with themes is doing just this trick. For example, Magic the Gathering needs to thematically sort every spell and creature into a color, and does this quite well.

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Try using existing classification systems like the Dewey Decimal system. The 10 main classes are not all useful for Trivia, but digging through the subclasses may provide a good starting point. Wikipedia also has categories for Knowledge representation and Classification systems.

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Although the question states "Try to avoid bias towards academic or pop-culture topics" I would use academic categorisation. There are a number of reasons why academic subjects make a good categorisation.

Firstly everyone is familiar with the bounds of the topics. Someone choosing to receive a question from a particular category has some level of confidence that their interpretation of "History" or "Science", will be the same as the question setter's.

Secondly each academic subject contains a large amount of information - large enough that it can be studied for many years, and still not be completely learnt. Academic subjects are also broad - two professors in the same department may be ill-suited to review each others research.

Finally the definition of academic subjects has come about naturally by people categorising knowledge. They probably don't cover "all of human knowledge" (unless you treat them very loosely), but they give it a good go.

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The reason I added that sentence was because I initially used academic subjects, but the effect of that was that some common topics, such as “pop culture”, “home improvement”, etc. weren’t covered simply because they are not academic disciplines. – Timwi Feb 26 '11 at 17:13
Pop culture is a very broad category and questions could come under the subject headings such as "media", "music" or "art. Home improvement sounds like what I did in CDT (craft, design and technology) lessons. – tttppp Feb 26 '11 at 17:31

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