Of Spice Girls, Soho and server marketing

Thursdays are traditionally good nights for an IT evening out. Last night, HP decided to hold a pub quiz - currently in fashion on the PR circuit.
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Thursdays are traditionally good nights for an IT evening out. Last night, HP decided to hold a pub quiz - currently in fashion on the PR circuit. Myself, David "Did I mention I'm in a band?" Meyer and Julian Goldsmith from sister site Silicon.com formed a small team and ambled along to the venue near Regent's Park to see what we could do.

A healthy mix of reprobates had the same idea, and as usual one of the best bits was the gossip. The Dennis Publishing lot had plenty to say about Felix, their eponymous boss, who has been entertaining the world by promoting his poetry using red wine and helicopters. New joiners to the company are given a book of Felix' finest rhymes as part of their induction: the stuff itself is "challenging", according to a recent hire.

Rather sweetly, every Dennis person I talked to had managed to memorise the "If you want to talk about that, I'll have to direct you to our PR company" response they've had drilled into them in case someone wants to talk about Felix' (now retracted) admission that he'd disposed of a love rival by pushing him off a cliff - however, no poetry critic appears to have subsequently taken Felix up on his offer of a lift in the helicopter.

Gossip over, pub grub consumed and glasses charged, we repaired to the tables for the highlight of the evening - the quiz itself.

There were four teams : CNet Networks (calling ourselves the Throbbing Cooks. Sorry) and Dennis pulled ahead to an early shared lead, leaving teams Kevin and Indecisive Publishing in the dust. We were a bit worried about Dennis, as they were cheating - they had a ringer on the team who actually knew about football - but with a masterful flourish David Meyer (he's in a band, you know) demonstrated an entirely implausible knowledge of the Spice Girls. We entered the fifth and final round with a useful but not unassailable three point lead.

It was then that the wheels fell off the wagon - or, rather, the gigabit ethernet detached from the server. For the last round proved to require in-depth knowledge of HP - and, more specifically, market share of the server sector as revealed by Gartner's most recent report.

This wasn't a pub quiz: this was a presentation. The (by now considerably inebriated) hacks grew noisily restless. The quiz mistress - who claimed to be channelling Anne Diamond - rose to the challenge and managed to conclude the quiz without an actual riot breaking out. By now, I was channelling Brian Blessed and hereby apologise for some of the RATHER RUDE SHOUT-ING that may have taken place...

There was a rush to the bar as various HP flacks worked out the final results - and all was as it should be. As we graciously received the plaudits of our peers (at least, I think that's what they were) and our star prizes, we did point out the rather self-defeating nature of the final round, which had probably ensured that nobody would write about HP servers for months.

Turns out that the final round should have been about HP-UX - a nicely technical selection of questions about raw, unvarnished Unix. But the HPers had thought that unfair: next time, people, give us the real deal.

All good fun. As for what happened next - when a small but committed exploratory team discovered that legendary Soho drinking establishment Troy's had risen from the dead, and was still capable of exerting its considerable dampening field on any form of common sense - there is some hope that it never comes to light...

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