A while back I was reminded of a game I once encountered as a kid. In the game, you listen to a story about someone's death and the events leading up to it. There are five characters in the story; your job is to rank them from most culpable for the death to least culpable. The trick is that the story should be balanced in such a way that any ordering is defensible, and thus each listener's list shows something about that listener. But that kind of balance is hard to achieve. The tiniest difference in the details can radically change how people react to the events of the tale.
A while back I tried playing this game here on my site. I got a few dozen responses, and some of them asked me to post my own rankings. But here's the thing: if each character's culpability had seemed obvious to me, I would have changed the story to make it more balanced in the first place! After all, the whole point is to get a wide variety of responses. Therefore, I'd posted the most stripped-down version of the story I'd been able to come up with, trying to make it as neutral as possible so that people had to draw on their own assumptions in filling in the blanks. But that's a less than ideal solution even if it were practicable. Better would have been to write the story so that it was colorful and full of details, but still so well balanced that all 120 possible permutations of the rankings were equally well represented among the respondents. But what's a good balance?
Time for some empirical data! By clicking the link below, you can read a randomly generated story and submit your answers. You can also see some basic statistics; once I have more data (and more time) I'll add more. Some stories will have a clear-cut villain; in others, assigning blame may not be so easy. Which of the 23,040 stories is the most balanced? Let's find out!
Take me to one of the 23,040 bridges!
I would rather just see the statistics!
Actually, just take me back to the top page instead!