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xyphic
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Joined: 14 Sep 2003
Posts: 2692
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 1:37 am    Post subject: Any bright ideas...? Reply with quote

Morning all,

When Puzzletome was started over 18 months ago, we had big ideas. We considered ourselves veterans of the online puzzling community, and wanted to create something that took the good points (in our opinions!) of other contest sites and to add our own ideas to the mix.

Now we feel it's time to take it forward again. So, we're looking to undertake our first major rework of the site, and though we have our own ideas about what to add or change, we'd very much like the input of our userbase.

So now's your chance to let us know what you like about the site, what you hate about it, and anything that you feel would improve your puzzling experience here at Puzzletome.

Please post your ideas in this thread, or if you would like to privately contribute your ideas you can PM me or send an email to contact@puzzletome.com.

I very much look forward to your feedback.

Cheers,
xyphic
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theandygrant
This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet


Joined: 07 Feb 2004
Posts: 1264
Location: The Lethargic Dodecahedron

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On reflection I can't think of anything I hate about the site.

The most frustrating thing is that you keep launching contests faster than I can finish them Embarassed

An idea for an enhancement would be an overall progress page
that simply says something like

Halloween: Puzzle 4
Alphabet Set: Complete!
PT2: Round 3 Puzzle 6

etc...
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ckmcheetah
Lets meet as little as we can


Joined: 21 Sep 2003
Posts: 1157
Location: Grand Canyon State

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you should create a contest where the objective is to get a hold of the Webmasters of a certain other riddle site over one technicality which has disrupted the site for over a year...whoever can annoy them to the point that something productive gets done wins a prize of some sort, mainly an explanation of how to get past the technicality...

Wink
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Shiz
Pernicious and indubitate beggar


Joined: 10 Jun 2004
Posts: 366
Location: Middle of England, Ex-pat Scotland

PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like Andygrant's idea of progress for all puzzles listed on the content page - you could always add 'number of hours/days/weeks since you last put in a sensible answer' type column. I know this info is accessible somewhere, but I can never quite remember where. This could be useful in shaming people like me into going back to some unfinished puzzles, and also be a handy tool when it comes to the hinting policy in new contests (save on all that 'I've been on this for 3 days' begging when the time spent has only been 8 hours - and that's aimed at nobody at all by the way).

Other than that, separating the contests completed from those in progress (without losing sight of the forums) would keep me more than happy.

Shiz
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ASA
Thou craven dread-bolted clotpole


Joined: 03 Feb 2004
Posts: 5181
Location: Adelaide, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once a person has been stuck on a puzzle for more than a week , I think it would be good if you could be automatically put onto the next puzzle, and come back at a later date to retry the one you are stuck on.
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SparkPlug
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Joined: 30 Jan 2004
Posts: 11615
Location: Here!

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Firstly... the site as a whole is one the best around... Change for change's sake is not always an improvement (I am sure you don't really need to be told that - but when did that ever stop me saying anything!)

On the basis that the information in your database (used to produce the stats) is pretty comprehensive, I suggest the following two.

Firstly, one I've mentioned before: An option to "hide" inactive users from the leaderboard (people who have not entered a guess within the last two weeks). The time limit isn't that crucial as, regardless of what this is, the moment they do enter a guess they will reappear.

Secondly: A counter which limits, to say 10 per day, the number of wrong guesses on a particular question... thereby completely knackering the tactics of *whoever* (apologies if there is a user by that name!) to "get past" rather than solve puzzles.

This counter would be reset each time a correct answer is entered so if I were to make 8 wrong guesses on question A but then get it correct, I would be frozen out after 10 - not 2 - wrong guesses on question B. Should that happen, I would not be able to enter any further guesses until 24 hours had elapsed.

To implement this should only require two entries in the database: "wrong count" and "date/time" - each being updated when generating the "xxx is incorrect" message, and each being emptied when moving to the next question. The submit box being displayed is then conditional upon "wrong count" being less than 10 or "date" being over 24 hours ago.

I dont believe this would have any adverse affect on the less experienced puzzlers as I think that in most cases, and on most occasions - having deduced the correct answer - we know it is before entering it.
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theandygrant
This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet


Joined: 07 Feb 2004
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Location: The Lethargic Dodecahedron

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When your wrong count hits ten, could you still switch to a different contest? Would making two wrong guesses on five different contests without getting a question right shut people out?
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SparkPlug
Because I can


Joined: 30 Jan 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No.. you would have a separate guess count for each contest Smile
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chantilly
Pernicious and indubitate beggar


Joined: 16 Sep 2003
Posts: 366
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SparkPlug wrote:

Secondly: A counter which limits, to say 10 per day, the number of wrong guesses on a particular question... thereby completely knackering the tactics of *whoever* (apologies if there is a user by that name!) to "get past" rather than solve puzzles.

I dont believe this would have any adverse affect on the less experienced puzzlers as I think that in most cases, and on most occasions - having deduced the correct answer - we know it is before entering it.


I've thought about this problem in the past too but although I agree with you in theory, I really don't think there's a fair and practical way of stopping this. If we implemented something like this at HTPO, it would certainly cut down on the size of our guess table - there are many instances where certain individuals have well over 100 guesses for most puzzles and you can always tell these are pure guesses based on the subject matter as they bear no resemblance to the way the puzzle is eventually worked out.

Unfortunately, not all puzzles have answers that are instantly obvious even when the right method is used. I won't go into details in case I spoil it for others, but the last question of TT is an example. We had the method correct but unfortunately did something wrong in the working out of the puzzle which gave us a whole different set of possible answers. I don't think it would be right to penalise somebody because their initial attempts at solving were a bit off track.

I also think blocking people out after so many attempts would give large teams a definite advantage as they could afford for everybody in the team to have a certain amount of guesses each so that nobody was blocked. For instance a team consisting of 10 members could possibly have 90 attempts at an answer shared between them still leaving a guess each for the right answer when it was obtained. This would be compared to only 10 guesses for any individuals playing. The longer a puzzle lasted, the bigger the gap between teams and individuals. For instance, a Round 5 level puzzle which would be expected to last about 5 days anyway could give a big team about 500 allowed guesses during this time where an individual doing the same puzzle would only have 50. This doesn't sound very fair to me.

I really don't believe there's one person on this board who has never solved a puzzle via a guess alone. Sometimes intuition just hits you; sometimes the titles or hints in the puzzle are just far too obvious. I therefore think the one and only solution to this problem is for the puzzle creators themselves to take the responsibility by building something into the answer format which makes it extremely hard for a puzzle to be bf'd or guessed. This isn't that difficult to do.

Maybe it's just me, but I do think we're in danger of having so many rules and regulations that it detracts from the fun that we're supposed to be having. If people are able to guess the answers to puzzles or indeed wish to waste time bf'ing a set of possible answers (obviously I'm just referring to manual bf'ing NOT a program doing the same), then although I don't condone it, good luck to them. That has always been my view at HTPO which is probably a good thing as there would have been quite a few disqualifications had I not thought like that Razz
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SparkPlug
Because I can


Joined: 30 Jan 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

chantilly wrote:
For instance, a Round 5 level puzzle which would be expected to last about 5 days anyway could give a big team about 500 allowed guesses during this time where an individual doing the same puzzle would only have 50. This doesn't sound very fair to me.


I dont agree. This would simply give each member of that team 10 "random" guesses. The only way that team could turn that to their advantage is to pre-allocate a range of guesses to each member... and a team with that mentality is going to do it with or without limits imposed.

At least this proposal would seriously dent their solve rate Smile

With regard to the last question of TT: this is a perfect example of what I was saying... I too made a stupid mistake and "went off in the wrong direction". I had 14 wrong guesses yet knew every one was wrong as none related to the subject category... and I am sure that, like me, once you "found" the correct answer you knew it before entering it.
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chantilly
Pernicious and indubitate beggar


Joined: 16 Sep 2003
Posts: 366
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SparkPlug wrote:

With regard to the last question of TT: this is a perfect example of what I was saying... I too made a stupid mistake and "went off in the wrong direction". I had 14 wrong guesses yet knew every one was wrong as none related to the subject category... and I am sure that, like me, once you "found" the correct answer you knew it before entering it.


On the contrary, we found several answers that could have been considered appropriate to the category - you obviously didn't make the same mistake as we did but I do agree that none of them had that "this MUST be it" feel but then not all puzzles do. It's not a perfect world and you can't always assume that a puzzle is going to have a perfectly logical fitting answer. There's been lots of puzzles, both here, HTPO and at other sites, where the answer just didn't give that 'Ahhh' factor and where I've felt rather surprised that a guessed or semi-worked out attempt had been successful. I can give several examples from various contests where the answer just wasn't something you could immediately tell was correct.

I still think we're in danger of making these contests too rigid and clinical and I believe making too many unnecessary rules will eventually just put people off. To have to keep track of guesses in case you get locked out would entail either keeping a manual record or to have to keep looking at the stats. Although I used to be quite competitive, I now very rarely look at the stats - I find it far more fun just concentrating on the puzzles rather than where I am in the leaderboard so having to check the stats regularly to make sure I haven't overstepped my 'guess' mark would be very offputting.

And I still feel large teams would have an advantage. It would be interesting to hear what some of the individual players/small teams think.
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Shiz
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Joined: 10 Jun 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's never really been a question in my mind that I'm a serious competitor versus any of the teams - or indeed some/most of the indiviuals for that matter. Both experience and time available on-line are significant factors in who will get to the end of a contest first.

Perhaps recognition of non-team achievers on their own leaderboard would be a pacifier for those who feel teams have such an unfair advantage. There could still be one overall leaderboard, showing in order those who have finished the contest, with 2 further boards split into 'teams' and 'singles' - this would rely, of course, on a certain amount of honesty on the part of the teams in declaring their members (although I'm sure this could also be deduced by looking at their progress and the times their answers are input).

As for the other issue, I don't realistically think that there's any feasible way of stopping multiple guesses to get past a puzzle if anyone is of a mind to follow that route. I have resorted to such a method once (only after a decent length of time, and after I'd exhausted what I could logically justify as reasonable answers, although I still didn't feel very good about it and don't intend to do it again). If it's a big issue, though, then why not add a column to the leaderboard showing either average or total number of guesses for the contest - even with one or two bad rounds thoughout an entire contest, Joe Bloggs who goes for the proper solve will still come out streets ahead of those who spend most of their time plugging in guesses. It wouldn't cut it out but it would certainly make for interesting reading. Wink

Shiz
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Stretham
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Joined: 15 Sep 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whilst the guess limit has some merits, there is one argument against that I'm afraid makes it a non starter. There would be nothing to stop people creating multiple usernames/accounts and using them to have additional guesses during the time period. This is something we would definitely not want for several reasons: it distorts the stats/leaderboard; it creates a false impression of the number of members; it unecessarily increases the size of our database; and you'd end up not knowing who anyone was. Sad

Stretham
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SparkPlug
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stretham wrote:
There would be nothing to stop people creating multiple usernames/accounts and using them to have additional guesses during the time period.

Make the limit 30... or even 50 !

That'll remove the need for anyone to have to create multiple accounts, yet still prevent systematic bruting.
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xyphic
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the most effective preventative to systematic bruting is to create puzzles that can't be systematically bruted. If your puzzle says something like "the answer is a three digit number" then of course people are going to brute rather than try to work it out.
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