All right, looks like I’m kicking off this blog with a complaint. This does not bode well for the future. Hey, I just kicked off the blog with a complaint and a self-deprecating remark! We’re two for two.
Anyway: the puzzle-minded among you know that Google Nexus has a Twitter feed on which they post an occasional contest. If you are the first to answer the contest correctly, you win a new Google Nexus S phone. Not bad, right? Well, recently, they ran a very frustrating puzzle. The idea was, Twitter users would suggest ten-character strings, and they would tweet back whether your string fit a particular pattern they had in mind. If you picked up on the pattern early, you could tell them what it was and win the prize.
The problem? For some reason they were verifying user-submitted strings by hand, and trying to do so every minute or so. This probably led to some very tired and frustrated Google employees, and … it led to some mistakes. Their intended pattern was: letters in ascending order, 3-5 numerals, exactly 1 vowel. Except they allowed two strings that didn’t fit the pattern. And, if you were wracking your brains trying to figure out the pattern like I was, it just led to a few hair-tearing-out* hours.
* For lack of a better word.
So I got to thinking: why didn’t they just write a script to auto-reply for them? It should be easy to write a Python script that would search for @-mentions, check for ten-character strings, and reply to a user whether or not his string fit the pattern. I gave myself an hour one morning and came up with this. It certainly does the job and can easily be set to run every minute or so to look for new replies. It might need to be tweaked a little — you’d want to make sure there are about as many “yes” replies as “no”, and you’d probably want to limit the total number of replies to somewhat less than 20 per minute. But the point is: Google has much better Python coders than me. For about an hour of coding (and some beta testing to be careful) they could have avoided a lot of trouble for themselves and a lot of gut-wrenchiness* for the rest of us.
* See above footnote
Okay! No more complaining! Next time, we’ll talk a little bit about the technical aspects of making my puzzle for BEQ’s site without Crossword Compiler. If you’re interested in making JPZ puzzles, you might want to stay tuned.