: New: One Year of Octothorpean

The Octothorpean online puzzle-hunt launched a year ago today. How have things gone since then?

Pretty well, I think. On the other hand, for the goals I had… They're not so easy to measure. So when I say "pretty well", it's hard to tell if that says more about how things are going than about my optimism. So: Pretty well, I think.

I'm hoping that Octothorpean has introduced/is introducing/will introduce puzzly (or potentially-puzzly) folks to puzzlehunts. I.e., I want a lot of people to play, but not just folks already awash in BANGs, BAPHLs, etc.

That's a difficult thing to measure. If you ask someone on the street "Are you a puzzle experts?" they might say "Sure, I know crosswords and sudoku." So what can I look at? Well, figure that folks who started playing in November last year already knew about the hunt ahead of time (and probably most folks who started playing in December and January too). So… are there still more people signing up? Yes, yes there are. A lot of activity was just in the first few months: a big spike of folks who probably already know their hunts. But since then, there's been a steady stream of folks who act new-er.

Figure each week a new team starts playing that makes it through the first handful of puzzles. (Occasional bursts of more: it looks like a few extra teams signed up when I mailed a big internal Twitter mailing list that Octothorpean would be a good way to prepare for #ternhunt.) Another thing that suggests that these teams aren't so experienced: in the first couple of months, a bigger fraction of teams powered through a bunch of puzzles and solved the big meta. (Oops, spoiler warning: there's a big meta.) Since then, it's been rare for a team to solve the big meta:

This might make you worry: do teams just make it through a handful of puzzles and give up? If you look at an activity measure more fine-grained than "solved the big meta", then you can see folks are still doing things. E.g., you can look at how often they earn "merit badges":

You can see that team activity doesn't really match-up time-wise to meta-puzzles solved. There's generally at least one team active per week, usually a few teams.

There are bursts in activity. Many of these correspond to emails. When someone writes a new puzzle, the game mails teams to announce the new puzzle… and if there are not-so-new puzzles that the team hasn't solved yet, the mail points out a couple of those, too.

The mail might say something like

Hello excellent Team Team Name !

This friendly announcement points out some
Octothorpean puzzles you haven't solved yet.
They might be new, they might be tough, or
perhaps just well-hidden.

NEW PUZZLE http://www.octothorpean.org/a/stlitout/ is about St Louis

http://www.octothorpean.org/a/cipher/ has an apostrophe

http://www.octothorpean.org/a/count/ is symmetric

http://www.octothorpean.org/a/buzzword/ feels right


No teams receiving this email immediately hopped a plane to St Louis. But many of them were nudged to resume tinkering with puzzles. (Maybe the game should occasionally email such partway-along teams with such nudges even if there aren't any new puzzles? Maybe before I try that, I should make an easier way to unsubscribe from emails right from the email, without having to log into the site? Anyhow.) Anyhow.

Anyhow, new teams keep signing up. New teams keep playing. It's good.

Tags: octothorpean milestone puzzlehunts

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